Monday, March 24, 2014

Garden Protection Plan

When we moved to our new place last August, we had just enough time to put in a small fall garden and get a few meals of kale from the 9' x 3' bed.  We also had enough time to raise a few meat chickens, and we're planning on scaling up both endeavors considerably this spring.  Although it was a little painful through the fall to not have a full-size garden with tomatoes, chard, etc., it was nice that we had a chance to realize just how brazen and shameless the squirrels and raccoons in our neighborhood are.

So, now that we're planning our garden for this coming summer, we know that we're going to need a multi-pronged squirrel-deterrent system in order to bring our crops to harvest.  We also know, having studied squirrel behavior for many years, that simply testing their tiny rodent brains with increasingly complex challenges is unlikely to keep them out completely, but would definitely make gardening harder for us.  Instead, we need solutions that are more...permanent.  Here's what we came up with.

Our place is surrounded by dogs, so our primary line of defense (after the fences around the yard) will be a series of squirrel launchers that send the furry vegetable pirates into the neighbors' yards.  Not that we want to make the squirrels our neighbors' problem, but they've all got dogs who will quite enjoy helping us out.  (And both permaculturalists and ninjas recognize the principle of working within one's surroundings.)  The second line of defense will be a squirrel pit trap.  What awaits the squirrels at the bottom of the pit trap is still a matter of debate.  A snapping turtle?  Punji sticks made from sharpened toothbrushes?  A tunnel that leads to Texas?  (Let us know your vote in the comments section.)  The last line of defense will be a marauding honey badger, discussed at length below.

We've done a lot of thinking about it, and the more YouTube videos we watch, the more it seems like a (trained) honey badger would be an awesome livestock/produce protection plan.  They hunt both day and night, and have no fear of large predators.  They eat anything from grubs to snakes to raccoon-sized rodents.  They can even climb trees to get to the raccoons, which gives them a leg up on canine-type marauders.  They can be socialized and trained, which might even mean that after a few generations in domestication, they could be deterred from chickens and bees.  They're also excellent diggers, so they can help with soil preparation and root crop harvesting.

The only legitimate downside is that tame or trained honey badgers aren't currently available to the general public.  Unfortunately, we're also explicitly forbidden from owning a badger in our neighborhood.  But while the honey badger vernacular seems to consist mostly of hissing and snarling, if we could teach it to bark, we might be able to convince an animal control officer it's a weird-looking dog.

In any case, we think there is a legitimate business opportunity here for anyone with experience in importing (or smuggling), breeding, and training exotic and dangerous wild animals, influencing policy decisions regarding what counts as a pet, and marketing progressive ideas to typically conservative crowds.  Let us know if you want to partner up on this venture! (We don't bring any of those skills to the table, though.)

Now that we've got our anti-squirrel system figured out, we just have to decide what to plant in the garden!  That's a nice position to be in.

How do you protect your garden from mammalian intruders?  Do you have any ideas for improving our system?  Let us know in the comments section below!


  1. I think there are some studies showing bait and switch or maybe positive reinforcement for being the best method to change maybe put a squirrel feeder out....or maybe put it in the neighbors yards! lol

    1. I suppose we *could* spend enough time and money to sustain all the squirrels in the area through the growing season, and all the extra squirrels next year that our now-well-fed batch made this year, and the extra extra squirrels the following year...but a one-time investment in a good honey badger might end up being more cost effective in the long run. :-P

      Although, if we could live trap them and train them to do useful things, like fight off other squirrels, maybe feeding them could work. Maybe next year at this time we'll post about our squadron of jedi squirrels.