Keeping chicken safe from predators is an integral part of raising and other livestock is very rewarding. Although a little bit of work goes into making it happen, the return is more than worth it. That’s why you should take every precaution when it comes to keeping your chickens safe.
Keeping your chickens safe from predators is an important part of having a chicken operation. You must make sure the coop is secure, that eggs are getting picked up daily, and that there are no vulnerabilities in your fencing and yard. On top of that, you should know your enemy. The best step to securing your chickens is understanding why and how predators might get in.
There are so many benefits to raising chickens. You learn how to sustain yourself off the land, how to make a profit, and how to care for and nurture your animals. You create a bond between your chickens and the land.
Therefore, it is important to secure your property and make sure that you have covered every possibility when it comes to protecting your chickens.
There are many predators that want to get to them and their eggs. It’s a part of nature that can be an inconvenience and can even shut down your operation.
The best way to combat this is to know everything about why and how predators get into your yard. Find the vulnerabilities and deal with them first. Make a routine out of checking for broken fencing, collecting eggs daily and mending any places where an animal could breakthrough.
The more you pay attention to your operation the easier it will become to keep the animals safe and out of harm’s way.
Know the Enemy
Protecting your property from predators is something that must be done. You should put a lot of thought into the security of your chicken operation. Chickens are one of the most preyed upon animals in livestock.
They are small and easy to kill for most predators. They have no real way to defend themselves when it comes to their own defense. For this reason, you should get to know the enemy. Learn exactly what kind of predators are nearby.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”Sun Tzu
Start with doing some research. Reach out to others in your area who raise chickens to find out what kind of predators are local. Most people who have problems with predators killing their chickens fail in this area.
A little bit of research and preparation will go a long way when securing your property.
Day and Night
There are predators that come out to hunt both day and night. While some predators are sneakier than others, some are outright fearless. In the daytime, your biggest threats are snakes, wild dogs, cats, and coyotes. While those common in the night are foxes, weasels, owls, and rodents.
Keep in mind that its best practice to look for vulnerabilities before you shut it down for the night, and when you wake up. An animal could have dug its way under a fence in the night or hidden away in a closed-off area during the day.
List of Possible Predators
Predation is a problem for most livestock. In the wild animals are always looking for an easy kill and can be very opportunistic. This is a list of a few predator animals to be on the lookout for.
These are some known predators that prey on chickens and baby chicks. There are signs that you can look for when trying to find out what has gotten to your birds.
Predation Signs to Look For
Coyotes will dig into pens and coops, taking whole birds, leaving only feathers. If you are missing a bird and there are feathers everywhere, chances are they fell victim to a coyote.
Snakes mainly feed on baby chicks or smaller chickens. Missing baby chicks is a sign that a snake is nearby.
Foxes earned the term sly because they will oftentimes stake out the chicken coop for days or even weeks. If multiple birds are killed or missing it could be a fox as they are surplus killers that will kill more than they need and keep them for later.
Foxes and others will also steal eggs, be careful to notice if eggs are being stolen, as the culprit will most likely return multiple times.
Signs that an owl or hawk has attacked is that one chicken or chick could be missing with evidence of feathers on the ground. They will usually strike their prey and carry them off to a tree to be eaten.
Weasels and possums will kill chickens. Signs that you are dealing with a weasel or possum is a stack of dead birds, partially eaten. They prefer the back of the head/neck of their prey.
Skunks will kill and eat baby chicks and steal eggs. Raccoons are also a problem and will sometimes attempt to hit the coop once a week. Raccoons can be very clever, opening latches and getting into areas you thought were full-proof.
Rodents such as rats will kill and eat baby chicks. Keep an eye out for any signs of rats and other rodents.
Cats can attack the coop day or night, usually killing whole birds and chicks. They will drag them away to a spot where they feel safe eating them. Look for loose feathers.
Flock Protection Vs Predator Elimination
Protecting your flock should be your number one priority. There are many ways you can help keep your chicken safe from predators. Having a large area for your chickens to run in can help. The area around your coop where chickens have free range is called the chicken run.
Most predators do not like to walk across wide-open spaces, for this reason making a nice wide run is a great tactic.
Using electric fencing can also be an option. It keeps most predators out, but there are always a few who slip through. They make multiple strand electric fencing and an electric mesh.
