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Outside Living and Wildlife?

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    Outside Living and Wildlife?

    I think this topic has been covered plenty of times, but please bear with me because I haven't see any non weather related discussions.

    My husband and I recently purchased an old dairy farm, cows haven't lived on it for at least a couple of decades. It's a 25 acre field and we have a ton of wildlife. Our big plan is to renovate the dairy barn, but this might take a few years. I would like to bring my horse home as soon as possible. I'm strongly considering the idea of constructing a 12'x24' or 12'x36' run in shed with an overhang for my gelding and a couple of companion donkeys to live. I'm really not worried about the weather, my horse does fine outside (actually prefers it I think). What I am worried about is the wildlife. Is there anything that I should be concerned about with horses living outside 24/7 in New England?

    So far I've seen a lot of deer, a resident fox and a couple of coyotes. We are in Southern New Hampshire so bears aren't a huge issue, but they are still around. I'm hoping someone could put my worrying mind at ease!

    I know it depends a lot on the part of the country (I'm Midwest), but our bears, foxes and coyotes stay out of our way - I've only seen a fox once and only see the coyote tracks. Hearing both can be scary, though - that's the only way I know we have both in the ravine that backs up to our land. Fox noises could easily be mistaken for a demon spawn and 2 coyotes, echoing, sound like 2 dozen. My biggest challenge have been the F%#$!^@ deer. They cause the dogs to bark, spook the horses (only when you're riding of course, I've seen the deer and horses in the same field), eat my EVERYTHING, and have damaged fences. I'd say most of our wildlife run-ins have been with rodents, large and small, trying to break into everything.

    I think you'll be fine You're going to spend those first few nights worried awake anyways, and then just when you're getting used to it, the weather will change and you'll start worrying all over again


      I think your horse will be fine, especially with a couple of donkeys and a run in shed. I live in the Midwest and I just make sure that my horses are vaccinated against rabies (plus the rest of the vacs) each year. My horses live with deer, coyotes, fox, raccoons, a bobcat or two and a few bear wandering through their field...and I've never had any problems. It goes without saying to keep any feed, cat food, or hay under wraps/behind closed doors to discourage critters from encroaching. Most stay a healthy distance away.
      The rabies vac is key though for peace of mind - make sure your horse has it on board.

      If you've never had your gelding at home, you'll be nervous until everyone gets settled in- it will all be good. Enjoy!


        I live in MA, but I'm right on the southern border of NH, so, howdy potential new neighbor!

        Our horses have lived outside 24/7 with a run in, on our farm for the last fifteen years. They are enclosed in 3 strand electric tape, not wood fencing. We are smack between two large farms with tons of conservation areas abutting us, so we get all kinds of wildlife. We've gotten everything from coyotes, fishers, coydogs, bears, hawks, vultures, raccoons, bobcats, owls.. I see coyotes and deer regularly - bears I usually only see in late fall or winter. No issues, though the horses don't love encountering bear on the trail.

        The worse to happen to us is about ten years ago a few of our bolder TBs stuck their noses into a porcupine.. it went about how you could expect.

        The porcupine took a stroll through our paddock and was met by the TB Welcome Committee -- no vet call needed, but two very disgruntled TB noses with lots of quills needing extraction!

        The deer, coyotes, and bears don't bother the horses.

        Coyotes make for some great ratters and will not attack horses, in my experience. It's been a few years since we had a group live on the farm but we did have an older coyote that used to camp in our riding ring.. he was a great ratter. I think coyotes have a bad rap here, but they're really not the nuisance to horses a lot of people paint them as.. and having them attack horses is unheard of .They are very small here - around 30-40lb once fully mature.. they present more danger to chickens or cats than anything. Bobcats and fishers will eat chicken, and small cats, but are no threat whatsoever to equines.

        Deer are also no threat to horses other than they tend to carry a lot of ticks so read up on lyme disease symptoms if you aren't familiar. We had a buck one year get stuck in the TB paddock and the TBs were having a party trying to sniff the poor thing, who was just bounding around panicking..

        Lots of wildlife passes through the property to drink at one of the neighboring farm's run-off ponds, so I've seen all kinds of prints in the mud lately as I hack around the farm. I've never seen a bobcat in the flesh here, but I see a bobcat's prints every time I hack around the pond. Elusive! Same goes for raccoons and possums; I see all kind of evidence they are here, but never see them in the flesh.

