July 26, 2013

Coyote Sighting

Our neighbor came by yesterday to let us know that he had just seen two coyotes passing across the back of his property toward the back of ours. Because coyotes haven't been seen around here in a long time, he initially thought they might be German Shepherds. As he observed their behavior and play, he realized they were coyotes. This is not good news.

Does and kids

We live outside of a small town which has it's shopping centers and housing developments, but is surrounded by a lot of rural land. Of wildlife we've personally seen deer, opossums, rabbits, groundhogs, fox, and wild turkey. There is, however, little agriculture. Our town, like many others, was based on textile mills which have long since closed down. This not farming country. There are some who keep cattle, horses, or Boer goats, and quite a few of these grow hay, but there are plenty of folks who simply keep a humongous lawn surrounding their house. It's not uncommon to see folks out on their tractors with mowing attachments, mowing acres and acres of ground just to keep it trim. Even our Cooperative Extension Office caters to this; ask them for information on what grows well in the area and you'll walk away with a stack of landscaping literature.

Guinea keets, 10 days old

Not surprisingly, our neighbor's news means we have been seriously discussing our options. I've been researching the hunting habits of coyotes as well as how to protect livestock. Articles suggest things like fencing (7 feet tall recommended with one foot buried, also electric), lighting, housing, human presence as a deterrent, and guard animals (donkeys were at the top of the list followed by llamas, then dogs).

I regret that our two livestock guardian dogs didn't work out. Our Great Pyrenees was more interested in chasing our chickens and goats than protecting them, and our Bernese Mountain Dog died of complications of Lymes Disease (which was why we got our Guinea keets.)

5 week old baby chickens and Mama Hen

I'm sure those of you with experience have quite a few tales to tell, as well as advice to give. On the internet I've found several helpful informational sights to start:

Our goats, poultry, and cat are potential targets, but there are plenty of deer, rabbits, and groundhogs around so at least these coyotes aren't starving.

Riley,  a good night hunter, has lately been very cautious exiting the house.

Still, we need to be on guard and do all we can to protect our critters. It seems a variety of measures would work best. We've started by locking the goats up at night. The rest, we have yet to figure out.

Coyote Sighting © July 2013 by Leigh at 


Jocelyn said...

Yes, lock them in. We have coyotes all over the place here, and live in the woods. Every animal here is locked in at night, usually at dusk. I've found it's the safest way.

Ed said...

We live among a large population of coyotes and for the most part, they are wary of human habitation and don't cause problems. We locked up the fowl at night and the animals were fenced inside enclosures. The cats did their own thing. I can't remember a time we ever lost an animal to a coyote.

Jackie said...

We are the same as Jocelyn and Ed with plenty of coyotes in the area. Everything gets locked up by around 7pm, whether it's dark or not. There are quite a few herds of sheep and goats here too, practically all of them are accompanied by a donkey for protection. They must have a regular food source to make it viable for them to set up home there, just make it easier for them to obtain food elsewhere.

Katy said...

oh yeah - one of my friends had chickens at one point, about 20 birds. They lost the whole flock in one night to coyotes.
He said they went out there in the morning and the whole yard was covered in feathers!

Renee Nefe said...


DFW said...

We hear coyotes howling in the middle of the night & it is one very eerie sound. It sounds like there are 20 or more but if you shine the light there are usually only 3 or 4. We haven't heard them this year, at least not yet.

Leigh said...

Jocelyn, I admit I feel safest with them locked up at night. :)

Ed, I read that they avoid areas of human activity. Use of human herders was listed as one of the top ways to prevent loss by coyote.

Jackie, we wondered about the donkey. They were recommended quite highly by several websites. I think, too, there is plenty of hunting for them besides our livestock.

Katy, that would be terrible! It's bad enough losing one or two, but what a way to get wiped out entirely.

Renee, you can say that again!

DFW, so far we haven't heard anything, but I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not a good thing!

Florida Farm Girl said...

Oh, I'm sorry to hear of the coyote threat. Hope they were maybe just passing through.

