Bears and chickens don’t mix – electric fences are the best bet to keep it that way

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Posted: 07/09/2022 11:54:44 AM

Modified: 09/07/2022 11:54:28 AM

With the backyard chicken boom showing no signs of slowing down, Andrew Timmins would like to give newcomers some constructive advice.

“Rather than buying a bunch of pressure-treated lumber and building a big chicken coop, build a proper chicken coop and then focus on electric fencing.”

Why does he appreciate better wiring over better walls? Bear.

“Many people spend time and resources building a solid chicken coop. It can keep the bobcat, the fox, the angler off – but when it comes to bears, you can’t beat their strength,” said Timmins, wildlife biologist for NH Fish and Game, who is the the state’s foremost expert on the black bear population. .

“For a typical backyard chicken coop, I would estimate you could electrify it for around $300. … I’d rather see people investing their money and time in electric fencing.

Many are, it seems.

“There’s been quite a build-up. I notice quite a few new people watching (the electric fences). … It seems to be mostly for backyard chickens,” said Andy Lowe, warehouse manager at the Agway store in Winnisquam.

It’s good but not enough, judging by the statistics.

“In 2005, we handled about 20 complaints a year about bears and chickens. Today we are dealing with 150 to 175 (per year) bears entering the barns,” Timmins said. Only bears entering outdoor trash cans attract more complaints than bears entering outdoor chicken coops.

Dealing with bear complaints often means killing the bear, because once they get used to raiding a particular place, they can become dangerous.

Fish and Game reported a recent case in which a sow accompanied by three cubs was slaughtered by an owner in a backyard chicken coop. Biologists caught two of the cubs and sent them to a rehabilitation center, but were unable to catch the third, which is not old enough to survive on its own in the wild.

“We like bears. We don’t want them being shot at in chicken coops. It’s wasteful and it doesn’t really solve the problem,” Timmins said.

Bears have a terrific sense of smell and may be attracted to food from chickens inside coops or the chickens themselves as a tasty meal.

New Hampshire has about 6,800 bears, biologists estimate, and many have become more comfortable with homes. Sightings in yards and driveways in southern New Hampshire are common, even in downtown areas.

“We don’t see the most complaints in areas with the most bears, we see the most complaints in areas where we have the most people,” Timmins said.

Installing and using electric fences can be daunting for those inexperienced, but it’s relatively simple using either house current or solar chargers.

“I think the idea of ​​working with electricity scares most people. There’s definitely a bit of hesitation for people trying to set it up on their own, but they’re willing to try anything just to make sure their chickens will be safe,” Lowe said.

New Hampshire Fish and Game lends electric fences to people with bear issues.

“Some of the equipment we lend is more than 10 years old. It is used year after year, day after day during the summer months. It lasts a long time,” Timmins said. It works so well, he says, that a few people borrow it every year instead of buying their own.

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