        The only concern we have about keeping animals and wildlife cohabiting, has been keeping small livestock like chickens. If you have small animals you may need to invest in a predator-proof enclosure if they are going to be "free ranging". The coyotes here make short work of any free-roaming small animal unless you keep them enclosed. The two farms next to us are both livestock farms - they don't run into any issues with the adult sheep but during lamb season they bring the mothers in because the coyotes will nab the babies if they're born out in the field.

        Speaking of, aerial predators are also a concern for chickens. Sadly I lost one of my ducks a few years ago to a juvenile coopers hawk.. and for a few months last winter we did have a barred owl who lived by our horse trailer and ate the rodents around the farm.

        Echo the post above, keeping grain and food tightly under wraps.. The only REAL issue I've had with wildlife in the last ten years is keeping the wood-rats out of the barn!! They eat the chicken feed, so we never leave chicken food out. I wouldn't mind them so much but they do put tunnels under the run-in.. it's gotten much better since we stopped offering free choice food for the chickens.

        Honestly... like I said.. our biggest issues have come from managing the rodent population, and that one porcupine.. Enjoy your new home!! And welcome to the area
        Last edited by beowulf; Nov. 19, 2019, 02:04 PM.
        AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


          Originally posted by sekendahl View Post
          . . . What I am worried about is the wildlife. Is there anything that I should be concerned about with horses living outside 24/7 in New England?

          So far I've seen a lot of deer, a resident fox and a couple of coyotes. We are in Southern New Hampshire so bears aren't a huge issue, but they are still around. I'm hoping someone could put my worrying mind at ease!
          I'm just north of the notches so pretty much the same wildlife except more moose and fewer deer. Nothing bothers my horses. My family had horses here, kept outdoors with a run-in shed, ~1977-1996 and again for the last 14 months. The bear come through the wooded part of the summer pasture but no sign they've ever interacted with the horses. (Our trail cam is set up there & we see them on it - and I have the part of the fence the horses generally don't approach, in the woods, a single strand of electric rope that's not even electrified for a portion specifically so as not to hinder the passage of wildlife.)

          We also have llamas, about 1/3 the size of a horse, and they haven't been bothered by anything so far, either, though we have them behind a 5-strand fence.

          The bear aren't completely benign. There is a history over the last several decades of bear taking out chickens in our town (I know of 4 occasions but I'm sure there are others). Most recently, a year ago one was deterred by the electric wire around a neighbor's run, but instead (unexpectedly) ripped through the wooden side of the coop. I recently heard that last fall was a very poor beechnut and acorn crop so the bears were desperate for fat for the winter.


            I can't speak specifically to the New England area, but I live in Kansas and my horses are basically out 24/7, with all the wildlife. We have coyotes, fox, bobcat, deer, raccoons, possums, and yes, cougars (I've seen them). I've never had them bother the horses at all - the closest I ever saw one of my horses come to harm was when I watched Alex step off into the creek, right on to a water moccasin swimming on the surface. He never even knew the snake was there and I'm sure that snake had a major WTF?! moment!

            As for smaller animals - bobcats transmit a virus to domestic cats that is fatal, coyotes will eat anything that moves. A few months ago, a cougar very nonchalantly walked through my neighbor's front yard. I have only seen one porcupine, and that's the one that delivered over 300 barbs to my dog. Otherwise, we all just figure out how to get along.

            But the horses should be fine. In fact, you may walk out one morning and find them sharing their hay with the deer, as I do sometimes.


              Yeah, there's really very little risk to your horses from most wildlife. Bears are of a little concern, though, and there was an incident of one killing a mini donkey in Connecticut a year or two back. NOT FEEDING the wildlife goes a looooooooong way to keeping them from hanging around. Keep your horse feed secure, don't feed the birds, lock up your trash. If you have little animals, like chickens, or barn cats, secure them, too, especially at night. Don't leave out a buffet, and you won't have critters looking for an easy meal. Consider keeping your horses up near the shed overnight, bears seem most active in the very early am? I no longer turn out on the field overnight, fearing (perhaps irrationally) that a bear will spook the horses through a fence at like 4am.

              I see deer and coyotes regularly. Coyotes are curious but are not willing to take on anything large. We've had a coydog or two around too, including one that was colored like a blue merle dog. With game cams across the property, we catch pretty regular pics of fox and bobcat, sporadic raccoon and possum, some one offs of fisher cats and weasels. I've gotten one shot of bear every year. We also have hawks and owls.

              And agree that the rats are the most irksome. It's this time of year that they try to move in, tunneling under the concrete slab of the barn. I've barely had MICE in the barn before, so the rats were a surprise.