Anonymous said...

Don't have to really have livestock guardians just a pair of regular good ol mutts will help keep them away. Just get some that will be over 50 pounds and they will usually keep them away. Get some pups and raise them with the animals and they should not chase anything if you correct the behavior.

EverydayGirl415 said...

I live in the country where there are an abundance of coyotes. We even got them in the suburban area when I lived with my Grandmother for school. They aren't always afraid of what they should be. We got lucky that our small dachshund escaped and survived an attack after escaping from our yard. They have come up to our gated areas but never crossed over to get the dog or the cats. We have just started our flock and haven't experienced coyotes with that yet, but as long as they go in at night, they should be safe.

Anonymous said...

Here in suburban Massachusetts there are plenty of coyotes. I've seen the same one passing through my yard to check on the chicken coop next door. This is during daylight hours so there's no guarantee that evening only lock-ups will work. Even foxes will hunt chickens during the day. Humans, therefore, are not a deterrent, esp. if they are hungry enough and have too many mouths to feed. My suggestion is that you get another llama, this way you will have the fur to spin in your fiber future and yet have a current deterrent with a proven coyote-repellent pedigree. --Sue in MA

Sylvanna said...

THANK YOU from the coyotes for looking into methods of protection rather than eradication.

If you haven't read Prodigal Summer, I highly recommend the well-written educational novel.

Susan said...

I'm in a very rural area, so there is no lack of predators around, including packs of coyotes. I use fencing, position of the animal housing (near my house) and a guard llama. If they get too close, I am also hell on wheels with my heavy-bottomed frying pan. You whack that baby on the deck railing and it sounds just like a gunshot!

Leigh said...

Sue, me too, but it's hard to know. The fact that they were playing likely means a mated pair and ...pups? Animals do tend to migrate, albeit slowly sometimes.

Anonymous, you bring up several good points. Big animals are a deterrent, even with cattle it's the young coyotes prey on. A good watch dog would help, but I hold some reservation about breed. There is genetic instinct, which is why different breeds are kept for different purposes, although amongst individuals it's difficult to predict. I've wondered about an adult, working LGD that needs rehoming; they come up on Craigslist now and then. Having to raise a puppy properly is a lot of work with no guarantees as to whether they'll be chicken chasers or chicken protectors. Still, a dog or two are necessary additions to any farm or homestead, I think.

EverydayGir415, hello! It's interesting you say that because our neighbor said these two didn't pay any attention to him even though he was close by on his tractor. Going in at night does seem to be a favorite option.

Sue, I would love to get another llama! Dan did tell me to look around but the only offerings were show quality animals ranging from $900 to $2300. Not. One consideration is that we have free range chickens who go where they please and two separate groups of goats. We will likely need a variety of methods to keep everybody safe.

Sylvanna, I always love a good book recommendation,thanks. If an attack were imminent, neither Dan nor I would think twice about protecting our animals. In general, however, eradication doesn't seem to be very successful. Coyotes are a species that fill the void by increasing population. There is someone who buys live coyotes (or so we're told), but Dan will not do that. Right now, deterrents and safety precautions seem the best route to take.

Susan, great idea about the frying pan, LOL! I know that noise and activity aren't guarantees against attack, but they certainly must help keep coyotes wary at least!

Randall Brennan said...

I live in suburban area that backs to open space and semi-rural properties. The coyotes are thick. As long as we let the rabbits, prairie dogs and voles alone, the coyotes are not much of a problem. They are generally opportunistic hunters, and will give up pretty easily. They do get accustomed to humans, and aren't really intimated by their presence.

If a coyote is determined to come into your property, they will go under a fence, so secure it along the whole length. Don't forget gates. If they can't go under, they will go over, but usually they climb or jump ONTO the top of a fence, not OVER it except for short fences. The trick is to make the top of the fence unable to support them.

We have had good luck with running a length of welded-wire fencing similar to what you have in the does & kids picture. We are required to have a short, two-rail fence, so we just ran the new fencing so that it extended a couple of feet higher than the wood rail fence.

