For those who want to keep chickens in their backyard or on their farm, there are many important considerations to make first. And, as most people don’t realize in the beginning, many of these important factors don’t relate specifically to the chickens themselves, or their immediate needs and habitat.
When it comes to domesticated poultry, it’s important to be aware that they are vulnerable to predation. You need to think about what their natural predators are in your part of the world – and how many of those you will likely encounter in your immediate surroundings.
For example keeping chickens in bear country is certainly possible, however there are a number of precautions that must be taken to avoid your chickens falling victim to attacks from bears. Primarily this involves doing everything possible to detract bears from stepping foot on your property altogether.
As you probably know, bears are found all over the world. However when it comes to their actual habitat, they tend to be stationed in secluded areas.
Sure, we’ve all heard stories of bears wandering into towns; but those are anecdodal exceptions, rather than the norm. Such bears are usually attracted by large amounts of undisposed garbage, which they rummage through looking for food. So, if you want to keep bears away from your home; heed rule number one – don’t leave any junk lying around outside your home- especially food remains!
Before we get into the specifics of this, as well as other precautions you should take; we’ll take a look at the hunting behavior of the bear community.
Let’s face it; if a bear decides that they’re going to break into your coop and eat your chickens, there isn’t a lot that you can do to stop them, physically. After all, we’re talking about some of the strongest animals in nature. Once they spot your coop and decide they want to have some lunch in there, the game is basically already over.
There are however silver linings to their incredible determination and strength.
First of all, bears do their hunting during the day. Consequently, you shouldn’t expect them to give any trouble to your coop at night, while you’re sleeping. So if there is an attack, there’s a chance you’ll at least manage to see what’s happening.
Plus, as we know bears are pretty reclusive beings; meaning they’re not too keen on bursting into populated areas. If they’re hungry enough to go hunting in places populated by humans, chances are they’re on the brink of starvation. And if they do go into town, with any luck they’ll encounter tons of other food options before they get to your flock.
In most situations, bears opt for picking garbage for scraps, because it’s the most readily available.
Let’s be clear though, if you do see a bear that’s about to burst into your chicken coop – do not attempt to stop them. And we really cannot stress this enough. Usually, you won’t find bears attacking humans unless said humans threaten them first. But once the bear does feel threatened, they’ll become extremely dangerous- plus, given that they’re near humans, means they’re probably hungry as well.
In such a situation, you should call animal control or another emergency service – and then stay safely indoors until they arrive and deal with the situation. With bears, it’s all about prevention; not confrontation. With that in mind, we’ll give you a couple of suggestions for reducing the chance of a bear encounter in the first place.
As you might’ve figured out by now, bears are attracted to human garbage in a big way; simply because it contains scraps of food. And for a starving bear, that’s the most attractive thing in human territories – an easy meal. So, you want to make sure your garbage is disposed of as often as possible, while also keeping it secure before garbage day arrives.
In that meantime, make sure the garbage is in a locked, sturdy shed, or a secure garage. And if you find yourself piling up a lot of smelly fish or meat scraps during the week; put the garbage bags containing them in a freezer before the garbagemen take them away.
The biggest number of conflicts between bears and people, in which chickens or other animals are collateral, happen because people don’t secure their garbage.
In bear country, it is all too easy to attract a hungry specimen by spreading smells near their habitat.
If you do a lot of barbecuing in your yard, we recommend keeping the cooking stove as clean as humanly possible, as well as the barbecue itself. When you make a barbecue inside, don’t open the doors and windows.
Once you use a grill, clean it and any pans you’ve cooked on immediately. Such remains will also tend to attract unwanted attention from bears.
Even though bears are instinctively inclined to keep away from people, keep in mind if you do live in an area populated by bears, they may be used to seeing humans, and may have ‘adapted’ to being around people. If so, they may not hesitate to simply burst into your home through an open window or door, and look for food.
So while it might sound like a skit from an episode of Yogi Bear, a freshly baked apple pie is likely to attract a bear if one has been wandering nearby. And because they’re not afraid of humans, they’ll likely spook you; possibly triggering an aggressive or sudden reaction from you.
Keep this in mind, because as obvious as it may seem – you do not want to upset a bear. Staying calm and avoiding eye contact is essential to avoid a provocation, no matter how counter intuitive it feels.
No Food Outside
If you have a habit of keeping food outside, even in outdoor fridges and freezers; in bear country, this is all but forbidden. Black bears are especially dangerous in this regard, as they can easily break open the doors of a cupboard or freezer; keeping one outside is basically giving any neighboring bears an open invitation.
Also, if you keep your car parked outside – take care not to leave any food in there either. As funny as the mental image may be, a bear could break into your car. And if it’s still hungry after checking out the outdoor containers and vehicles in your yard; it’ll go straight for the coop. Not to mention the damage to the car or the surroundings – bears aren’t exactly known for being very gentle creatures.
If you have bird feeders around the yard – you should only use them in the winter if you don’t want to attract bears. Any other season and a bear could easily be attracted by the food you’re leaving out for the nearby birdies.
Also, if you have fruit-bearing trees, make sure to regularly pick up fallen fruit from your yard. Once the tree becomes ripe, start clearing the ground of any fruit. It might be a chore, but you don’t want your orchard to attract bears to the nearby chicken coop.
Adequate Protection of the Coop
If you want to protect your chickens from a bear attack as much as you possibly can you should consider using an electric fence. Sure, such a strong deterrent may seem a bit much; but trust us, you don’t want to give bears the idea that your yard or farm is accessible or an easy target. It’s better to do as much as you can to drive off bears in the first place; because once they’ve attacked your chickens once, you can be sure they’ll come back for more.
The Bottom Line
To put things in perspective – when it comes to keeping chickens in bear country, it’s not about fighting an attack; it’s about stopping one from taking place in the first place.
Indeed, it’s all about deterrence, with preferably zero contact. And sure, none of this means bears are bad animals. There are many cute examples where humans have domesticated a cub, playing with it happily even once it has grown up.
While these lumping brutes may be endearing and fun to observe, though; if you want your chickens to be safe, there’s only one thing to do. And that’s to keep the bears away, permanently.
Naturally, if you’re living in an area that’s very prone to bear sightings; you should think about whether you’re able to keep chickens there in the first place. If you don’t have the time or patience to keep your chickens safe from bears all the time, it’s definitely not responsible to leave them in danger.
Having poultry is both fulfilling and practical, but the chickens shouldn’t suffer if you’re not inclined on putting much thought into reducing the possibilty of a bear attack. On the other hand, if you are; doing all of the above will more than reduce the chances of a bear assaulting your flock.
Just remember to perform regular checks, and most importantly – keep yourself safe! Should a bear really appear, don’t try to interfere with it in any way, as doing so could prove lethal.