No kitty that's a bad kitty! Need suggestions to keep kittehs out!
March 21, 2013 11:16 AM   Subscribe

How can I keep stray/feral kittehs out of my yard so that they don't eat my pet chickens?

Live in SoCal, and there are feral/wandering cats around. One has taken particular interest in my backyard, because my pet chickens roam around the backyard. My yard is fenced (block) and I have gone to check on the birds, only to find said kitteh lounging on top of the fence, or sneaking along the fence, waiting for opportunity. I love kittehs, but I don't love kittehs who want to eat my pet chickens. Can anyone suggest something (other than barbed wire) to keep kittehs out of my yard without hurting them? I am thinking of trapping said kitteh, but another one would move in and take his place (most likely). Cat repellant? Aluminum foil along the top of the fence? I don't know what to do!
posted by bolognius maximus to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Could you net enclosure your whole yard?
posted by Mizu at 11:17 AM on March 21, 2013

Grate some citrus peels and scatter them anywhere you don't want the cats to go. Most cats are repelled by the scent of citrus.

Now, I've used this successfully in keeping ferals from using the flowerbed as a potty. I haven't used it to keep them from going after tasty tasty birds. So I don't have the slightest idea how the yuck of the citrus scent will weigh against the yum of prey.
posted by tigerjade at 11:21 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not sure of the layout and size we're talking about, but is some kind of moat device a possibility? Maybe with kiddy pools? motion activated sprinkler on/aroud the fence?
posted by raztaj at 11:22 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

What about creating a generous chicken run enclosed by chicken wire? Kitties seem reluctant to hang out on materials that their claws can't really grip.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:25 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are cat fences that include a barrier to prevent cats from being able to jump in. You can attach the brackets to your block fence although that means holes in the masonry.
posted by payoto at 11:28 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Or a mobile chicken run, with deer fencing, perhaps.

When we had chickens, the top of the fence was curved, making it much more difficult for chickens and cats to switch sides of the fence.
posted by tilde at 11:29 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have full-sized chickens (as opposed to Banties or chicks) I'd be surprised to see even a feral cat successfully go after them, although Google suggests it's possible. I'd be more worried about coyotes or hawks, both of which will go after chickens; to protect the girls from hawks, you need a cover for the shelter, not just walls.

You could use chicken wire to create an enclosed run, with the top covered as well as sides (like a larger version of this)? If you build a lightweight wooden frame for the run, you could move it to various parts of the yard. (And still let them out to roam free when you're there to supervise.) Ideally you'd have stakes to keep the cat from sneaking under the chicken wire.

Cats respond really well to electric fences (a controller and fencing is probably cheaper than you think) but electric fences don't work on hawks.
posted by pie ninja at 11:33 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a large yard (10,000 sq ft) and a mix of standards and bantams. And one large duck. They already have a large pen, but complain loudly when not allowed to roam around the yard.

Have not seen any hawks yet, just flocks of parrots and other non-harmful types.

Thanks for all the answers so far!
posted by bolognius maximus at 11:38 AM on March 21, 2013

My parents have been trying for years to keep the local ferals away from the free food buffet that is our bird feeders, and the squirrels away from our fruit trees. Last year, they threw out all the baffles, rattles, sprays and traps, and bought an airsoft gun. You know, the kind with the tiny little plastic bb's. It has taken a few months, but the critters seem to be learning. And, while it hurts, it's not likely to injure anyone; in fact, at range the gun is pretty inaccurate but they've learned to associate the SOUND of the gun's spring mechanism to getting pinged with the pellet and THAT is VERY EFFECTIVE.
Of course my dad is retired, and has time to sit around and shake his fist at the squirrels. YMMV.

And yes, I was concerned about hurting the little critters, so I had my dad shoot my butt at ~5ft. It stung, but I can't imagine it breaking skin, unless you were at point-blank range.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:43 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

And when I say 'seems to be working' I mean that the cats just don't hang out here anymore and squirrels in the yard see him coming and make themselves scarce.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:45 AM on March 21, 2013

Seconding pie ninja: the cat will try exactly once to take down a chicken, and the chicken will then proceed to kick its ass. It'll be a pretty humiliating experience for the cat, and very little deters a cat as effectively as humiliation.

As mentioned above, you need to worry about hawks (you definitely have them in Southern California, no question) and coyotes, and oh my God raccoons. Raccoons are incredibly capable chicken predators.
posted by jesourie at 11:49 AM on March 21, 2013

Sadly, in my experience we didn't seen the hawks until it was too late. :-( Not sure if it's a common hazard in LA, though.

I should clarify that my knowledge about cats' reactions to electric fences is purely accidental. The fence was originally purchased as a pig pen (effective) and its uses expanded to include keeping weasels/racoons/fisher cats/coyotes/etc. out of the chicken pens (mostly effective), keeping vermin out of the garden (must protect the ornamental corn!), and various other uses. Once you have an electric fence, every problem looks like a problem that can be solved with an electric fence. The information about the cats is purely a side-effect. The cats accidentally hit the fence once and only once. They never touched it again.

