Wildlife Management In and Around The Horse Barn

Wildlife management in and around the horse barn is easier to address than might be thought at first glance. Horse housing offers a safe haven for snakes and skunks, squirrels and mice, birds and bats, bees and bears, possums and porcupines, chipmunks, and woodchucks, plus rats, rabbits and raccoons and many other wildlife families. All are happy to share life at the barn with Equidae.



Horse barns offer wildlife shelter from adverse weather and predators, and often provide a handy source of food and water. Limit the attractions available and you can limit the amount of wildlife cohabiting with the horse.

It is prudent to keep horses and wildlife apart as the latter can transmit diseases such as Rabies, West Nile Disease and Potomac Horse Fever to equines.

Remember it is much easier to prevent wildlife from taking up residence in the barn in the first place, than having to remove its presence once it has set up house.

If in any doubt as to how to safely handle the removal of a species from the environment, always consult a pest control professional. Certain species are protected by law from eradication and require special needs for rehabilitating and re-homing.

Number 1 Attraction ~ Food

It comes as no big surprise that dropped grain from feed buckets, poorly stored grain supplies and stacks of soft 2nd cut hay offer fine dining delights to a myriad of critters.

Animals big and small can pose a hazard to horses not only through their ability to spread disease. Wildlife visitors can also wreak havoc chewing through wood and metal and digging channels under barn walls and stall floors. From black bears coming out of hibernation to rascally rabbits setting up house in the haystack, the best way to manage the wildlife is by to avoid provision of an available food source for their enjoyment.

In the case of hay storage it is always difficult to limit access to a haystack, especially if hay is stored in a loft space above the stables. If hay is stacked in a stall and the floor is either concrete or compacted stonedust with mats, keeping the stall door closed will help mitigate unwanted visitors. If possible, store your hay supplies a distance away from the horse barn.

To help deter discovery grain storage should be in heavy gauge metal or plastic with sealable (even lockable) lid or cover. Keeping the barn doors closed at night may be necessary to help defray the number of nighttime wildlife visitors. Especially during Spring when critters are looking for places to nest or catch up on their food needs after a long winter sleep.


Photo Credit www.stablestyle.net


The food chain is a necessary component for all life. It is wise to remember that food sources are not just grain and hay in the horse barn. For example, a rodent infestation provides and attractive meal for snakes. You may start off with a minor mouse problem and end up with snakes nesting in the neighborhood.

Don’t forget that garbage left in the barn also invites investigation and consumption by wildlife. Keep the barn free of open garbage containers and don’t leave sugary soda cans/beverages and food leftovers in the barn.

Another food source around the barn is manure. Manure can not only provide a meal treat for wildlife in and around the barn, when piled up it can also be utilized as a living space. The warmth that emanates from within a manure pile make it a particularly attractive abode for snakes and other reptilian species in addition to amphibians.

Manure and compost piles can also attract the attention of mammals such as bears, rats, raccoons, skunks and opossums. It is wise to site manure and compost piles away from the barn for these reasons as well as the possibility a manure/compost pile may catch fire.

Manure spreaders are a good option for recycling this nutritional resource but take care not to spread manure on grazing pastures that are actively being utilized. Manure and pasture management are an important facet of horse keeping.

Number 2 ~ Water

The best way to encourage snakes to visit or mice to inadvertently fall into a water bucket is to set the bucket on the ground. Most barns will hang buckets on the wall at a height suitable for the resident Equus to drink, but this is not ideal for the purposes of deterring wildlife from sharing the water supply.

Birds can perch on the rim of the bucket to drink and if bird nests are built in the barn chicks may even fall into the buckets when learning to fly or if pushed out of the nest.


Photo Credit www.nelsonmfg.com


Automatic watering systems are the preferred way to water horses from the standpoint of prevention of other wildlife ingesting water from the same source.

Cleaning up puddles and spills can also eliminate a handy water supply for wildlife

Provide the Predator

Cats and dogs can be mousers and ratters and can effectively deter and catch a bounty of vermin and other wildlife in and around the barn including snakes. However, it is important to also consider that vermin can transmit diseases to cats and dogs.

Re-homing a cat from a rescue as a farm cat can be an efficient way to keep down the vermin and snake population. Dogs such as terriers and hounds can hunt down their fair share of wildlife fare too.

Be especially diligent about how you manage any other methods of wildlife deterrents if you have a resident ‘predator’ in the barn. Mouse/rat traps or mothballs (these are poisonous) placed in cubbies or small spaces around the barn in an attempt to manage wildlife should not be used around cats and dogs. These products can also pose a hazard to children.

Smart Horse Barn Design and Select Siting Can Help

Horse barn design smarts measure highly in the fight to mitigate the number of myriad migrant wildlife invaders that can spread disease and cause damage at an equine abode.



