By Jason Rehr, Big Bear Homestead
Summer is here in full swing. Corn is growing. Tomatoes ripening. Chicks hatching. Piglets squealing. The most rewarding moments of homesteading are upon us. And then the day comes. You walk out to your chicken tractors only to find one of your chickens has been attacked by an opossum. Or, you walk through your garden to harvest the watermelon you’ve been waiting to ripen. And there it sits, half eaten, being consumed by bugs. You’ve been robbed by thieves on the homestead!
Most people accept this loss as “a part of homesteading.” But let me ask you something. If you raise animals or vegetables and something bad happens, that you could have prevented, don’t you try to learn from your mishap to make sure it doesn’t happen again? Earlier in the season we were raising chicks under a red shatter proof bulb. Chicks started dropping like flies. At first, we just thought it was part of homesteading. Later we figured out that the coating on the shatterproof bulb releases a toxic gas that kills the chicks. So rather than accept this loss, we found a different bulb to keep the chicks warm.
This time of year, I see so many posts, videos and pictures where people are sharing their loss from predators. Yet very few of them mention a plan of attack to fix the problem. Most accept the loss as a cost of producing your own food and move on. But why accept it? Why not do something to change it? This is where predator control comes in.
In my opinion there are many reasons why predator control is so important. The obvious reason is to prevent any loss of livestock or produce. But there is a subtler reason that most people don’t consider. Let’s say an opossum, one of the most common predators on a homestead, gets into your chicken coop and eats one laying hen. Chances are the remaining hens are going to stop laying because they are now stressed out. Or, what if you have a rabbit get into your garden, chews on a melon and doesn’t finish it? Then you have all kinds of insects that are now going to be attracted to that fruit and will damage, if not kill that plant. So, you will not only lose that one fruit or one hen. You will also lose the future production from the plant and other hens.
But by far the most important reason to learn and use predator control on your homestead is the necessity to control the population of predators in your area. A larger population not only increases the chance of a predator attack, it also puts a large strain on the eco system of that area. What exactly does that mean?
A strain on the food source in an area can cause animals to become more aggressive and take on bigger risks to eat. Also, when their food source is strained, a predator will relocate to follow a new food source. What does that mean to the homesteader? Well, not only do you have to worry about predators killing your livestock or eating your fruits and vegetables, now you have to worry about them moving into your attic, feed shed or barn. This can be very dangerous for you, the homesteader. Don’t believe me? Walk up on a mama raccoon with her babies and then tell me it’s not dangerous, that is if you survive that encounter.
Another problem with an overpopulated area, is a rise in different diseases that could have an effect on you and your livestock like mange, distemper, rabies and so on. In order to keep your animals and crops safe and productive, a good predator control plan is necessary.
Protecting Your Homestead from Predators
So, what can you do to protect your homestead from predators?
- Evaluate your homestead for potential predator food sources
- Secure your designated animal or garden area to discourage predator activity
- Monitor predator activity along the borders of your homestead
- Manage predator population through trapping and hunting
- Make your homestead less attractive to predators than the surrounding area outside your property.
Want to learn more to protect your homestead? Join me this year at the Homesteaders of America Conference. Not only will I be speaking and performing demos throughout the conference, I will also be holding a hands-on workshop where you can learn how to put a predator control plan and wildlife management plan in action. Hope to see you there!