Another method is to run a wire through lengths of PVC pipe a few inches over the top of your existing fence. If the coyotes climb or jump up, the pipe will spin, and the coyote will fall off. I suppose if you were clever enough, you could rig it up such that an alarm or bell would go off if the pipe were to be spun, alerting you to the potential danger, and possibly scaring away the coyote.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

We have coyotes all around in rural VA but have never lost any animals. Foxes, coons, possums and skunks have taken chickens and are the major problem here. They happen to be on the coyote's menu so I think the coyotes are actually helping me. Of course you don't want the coyote to guard the chicken coop so like native american settlements, I built a stockade around our garden and chickens, used free pallets wired together on blocks to keep them off the ground and put old sheet metal around the base and black plastic when I ran out of that. Not pretty but effective.

Sue said...

Coyotes are everywhere! Like raccoons and opossums, they have adjusted well to humans.

I have 2 bands of coyotes near my place. I see them rarely but hear them every night. They successfully raise pups, but (knock wood) I have never lost an animal to them. Neighbor dogs have been much more of an issue. Obviously there is plenty of food for them, and I am reluctant to take them out because whatever new coyotes moved in might not be so obliging about leaving my animals alone.

Sandy Livesay said...


When in town several weeks back there were 2 running the neighborhood. It seems with all the construction they're being run out of their habitat.

Megan @ Purple Dancing Dahlias said...

We have learned to lock up everything at night. We also have nightgaurds that deter nocturnal predators. There may be enough wild food for the coyotes to eat but they will go after the easy targets, like livestock, if they have the chance.

Leigh said...

Randall, welcome and thank you so much for the information. Very helpful with some great ideas.

Sunnybrook, do you have a photo of that on your blog? We do have plenty of other wildlife around, so starvation won't be a factor for the time being. Thankfully.

Sue, actually, it was a neighbor's dog that climbed our fence and chased our chickens and goats. And everytime a new renter moves in next door with a dog, I have a whole new set of worries, The other worry is kids, who want to climb the fence and throw things at the goats.

Sandy, we don't have much construction going on in our part of the county, but I can't help but wonder if they've always been here and folks just stopped noticing since no one has livestock. They do look like roaming dogs.

Megan, it's funny, but with all the squirrels, rabbits, and birds around, we've always been dismayed that hawks, in particular, prefer chicken! I'm just hoping these coyotes don't have a taste for domesticated meat.

Farmer Barb said...

In suburban MA, a coyote ran through our BLOCK PARTY with a squirrel in its mouth. One day here, in CT, my son came home from the bus and saw a mom coyote with a pup in her mouth--at 3:45 pm!

I see them every day or so, even with the big dog piles left all over. The chickens were always safe in their pens. I am making my sheep enclosure with hardware cloth bent in an "L" to the outside. The posts are 8 feet high. The inside will have hog panels to keep the sheep from pushing the wire off. Around the outside will be a 3300 volt portable net to reinforce the fact that I am not going to happily give up anymore livestock. The shock sent the dog away screaming. He refused to even come near it for three weeks. Coyotes know where the food is. They will come.
I can't afford to fence in all five acres against them. I will just protect the areas for sleeping. The net is easily moved. The charger is solar. If I don't have sun, I have a trickle charger. Everyone has a right to eat. Just not MY animals.

Chariot said...

Sometimes you see llamas and such on adoptapet.com . Adoption fees are a lot less than show animals.

Frank and Fern said...

Hi Leigh,

When we got our first Great Pyrenees, I got a book on how to train livestock guardians. This was our first experience with them, so we wanted to do it right.

Pearl, our dog, lived in a pen in the barn with the goats. We did a lot of training, and she was not allowed out with the goats without supervision until she was almost a year old. She is almost four now and a great dog.

We got another Pyrenees puppy a year ago that just didn't work out. She was much more hyperactive and less responsive to us. So we sold her.