Here are some useful ideas to consider in your barn building plans (some of which can be added after the horse barn is erected if overlooked at time of construction) that will help deter wildlife:

  • Doors should be installed to the ground surface without gaps beneath. This will help deter possums, rabbits and rodents from entering the barn.
  • The barn site should be compacted both beneath and around the barn apron area with effective covered drainage methods installed to mitigate standing water and provide a hard surface that will deter digging critters such as woodchucks.
  • Site the barn away from standing water such as ponds that will provide a natural attraction to wildlife.
  • Flashing or netting around the perimeter of the structure that is buried to 1” below the ground surface can negate animal intruders under the building.
  • Site the barn away from foliage such as tree cover and bushes that will harbor wildlife and/or provide an entry way to roofs and soffits. Flying squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons like nothing better than jumping off a bough to a roof.
  • Wire mesh or net all soffits, gable vents, roof ridge vents to help defray birds and bats from gaining access to the barn.
  • Screen all windows and doors to protect the interior of the building from flying insects. Mosquitoes, pesky flies, biting bugs and stinging insects like bees, wasps and hornets can easily be kept at bay with the inexpensive provision of screens.
  • Deter nesting by birds by eliminating any high flat surface. For example, the top surface of a 6”x 6”post is the perfect setting for a swallow nest. The simple addition of a piece of tent shaped or angled wood secured to the top of the post can provide a permanent solution to deter birdlife from nesting.



Be Vigilant 

Don’t doze on the job when it comes to tracking and managing wildlife activity in your horse barn. It is much easier to manage wildlife invaders if you take action the minute you see evidence of intrusion.

Be sure to research non-poisonous options for wildlife management. There are many wildlife management options available and some work better than others. A bevy of online suggestions are available with novel ideas. Some examples include spreading sulphur around the perimeter of a barn to deter snakes and placement of dried potato flakes in piles to attract mice to ingest the dry product that may then die when they cannot locate water.

There are many ‘villainous’ methods of wildlife control. Remember that poisoned critters that go off to die in a barn wall or under a stall or tack room floor can pose a health hazard to horse, human and even to other animals that may ingest them. At best their decay can provide awful aromas for long periods of time.

Good barn management practices such as keeping the barn clean and tidy by sweeping or vacuuming aisles and feed rooms, prompt pick up of spillage of food and water sources and regular emptying of garbage containers can all help keep wildlife away.



Wildlife presence in the horse barn can be effectively managed in a myriad of ways. Don’t be shy to reach out for professional help from your local Dept. Of Agriculture Extension personnel or pest control service.




Warm Weather Tips for Your Kennel

It’s natural to think about protecting kenneled dogs when temperatures are very cold and snow is on the ground, but it can be harder to realize how important it is to keep dogs comfortable in hot weather. However, hot weather can be extremely dangerous for dogs so it is important to know how to keep dog kennels cool in summer.



Not only can dogs be uncomfortable in excessively warm temperatures, but they can also suffer from heatstroke, which can be deadly. It’s very important to make sure that you’re taking the necessary steps to protect your dog in warm weather.

When is Warm Weather Climate Control Most Important?

All dogs need temperature control. Any dog can overheat in excessively hot weather. However, there are some cases in which it is even more important for you to be sure that kennels are sufficiently cool:

Brachycephalic Dogs

Brachycephalic dogs have short muzzles that can make it more difficult for them to pant and effectively cool themselves off. They have a narrower trachea, which could make it difficult for them to breathe, especially when they are trying to pant to cool off.



Examples of brachycephalic breeds include Bulldogs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, and Shih Tzus. Mixed breed dogs can also inherit the shortened snout from one or both parents. If you have brachycephalic dogs, it is essential to be aware of the ease with which they can overheat and prevent them from having to struggle with very warm temperatures.

Pregnant and Nursing Mothers and Puppies

Dogs who are pregnant or nursing and young puppies can all be more susceptible to hot weather. Pregnant dogs may be less able to regulate their own body temperature and tend to feel hotter.

Nursing mothers are constantly losing hydration through milk, which can make it harder for them to make up for the water they lose while panting by drinking water. Very young puppies have difficulty managing their own temperature and may not know to get out of sunshine. Mothers and puppies should be protected from the heat and should probably not be kept in a kennel with an open run in hot weather.

Older Dogs

As dogs get older, they may not be able to regulate their body temperature as well. Dogs can suffer from a form of dementia that is not unlike human dementia.

Older dogs that are suffering from this condition may stay in the sunshine even as they overheat. If you have older dogs kenneled, it’s important to observe their behavior and ensure that they are making good decisions about cooling themselves off.



