How to keep bears away from your chickens

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Given that more people are keeping chickens in their backyards and feel as protective over them as they do over other pets, and also given that black bears are in almost every U.S. state, there is likely to be an increase in encounters and conflicts with bears who stumble upon these backyard flocks.

Sarah Barnes, from N.W. Montana, recently shared this amazing shot of a visitor at her chicken coop on the group Chickens, Chickens, Chickens :

Bear near chicken coop.
Image used with permission. Subject to copyright.

Barnes also shared this video of the same furry and extremely large visitor checking out her property:

Although the coop in the picture appears nice and sturdy, and the bear is pictured on his best behavior, according to http://www.muranochickenfarm.com, ‘Not only will bears break a chicken coop to pieces looking for the feed, but they will also eat any chickens or eggs that they find inside. They are huge in size, much stronger than us and can effectively destroy almost any coop we have built.”

So how do those of us with backyard coops protect our chickens?

Muranochickenfarm.com relates that, rather than keeping bears out of the chicken coop, the recommended course of action is “about deterring them from even knowing there’s something good inside!”

One of the best ways to do this, which is recommended by a number of websites about keeping chickens, is to put up an electric fence as a deterrent.

In fact, according to the Massachusetts Government website , “Properly maintained electric fencing is the only way to protect chickens or other poultry from bears.” 

A fence that shocks the bears as a deterrent might seem to some like an inhumane choice, but many experts explain that it can be an effective and safe choice, giving bears enough of a jolt to send them on their way without any permanent damage.

According to the Virginia government website, “A properly constructed electric fence is safe to people, pets, and bears.”

As someone who has accidentally shocked themselves on an electric fence in the past,  I can attest to the fear factor. It’s enough of a “shock” — no pun intended — to make you avoid the fencing at all costs, yet you remain unharmed.

In the case of bears, it can also mean life or death, since, as many experts also state, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” Meaning that once you feed a bear or a bear is able to get food, it will be back. And the often means that the bear is killed in order to protect the property it keeps returning to.

As someone who isn’t super mechanically or electrically-inclined, but has set up electric fencing in the past (for my horse), I can also attest that it’s actually not terribly difficult or expensive, especially when given the alternative of replacing a damaged coop.

For  more information on how to set up a fence, check out this article:

Click to access mfwp_electric-fencing-guide_march-2017.pdf

 

 

 

Sources:

Where Can You See Black Bears In America?

https://www.mass.gov/doc/protect-your-chickens-from-black-bears/download

https://www.muranochickenfarm.com/2019/07/protect-chickens-from-bears.html

Click to access fencing.pdf

Special thanks to Sarah Barnes for sharing the photo and video!

 

4 thoughts on “How to keep bears away from your chickens”

    1. They’re really not as bad as they sound. Would definitely want to keep the chickens away from it though.

  1. I never realized bears would bother chickens. It seems like everything does like possums raccoons , coyotes and fox too.

    1. Even dogs. The biggest predators around here have been possums. They’re very good at getting in and out of small spaces. Also, I see hawks and other birds circling above them sometimes. It’s probably not surprising that there are more and more people who are keeping their chickens mostly inside just to keep them safe.

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