We have never had any problems with coyotes and we do not lock up our goats at night. Some folks across the road have lost goats to coyotes before and now they have 3 Pyrenees.

I hope the coyotes don't bother your animals. I know it would be heart breaking if they did.


Tami said...

Thought I'd check Craigslist for you. Try this link.


2 llamas for sale $250 Posted 7-26

Close to Winston Salem but doable for you I think.

Theresa said...

FWIW, we too have coyotes and not once have they bothered the goats, not these two nor the 5 Pygora's. Many places around have chickens and honestly, the biggest problem has been the raccoons with fowl. I worry most about cougar,bobcat and lynx when it comes to the goats. The last summer I had the goatie girls, I left them out at night, feeling they had better protection hanging with the horses, (who will not put up with small cats and the like), as compared to being licked in a pen at night. It won't work for you obviously and wildlife on the edge of suburban environments act differently than those in out here I'm sure.

Leigh said...

Farmer Barb, sounds like your coyotes are quite bold. I read that electric fencing or netting is really helpful. I think we should consider that. I've been interested that so many have not had problems. It's encouraging on the one hand, but I agree we have to do what we can to protect our critters.

Chariot, that's a good idea. I was thinking about one of the llama rescue organizations too. I also thought of looking for an adult livestock dog; one that is used to looking for livestock.

Fern, our Pyr came to us as a puppy but had been somebody's pet. I did work extensively with our Berner as a puppy, but once there was a 2nd puppy, his training seemed to go out the window. It's heartening to hear your success story. You're right that it takes a lot of work, but it's worth it.

Oh Tami!!! One of those boys would be perfect. Our problem is that we don't have a trailer for hauling livestock. We brought our weanling llama home in the back of my jeep, LOL. We discuss buying a trailer, but somehow it never comes to the top of the financial priority list; something we regret when a good deal like this comes along.

Theresa, I thought about you because I remembered that you didn't fence your Pygoras. Seems that if the coyotes have good food sources elsewhere, they are less of a problem. I suspect those closer to urban areas are more accustomed to humans and so not as afraid. I've not seen raccoons around, but I suspect they're out there. I've read some nightmare things about what raccoons do to chickens.

Harry Flashman said...

I've been living in the Smokey Mountains for 30 years, and coyotes have always been here. I keep free range chickens, and I've had goats and other livestock. I have never had a problem with coyotes. Bobcats are a lot more likely to kill the chickens. I do have two big dogs who help keep would be predators away. Bears are an issue too, and they're the only animals here I'm really leery of.

Homesteading wife said...

I have heard god things about a light that you set up around the perimeter of your property that makes it look like eyes. Coyotes see the "eyes" and think its another animal and stays away. Can't remember what its called. Night Guard or something like that.

Anonymous said...

Praying you can find the right solution that works for you and those gorgeous critters of yours!

Leigh said...

Harry, thank you for visiting and thank you for the comment. It's been interesting to read the various experiences of others. For us, it's so far so good.

I lived in an area once, where coyotes had been reintroduced. They wreaked all sorts of havoc for area dairy farmers, who lost nearly all their calves but were forbidden to do anything about it. Our coyotes seem to have reappeared of their own accord and seem to be less of a threat.

I'm thinking that in an area where a predator like the coyote was originally native, that once gone it is no longer an integral part of that local ecosystem. When artificially introduced, they have no home base, no habitat, no hunting grounds, no network, no seasonal routine. They are pretty much abandoned to fend for themselves in a strange new territory. Consequently they do not help maintain an ecological balance, but rather create an imbalance. Domesticated livestock would make the easiest target and the obvious choice for a hungry pack in unfamiliar territory. I'm not drawing any conclusions, just making an observation.

Christina, I'll have to look into that, thanks. I've been thinking about a motion detecting solar light for the edge of the woods. A constant light is discouraged by some because it can blind those whose eyes are accustomed to it (human and livestock). Anything outside the light (coyotes) can see in perfectly well.