                Even here in cougar country, I do not worry about my horses. We have coyotes cross our back field regularly with nothing more than a casual nod by both at each other. Bobcat uses the same path and hole in the hedge row to move to the 100s of acres next door. Black bear in the Christmas tree farm engender nothing but an "alert" mode from my boys. The cattle next door have never been bothered by any wildlife either, even during calving season.

                An adult, healthy horse is not really prey to much wildlife you'll encounter on your farm- here it's only cougar that will attack them and that is far rarer than the internet and FB would have you think.

                Honestly? The biggest issue I have is sparrows in my barn (so.much.crap.on.everything!) and the blanketyblank California Gray Ground squirrel invasion that destroyed part of my barn floor by excavating under it. GRRR.
                Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                  When we lived up North I had concerns about wolves because we saw a huge one just off our property, but nothing bothered my horses , cows or goats the years we lived there.


                    I kept my horses outside with a couple of nice sheds at 90 degree angles for shelter. This was in Colorado. We had lots of coyotes, the occasional mountain lion, bears had been seen in the area prior to me living there. We never had a problem. The first time a coyote howled after I got the horses, I happened to be out in the pasture with the horses, and they all tried to get behind me. But they soon figured out the coyotes weren't a threat. I would occasionally see a coyote run through the pasture, and the horses paid no attention.

                    The precautions I took were to never separate the small pony from the bigger horses, kept the grass down around the outside of the fence (so mountain lions couldn't sneak up on the horses), and kept food locked up tight.

                    Foxes liked to hang out near the horses, and the horses didn't mind them. We didn't have venomous snakes, which was good because the horses didn't react to snakes at all. We had tons of mule deer, and would occasionally find deer parts in the pasture. I was fine with the coyotes helping to keep the deer population in control. The coyotes and foxes also helped keep the rodents in check.



                      Just across the river in Brattleboro--hi neighbor!! As for wildlife---I've kept critters on the side of a mountain for years---the only worry ever was porcupines and curious horses (the haflinger got it good once) and moose walking through the fencing. That sucks but is manageable.


                        No, you don't need to have any concerns about wildlife hurting your horses. In fact, many native wildlife species will help both you & your horses.

                        Foxes, weasels, & coyotes will keep your feed - nibblers (mice & rats) in check. So will rat snakes, owls, hawks. Bats & songbirds will eat mosquitoes & other nuisance insects. Sparrows & crows will scatter manure in your pastures.

                        I'm a wildlife biologist & would be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can also always contact your state natural resource agency (that's who I work for, different state) , part of their role is answering questions.

                        The wildlife is one of the biggest assets of my property & I actively maintain different habitats for them, like leaving ephemeral floodplain wet areas alone for adorable mole salamanders, fencing horse out of surface waters, & leaving brush piles for all sorts of critters.

                        Except the fire ants. I try to appreciate all life, but draw the line at fire ants. Any other kind of ants are fine!
                        Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                        Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                        We Are Flying Solo


                          Original Poster

                          Thanks so much! I figured my concerns of wildlife were a bit much. Our 25 acres is conservation and has been for almost 20 years, so we have A TON of wildlife. We mostly just see deer and foxes and I know neither are much to worry about. However, we recently had a rabid raccoon on our property, so I'll add that to my list of things to be worried about 😄

                          I was mostly concerned about coyotes. We don't plan on any chickens for that reason. We will be getting goats, but we will be sure to bring them inside a barn at night!


                            You can get chickens but you'll need to have a secure enclosure and put them up at night. Coyotes or other canids won't go to the trouble of climbing a fence in daylight. I'm in GA and we've lost a couple of birds to hawks and maybe a total of a dozen young birds to rat snakes over the past 21 years.

                            Ducks will insist on getting predated on the wooded banks of the pond. Losses there would be much higher if we didn't have geese as well or didn't put the waterfowl in at night.

                            We stopped the free range (i.e. letting the poultry out of their yard during daylight hours) experiment when we came home after a trip to town to find dead and wounded chickens and turkeys. Feral dogs, because coyotes and foxes I(think) just kill what they can eat and take away. This was wanton slaughter.

                            Absolutely no harm to horses that I've noticed from wildlife bigger than insects in 14 years.

                            Edited to add: a secure enclosure for chickens has to be REALLY tight because foxes are smart, raccoons have clever hands, and weasels are freaking tiny, strong, and mean.