Warm Weather Tips for Your Kennel

Always Make Sure There’s Plenty of Water

Most dogs can do a pretty good job of keeping themselves from overheating assuming the conditions aren’t too hot and they have plenty of water. However, a knocked-over water bowl can become a serious situation very quickly.

An automatic water bowl can be a good way to make sure that there’s always a supply of fresh water. However, you’ll still need to regularly check to make sure nothing has gone wrong and to clean the basin.

Whether you have an automatic water bowl or not, you need a bowl that is held firmly in place with a welded metal frame and a metal spring. You don’t want to take any chances with the bowl being tipped over on a hot day.



Provide Shade

While dogs likely enjoy a bit of sunshine in the cool winter months, in the summer they’ll want to get away from the heat of the sun. If the sun is shining directly into the outer part of the kennel, dogs may feel torn between wanting to get away from the heat into the inner part of the kennel and wanting to stay outside to catch interesting smells and see what’s going on.

You don’t want to put your dog in the position of having to decide whether they want to be cool and bored or hot and engaged. Make sure that there is sufficient shade in the outer part of the kennel throughout the day.



Enable Air Circulation

If you choose not to have an air conditioner in your kennel, you will want to make sure that there is plenty of air circulation in the inner part of the kennel. Windows in the inner portion allow air to circulate freely throughout the building and in and out of each individual kennel.

Good air flow can carry away body heat and ensure that continuous fresh air is being brought to dogs. Fans are also very helpful in encouraging good air circulation.

Install Air Conditioners or Fans

In very hot climates, an air conditioner can make all the difference in the world by providing sufficient cool temperatures to your kennels. In more temperate climates, fans may be sufficient.

Where your kennel is located is also an important element in deciding whether you need an air conditioner or whether fans are good enough. A kennel housed under tree cover in a cool area of the yard may not get nearly as hot as a kennel in direct sunlight, even in the same climate.

As a rule of thumb, if you are cool enough with just a fan, your dog likely will be as well. However, if you are uncomfortably hot and sweating with a fan, your dog would probably appreciate an air conditioner.



At Horizon Structures, we are happy to install air conditioners directly into the kennel. You can choose between a 5000 and 10000 BTU air conditioning unit.

If you choose to have air conditioning in your dog kennel, be sure that you choose well-insulated dog doors so that the cold air doesn’t shoot out into the kennel. Dogs can easily be trained to use their dog door by tossing a few treats and showing dogs how to push the door open and closed as they need.

Fans can be installed overhead or mounted on walls. Just be certain that wherever the fan is mounted, dogs won’t be able to chew on it or end up sticking a tail or paw through the grate into an active fan.

Consider an Optional Water Feature

Some dogs love to cool off by getting wet. There are a number of things you can do to provide them with the opportunity for water fun. You can purchase a doggie fountain that your dog can step on to send a stream of water into the air. This can be a great way to cool off and also a secondary source of drinking water. Another option is to put a small pool into the outside portion of the kennel so that dogs can lie in it if they like.

A water feature is another thing that you will need to maintain, so it may not be a good option for the entire summer, but it can be a fun source of enrichment as well as a way to cool off on the hottest days. If you provide a water feature, make sure to put it in a shaded portion of the kennel so that it stays cool.




Make Dog Popsicles

One great way to cool your dog down in the hot weather and provide some valuable enrichment during their kennel time is to make dog popsicles. These can be made of just about anything that your dog likes to eat.

Many dogs enjoy just munching on ice cubes or licking large blocks of ice. However, you can make it a lot more fun by freezing pieces of fruit like apples or strawberries into the ice. Freezing chicken broth is also a great way to give your dog a delicious treat and also some healthy protein. Greek yogurt is another good ingredient to add to dog popsicles.



Just see what your dog enjoys and experiment with different sizes and recipes for popsicles until you find what works well for you and your dog.

Take Steps to Avoid Pests

Temperature isn’t the only thing to keep in mind when it comes to warm weather. Pests also tend to become much more prevalent in the warmer months. Be sure that your dog is up-to-date on heartworm and flea prevention.

Keep grass and shrubbery that goes up to the edge of the kennel trimmed short to prevent pests from accumulating there. Make sure that only as much food as your dog needs is left in the kennel at any time, as a bowl of uneaten food can attract pests like cockroaches.

Keep Your Dog Safe and Comfortable in Their Kennel in the Hot Weather

Your dog can be very comfortable in their kennel even as temperatures skyrocket, provided you take steps to protect them from the heat. Make sure that your dog has access to cooler temperatures using either fans or air conditioner units.

Be sure that there is plenty of shade in the outside portion of the kennel and good air circulation in the inside portion. Extras like a water fountain or pool to play in and doggy popsicles can also be very helpful to make the warm weather enjoyable for your dog.