Stephanie, thanks! There always seems to be something to deal with. As Ma Ingalls used to say, "If it isn't chickens, it's feathers."

Dave Gibson said...

We have all kinds of predators here in the southern Adirondacks. Our three large dogs keep them all away from our place. Even the bears. But my in-laws live just a mile down the road and they regularly lose cats to the coyotes and foxes. Their little yappy dogs are no deterrent, apparently, although their itty bitty Yorkie treed a bear a couple of months ago.

So my recommendation would be a couple of pit bulls. Besides keeping predators away, they're wonderful pets.

chris said...

we had a terrrible time with coyotes when we lived in suburban chicago. they had no fear of humans and came right up to the house. now i live in las vegas on a golf course minutes from the strip, same zip code as caesars, bellagio, etc. and we have them here on the golf course as well. there is no getting away from them. i would make sure riley is in at night. also they easily jump the 5' fence that runs along the golf course. might be time to get a gun. also, the bathroom came out cute. you guys always do such a nice creative job.

Chris said...

Look to nature for your answers. What do prey animals use for protection in the wild? I suspect a thorny hedgerow may be more effective than a fence, but this would take a while to grow.

Still, I find natural solutions are far greater deterrents in the long term, than many of the man-made ones I've implemented in the past. We live in Australia though, and domestic dogs, dingos, eagles and foxes are our main predators.

I wonder instead of a higher fence, if you could plant a thick, thorny hedgerow against the fence boundary? You'd have forage for the goats and your predators may not attempt jumping a fence with a thorny hedgerow to land on.

Leigh said...

Pam and Dave, our next door neighbor has a pit bull. She is the sweetest most well behaved dog. The only time she barks is if there is something to warn about.

I have some caution about dogs in general. There are genetic instincts, which is why some dogs are inclined to hunt, rat, fetch, or guard. Then there are individual personalities. We need something that won't think the chickens and goats are either toys to chase, or lunch! Our 2 guardian dogs didn't work out so now I'm thinking I should try to find an adult that needs rehoming.

I wanted to return the blog visit, BTW, but your profile is marked as private. :(

Chris, it seems coyotes are one species that can adapt readily to humans. Even though we wouldn't go out and hunt them down, Dan does keep a rifle handy. Riley, OTOH, would be difficult to keep in, unless we were willing to put up with yowling all night.

Chris, I agree nature provides the best model. There are some permaculturists who use plants to redirect wildlife, such as deer. I'd have to read up on coyotes. The trouble with hedges and other plantings is that they take years to get established!

helenabelle said...

We have 10 miniature donkeys that call our 17 acres home. Before the donkeys came to live on our farm, coyotes could be seen and heard. But not anymore!! Thankfully, no coyotes. Also, we have 5 dogs and one of our dogs could easily pass for a coyote(we were told when we rescued her that she was 1/4 coyote, don't know for sure about that though)but what we do know, is the donkeys DO NOT like her, only her. The others they seem oblivious too. If she happens to go anywhere near them, they will chase her until she is out of their pasture and then proceed to headbutt the fence! She has never ever hurt them, chased them or anything like that. We just think that they think she is a coyote and will not stand for her being around. So yes, I would highly recommend a couple of donkeys. They seem to enjoy being with a partner. The girls are always paired up. So I say get 2. Life is better with a friend.

Anonymous said...

We had several take out a calf one night on neighbors farm. Tracking found that we have very large population. We have even seen them at the back door sniffing garbage cans. One night we sat and waited and it was amazing we had three come straight for the barn where goats are but they were also flanking us. Even after killing several and firing over 50 rounds they were still within floodlight range. Started fencing next day

Leigh said...

Helenabelle, very interesting about the donkeys, thank you for that. Dan has been wanting a donkey or two for quite awhile. :)

It appears you don't have a blog(?). If you did, I'd come return the blog visit.

Anonymous, that's a scary story. It's a blessing you didn't lose any goats yourself. Sounds like they may even be somewhat overpopulated for the area.