                              Originally posted by sekendahl View Post
                              We are in Southern New Hampshire so bears aren't a huge issue, but they are still around. I'm hoping someone could put my worrying mind at ease!
                              We're in western MA where there have been some injuries to pastured horses that have been blamed on bears, or possibly mountain lions (which have been sighted but just not officially). I'm not sure anyone has actually seen a predator attack a horse, but there have been suspected attacks.

                              I try to keep my mini close to the house, and if I forget to lock the chickens up at night the fox, who comes through every night, will take one. This time of year it's pretty easy to get a good idea of what's out there, and how often they come through, just by going out after it snows and checking for tracks.


                                Originally posted by Calvincrowe View Post

                                Honestly? The biggest issue I have is sparrows in my barn (so.much.crap.on.everything!) and the blanketyblank California Gray Ground squirrel invasion that destroyed part of my barn floor by excavating under it. GRRR.
                                Here it's pigeons, which I keep to a minimum by closing up the barns and stealing their eggs as fast as they lay them until they give up, and woodchucks that excavate under the barn floors. Not very many of the woodchucks survive, though. I'll see the young ones for a season but then they disappear. I think when they're young they're too dumb and the coyotes get them?. Same with the chipmunks. We'll have trouble with them in the garden for a season or two, and then very few, or none, for years.

                                I also switched from a coarse (corn/oats) sweet feed to a pelleted complete feed, and soon noticed that neither the pigeons nor rodents (nor my chickens) eat it, which probably helps limit how fast they can reproduce.


                                  I wouldn't worry.
                                  When my parents bought thier farm 20 years ago it was a similar situation. 95 acres backing on to crown land, but other than the neighbour taking hay off the front 20 no one had ventured past the house in previous 20 years.
                                  Lots of bears, the horses run those out of the fields though. They never batted an eye at the deer, coyotes, fox, etc. I've even got a video somewhere of a curious fox coming to the edge of the ring while I was riding. The only thing that made them nervous was moose. Luckily the moose don't make a habit of coming in to the fields.

                                  I've got chickens at my house. They're in a Fort Knox coop/run. When I'm home they get let out in a 30'x50' fenced area (protection from my dog). I've never had any issues with predators. However, we have a trail camera set 100' in the bush and at least a few times/wk we get pictures of coyotes and raccoons.

                                  P.S. Have fun with the goats! Our property is 5 acres but isn't zoned for livestock so I had to settle for chickens instead of goats.


                                    Originally posted by sekendahl View Post
                                    I was mostly concerned about coyotes. We don't plan on any chickens for that reason. We will be getting goats, but we will be sure to bring them inside a barn at night!
                                    When I was a barn manager (in a different part of the country), the coyotes would slink down from the hillsides at dusk, cut through the paddocks among the horses (neither species seemed to take any notice of the other), and try to find rodent snacks closer to the barn. I lived on a farm where the east coast coy-wolves liked to congregate at night, and even those big boys never pestered the oldsters who lived out in the field. Bring your dogs or cats in before dusk, but you probably don't need to worry about coyotes harming the horses.


                                      I'm in NC. The horses live outside 24/7 in individual and shared pastures.

                                      The resident family of foxes and deer regularly move through the pastures, including my horse's pasture. Foxes are regularly seen "in person" and in prints in the arena. Coyotes are noted as well and are frequently heard. We generally love these rodent/lagamorph hunters even though we love the rabbits.

                                      None of these predators have ever harmed a horse. I also assume a horse has much of an advantage against "the wildlife" unless you live in remote Western states.
                                      Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


                                        Another southern NH person (we are within spitting distance of the coast). My boy lives out 24/7, and there are goats living on the other side of the hill also out 24/7. We do have no climb fencing (mostly because other livestock lives in my boy's pasture and the goat pasture was originally a sheep pasture) and have never had an issue with predators taking anything but chickens.

                                        The coyotes aren't super bold here, and there is plenty of other stuff for them to bother. The foxes will come up and walk around the house and occasionally dig into the chicken coop (the dog has helped stop that one). The deer graze with both the horse and the goats. The rats are super annoying and my dog (and the fox) really wish they could catch the ones in our smaller barn. The porcupines tend not to bother with the no climb fencing. The skunks, however, have made friends with my boy. Fortunately they don't spray him but occasionally he has a faint skunk smell. Woodchucks will be your worst enemy and they are a giant PITA. Again, I am lucky that my dog hunts and kills them.

                                        We do see bears on our property (we abut lots of conservation land) but they mostly keep to themselves and never come over to the pastures.
                                        "I'm too sexy for my blanket, too sexy for my blanket, these mares-they should take it..." (J-Lu) - Featuring The Skypizzle Pony aka Classic Skyline