Can cats and chickens coexist?
I have five cats of my own and until recently, this hasn’t been an issue of concern. Years ago my border collies and cats developed some sort of agreement on the boundaries on our property. The dogs rule the front yard and the cats reside in the back. If the cats pass this imaginary line, the dogs quickly herd them back into their agreed upon location (the back yard).
Then entered my free-ranging chickens and everything changed. At first I was sure that if I let my chickens loose, the border collies would relentlessly herd the girls back into the coop … and perhaps harm them in the process. Surprisingly though, the dogs are for some reason intimidated by the chickens. Their fear is probably due to my one Buff Orpington who will charge and peck anyone (cat, dog or chicken) who gets in her way! As the dogs accepted my new flock, they also seemed to ease up on the cats. The set boundary lines are blurring and the cats are showing up in the front yard more often, with nothing more than a stern look from the dogs.
The problem is that the chicken coop is in the middle of our property and one cat in particular (aka “Little Kitty”) is getting braver about approaching the chickens. At first I found him spending much of his day staring at the chickens, then sleeping under the coop and today (when the chickens were out foraging) I found him taking a catnap … in a nesting box!
I know this cat has killed mice, small birds and such, but is a cat even capable of killing a large chicken? I looked through the forums on BackYardChickens.com and sure enough there are a load of chicken keepers who can attest to the fact that a cat (feral or domestic) can hunt down a large chicken and kill or at the least seriously harm the bird. In the same forums, however, there were a lot of comments indicating that the family cat and flock tolerated each other without any problems.
So just what is Little Kitty contemplating? Does he want to eat a chicken or just hatch an egg? Perhaps he’s just jealous of their accommodations … Whatever the reason, we’ve concluded that the chickens need a fenced-in area to free-range during the day. At first when I let them out of the run, they would stay within an eye’s view of the coop. Then they started venturing further away. Today, I found them about 5 acres from our house!
Soon Little Kitty won’t have access to the coop and he’ll just have to be content dreaming of chickens. Does he want to live with the chickens or dine on them? I hope I’ll never have the opportunity to solve the mystery!