EUGENE, Ore. — It’s a challenge every farmer faces–how to keep livestock safe from predators. A West Eugene farm took a “Eugene” approach that the owner hopes others will consider.
“We have seen skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, cougars, hawks and owls,” said Sharon Blick, owner of Living Earth Farm.
Those are just the predators the farm has seen, but who knows what else is lurking in the woods that surround the chicken coops.
“Our main product is the eggs, but we do butcher the hens after laid for over a year. Then we butcher them and sell them as stewing hens,” Blick said.
This make the nearly 300 hens a serious investment and the farm’s main income.
“Right now, we’re getting about five dozen eggs a day, but when they were at their peak, we were getting more than I could fit in my backpack. We were getting probably about 12 dozen eggs a day,” Blick said.
Protecting their investment is a top priority, but so is maintaining the wildlife around the farm; Blick jumped through hoops to make sure Living Earth was certified predator-friendly.
“Predator-friendly certification means your farm is not killing predators, not calling in government trappers to kill predators and taking measures to protect your livestock without using lethal means on the predators,” Blick said.
Instead, the farm uses deterrents like an electric fence.
“This pretty much stops all the ground predators. We’ve never lost a chicken to a ground predator,” Blick said.
But for predators that come from the air, such as hawks and owls, a dog seems to do a good job keeping those predators away, whether he’s real or not.
“That’s our main defense against the hawks is having the guard dogs,” Blick said. “We have their house that we close at night when they’re roosting at night. If we forget to close it, we have had owls actually go in through the little door and get a chicken.”
The chickens aren’t the only ones that go inside once it gets dark.
“For the goats, we have a guard llama,” Blick said.
The whole group of goats moves into the barn at night. It’s a lot of work shuttling animals in and out and moving decoys to keep predators at bay, but the farm’s owners say it’s worth it.
“To create a wildlife-friendly farm. It’s more fun for us to and for the animals too,” Blick said.
To find out more about predator-friendly farms and what it takes to get certified, click here.