Raccoons and Other Scavengers

Anyone who’s ever tended a compost bin will know that food scraps attract unwanted guests. The Farm is already working hard to keep mice and rat populations from moving in through trapping, and very heavy gauge wire protects the hens from predators like coyote and opossum, but the compost mound is left defenseless, and it’s a huge bait pile.

There are many wonderful materials and designs out there to keep anything at bay, certainly we could keep our food waste in steel containers with locks, but that would disrupt decomposition, removing in from the elements, and soil, which blend with living organisms on the earth. Plus, why not let some of the scraps be taken? In the three years we’ve been keeping it, the compost has never been strewn around the yard. It’s held in chicken wire lined pallet walled bins. Lots of wildlife can get to it, but enough compost stays to make soil.

After seeing recent trail-cam footage of raccoons and opossums roaming the compost area, I became a little worried about my chickens. We’ve been lucky the past 3 years because compost bins are located on the complete opposite side of the property form our chicken coop. I have yet to place to camera near the coop (I think I’m subconsciously dreading what I might see, even though my birds are ok). The irony in this, is that we have only lost a few birds so far, and 2 out of 3 were arial predation. Electric perimeter fencing will be up again soon, but it won’t keep hawks and owls out.

The compost could be surrounded by electric fence, that might be a good answer for the warmer, brighter months. There is this running worry about rodents, and so many different answers keep being throw out: get a barn cat, but it might eat all the birds; try poison, but that is not organic or safe around other animals; get a rat terrier, “not another dog!”says Indo. So, what to do? It’s an age old debate about dealing with “pests”, but I think it has more to do with how we as humans see ourselves in the web of life. If we can’t put our waste away in smart ways to work with nature, she’ll devise her own clever ways to force the issue. Rodents are a big part of that plan, and eradicating them is next to impossible.

I’d love to hear from others working on their rodent issues. What works? What doesn’t?




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