If you do go the fence route, I'd get a medium-duty controller as the light ones are crap. You do need to check the fenceline every few days to make sure nothing is shorting it out.
posted by pie ninja at 11:51 AM on March 21, 2013

I had chickens many years ago on a farm with cats that used to hunt snakes and rabbits but they never went for the chickens. We did however have a large and very protective rooster, if you aren't in too urban an environment having a rooster around can help keep a lot of predators away or the noise he'll make can give you warning when danger is around. The most protective rooster we ever had was a bantam that killed himself during a heatwave by chasing "his" girls back to the shade near the water trough, he was so worried about them he over heated himself and we couldn't save him.

Electric fences work really well at keeping cats out, we used to use them to keep goats in and the cats would not go in that paddock at all, but if you have just one wire they will learn to go around it. They are easy to install and maintain too.
posted by wwax at 11:59 AM on March 21, 2013

Another thing you have to worry about is skunks.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:26 PM on March 21, 2013

Peacocks and geese are sometimes used as flock guardians.
posted by maggieb at 1:27 PM on March 21, 2013

Pet dog that likes kittehs. The taste of.
posted by notreally at 1:39 PM on March 21, 2013

Seconding pie ninja. The rescue ranch I got my cats from keeps some of their cats in an enclosure with chickens. They all coexist.
posted by adamrice at 1:46 PM on March 21, 2013

You could use chicken wire to create an enclosed run, with the top covered as well as sides (like a larger version of this)? If you build a lightweight wooden frame for the run, you could move it to various parts of the yard. (And still let them out to roam free when you're there to supervise.) Ideally you'd have stakes to keep the cat from sneaking under the chicken wire.

Also known as a "chicken tractor". Which is also great for keeping the hens from scratching the whole yard at once/getting into your veggies. Search for it, and you'll see a million examples you can build.

A rooster would be the easiest for chasing off cats. Only a really determined and large cat would even hesitate to run at the sight of an attacking rooster. Failing that, chicken tractor or electric fence.
posted by emjaybee at 1:57 PM on March 21, 2013

That much space? Get a couple geese.
posted by tilde at 7:39 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have a rooster? The hens will look after themselves without one, but a rooster can and will take on a housecat to defend "his girls". My friend has a small farm with a laying flock and barn cats. The barn cats have not attempted to go after the full-grown chickens. The first barn-cat got a thorough beating at the wings and spurs of an irate rooster and has not only avoided any chicken since then, she's also taught her offspring to avoid the big feathery things.

Rats, ferrets, hawks, raccoons, possums, and feral dogs, however, are another story. A livestock dog can be an effective guardian, but comes with a whole different set of problems.
posted by jopasm at 10:52 PM on March 21, 2013

Thanks again for all the responses! I can't have a rooster (the city says 'no'), and live in an area/my house's layout makes it almost impossible for dogs/coyotes to jump the fence (and there is no habitat within 5 miles that will sustain coyotes). I have smelled skunks at night, have not seen raccoons or possoms or anything else (yet). The girls get locked in their pen at dusk (which does have the top covered) and in their coop at night (which I have also tried to critter-proof) so it's like double walls for them. I have a duck, don't know if they are as effective as geese.

Damn you, kitteh!
posted by bolognius maximus at 12:05 AM on March 22, 2013

Depends on the duck(s). I mostly remember them being smelly, but the geese were very effective - territorial and a hell of a lot bigger than a housecat. The turkey were just .... weird and stupid and had funny looking eggs. Bonus with the geese eggs - blow them out and leave the shell intact to dry; they are wonderfully fun to decorate.

I can't imagine ruling you can't have a rooster but ducks and geese would be fine. But, hey, cities are weird. Get a breeding pair or two so you can grandfather in once they get sick of the geese and change the rules ;).

Actually the ducks could get aggressive if you went after their nests ... but their pond was SOOO smelly.
posted by tilde at 10:22 AM on March 22, 2013

I don't know anything about domestic ducks but there are some wild mallards that live in my yard year round. (Me and my neighbors feed them, so there's no reason for them to migrate.)

Most of the year the ducks pretty much ignore any cats that are around as long as they keep their distance, and vice versa. But in hatching season, cats are definitely interested in ducklings and I've seen cats line up for a charge. If any adult duck notices, they go right after the cat, squawking and flapping, and the cats run for it immediately.

Thing is, a cat's weapons are useless against a duck. Duck feathers are like scale armor and a cat's claws can't penetrate. A cat's jaws are too small to really be a threat. On the other hand a duck can't outright kill a cat but they can sure batter it with wings and peck with beak and make the cat very uncomfortable.

But that wouldn't work with raccoons or skunks. They're bigger, stronger, more aggressive, hungrier, and they've got better jaws. And when anyone walks their dog the ducks make themselves scarce.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:23 AM on March 22, 2013

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