Updated: Nov 2, 2021
At one time or other in their lives, all the animals on the farm are potential prey for one or more of the numerous local predators. Even the pigs could be preyed upon by coyotes and bobcats when they first arrive as new piglets. Before long, however, the pigs grow to a size and aggressiveness that makes them unlikely targets for predators. Once they have passed the 150 lb mark, only the occasional bear or mountain lion represents any danger. By contrast, chickens remain susceptible to predation throughout their lives. The list of chicken predators includes coyotes, bobcats, hawks, and eagles plus raccoons and weasels; even rats will predate on the chicks and, if a chicken does not remain alert when it goes into the pigpen, it could fall victim to the omnivorous appetites of those always hungry creatures. Intermediate between pigs and chickens, lambs are especially vulnerable to coyotes, bobcats, and eagles as newborns but gradually lose vulnerability to the smaller predators as they grow.
With so much potential for predation, how come we have so very little of it?
This is a particularly intriguing question because the next-door neighbor, with an equivalent assortment of farm animals, has a documented predation problem. In addition to losing chickens regularly, a mountain lion once killed one of his goats and stashed it in a tree. He has trail camera photos of the mountain lion.
One reason for the neighbor having a predator problem may be that there is a corridor of cover (aspen, cottonwood, willow, and underbrush) that leads from the adjacent forests right up to the neighbor’s animal pens. A coyote or bobcat following this corridor could easily slip in and out of the neighbor’s pens without being seen. Not so at our place, any predator would have to cross an open space and this may be somewhat off-putting to these animals that rely on stealth.
Another reason may be the barn. Our barn is old and somewhat dilapidated but it is substantial enough to offer some protection when the animals go there. Indeed, they all gather in the barn at night including the goat. The goat with its horns and its “I suffer no threat from anybody” attitude could easily dissuade a predator from entering the barn and thus protect the chickens as well as the sheep.
A third reason could be the dogs. Especially Barley keeps a close watch on the place and gives vocal warnings of her protective presence all during the day. Libbey often joins her in the evenings to announce their collective ownership and protective commitment. These canine announcements may actually keep would-be predators at bay – we often see coyotes on the other side of the creek where the dogs seldom go but rarely do we see one on our side of the creek which is within the dogs’ dominion.
Whatever the reason, our farm animals lead a protected life free of the fear of attack from the numerous local predators.
With a long gravel driveway and gated entry, Jean and I feel safe here also.