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Great Chicken Coop Stakeout catches backyard predators

Posted April 12, 2012

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— The Great Chicken Coop Stakeout is letting urban farmers find out what nighttime threats their fowl face, with the help of researchers at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

Lorraine Readling, of Raleigh, is one of a growing number of city dwellers who keep chickens in their backyard. She has four chickens at her Van Dyke Avenue home.

"We wanted the eggs. We thought it would be fun," Readling said.

But even in the city, chickens aren't at the top of the food chain. That's where the Great Chicken Coop Stakeout comes in.

Researchers with the natural sciences museum put up camouflaged cameras and motion sensors to capture images of what lurks around chicken coops in backyards at night.

Chickens are bait in museum's experiment Chickens are bait in museum's experiment

"I'm interested in what predators live in different areas, from an urban to a suburban to a rural area," said Roland Kays, director of the Earth Observatory and Biodiversity Lab at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

Over a couple weeks, the camera in Readling's backyard caught 12,000 pictures. She saw a few interesting visitors, including an opossum, a couple of squirrels and a cat.

"I'm relieved. I didn't know what was out there," Readling said.

When the new wing of the natural sciences museum opens April 20, the 40 participants in the Great Chicken Coop Stakeout will bring their cameras to the museum to find out what they captured.

"We're asking volunteers to help us answer these questions ourselves, and it's all going to come together during the grand opening," Kays said.

Kays said he expects that looking at the pictures will feel like unwrapping a present.

"It's really fun, because you set a camera trap, and you don't know what you're going to get," he said.


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  • ladyblue Apr 13, 2012

    There are day critters and night critters and people would beamazed at what comes out at night. I never knew opposums and deer would eat my bird seed from feeder until i saw it with my own eyes and discovered why the feeder kept getting knocked to the ground... this should be interesting--that is unless we see Big foot poking around. lol

  • SMAPAEA Apr 13, 2012

    Raccoons will eat up your chickens...just sayin'
    Keep your chickens secured at night.

  • berthouser Apr 13, 2012

    I am a very lite sleeper and when its warm enough i will step out on my deck at all hours of the night. I have seen opossum, squirrels, chipmunks, fox, coyote. such is the night. moto

  • mzlin2u Apr 13, 2012

    Oh, dear Albert, I read every word and thought it was very interesting. But I'm also interested in our state, the environment, wildlife, gardening - you know - things other than myself.

  • AlbertEinstein Apr 12, 2012

    This is the kind of news (NOT) that one would expect in the mid-west. Who cares?

  • Rebelyell55 Apr 12, 2012

    I bet it won't catch no chicken snake...