Predator elimination, on the other hand, can be a tricky thing. While it is easy to set traps outside of the coop for things like rodents, eliminating other predators is an area where you should use caution.
A lot of farmers will carry a shotgun or another type of gun for shooting snakes and other vermin in a bid to keep chicken safe from predators. However, in most states shooting owls and hawks is against the law. If you are going to keep a firearm handy make sure you know what to shoot and what not to shoot.
Once a predator attacks and kills, they will most likely be back for more. Predator elimination can be an important part of keeping livestock safe. If you are comfortable around firearms and know how to use them, make every effort you can to eliminate the varmints who are killing your birds.
You may also try to use traps or snares on the outside of the perimeter, however, make sure they are safe and clear of any house pets you may have. The same goes for things like rat poison, you don’t want your pup or cat getting into anything that might harm them.
Ways to Help Keep Chickens Safe
Here are a few ways to help protect your birds. Now that you know who the predators are and how they operate, we have come up with a few tips and tricks.
- Don’t use chicken wire for the perimeter
- Get a guard dog
- Bury mesh and wire around the perimeter
- Get a motion sensor light
- Keep a large open area around the coop
- Train your chickens to return to the coop at night
- Collect eggs daily
- Get a rooster
- Use quality locks
- Install a roof
Many of these will help your “predator proof” your chicken operation. Keep in mind that the more you can do to stop predators the most protected your chickens will be.
For the perimeter of your chicken run, you will want to use something other than chicken wire. The reason being chicken wire works great for keeping chickens in but not so much for keeping predators out.
Consider using a mesh or a welded fencing material that has smaller holes. Many predators can slip through the large holes in chicken wire. You may also opt in to get an electric mesh, it helps keep predators from getting in and also helps to train your birds not to try and get out.
A Guard Dog
Having a farm dog is one of the best forms of protection. Dogs can be trained to assist you in raising livestock and will oftentimes form bonds with the animals the same way you do.
Make sure your guard dog is friendly to your chickens if you see any signs of them being aggressive you may need to keep them outside of the chicken pen.
Nothing says stay away like a good guard dog. Most predators won’t even think of entering a yard with a dog. It is a best practice to keep your chickens locked away in the coop at night while giving the dog free reign of the chicken run.
Bury Wire around Perimeter
Predators will dig to get in. Many of the predators that prey on chicken are adept at digging under fencing. For this reason, you should consider burying a welded fence into the ground or applying a mesh to keep chicken safe from predators.
You should do this around the perimeter of your chicken run. Coyotes, possums, foxes, and other predators will attempt multiple times to dig their way in, if you set up a secure perimeter with buried material they will have less of a chance.
Motion Sensor Light
A great way to keep chicken safe from predators is to add motion sensor lighting. This way if anything tries to get into the yard, they will most likely retreat after a light turns on.
Having one outside of the run and inside of the run will help to double the security.
You may also choose to use hunting cameras to detect if a predator is getting in or attempting to. Many of these are also motion sensor operated. This can be a great way to identify a problem and indeed keep chicken safe from predators.
Large Open Area
Predators usually shy away from open areas where they have no cover to sneak in. We suggest making your chicken run wide open, with no bushes or trees. It can be good to have bushes inside the coop area but keep the run as wide open as possible.
This also gives your chickens plenty of run around room and if you have a dog a good large area for them to run around in at night while keeping chicken safe from predators.
Train Your Chickens
Believe it or not, chickens can be trained. You should train your chickens to return to the coop at night by having a routine where you come in at dusk every night and round them back up into the coop.
Eventually, they will start doing it on their own out of repetition. Having a dog can also help in this process. When its time for the dog to go into the chicken run the chickens will know its time to return to the coop.
Collect Eggs Daily
You should get into a routine of collecting eggs at the end of each day to keep chicken safe from predators. When a predator gets to the eggs, they are more likely to return. They also have a sense for eggs, since it is something they prey on in the wild.
It will also help your chickens to know its time to keep laying eggs when they see that they are being collected every night.
Get A Rooster
Getting a rooster can be a good choice, however, they are not for everyone. They tend to make a lot of noise as you know, but they are also great for getting your chickens into routines and for keeping them safe.
Roosters take care of their hens. If there is a threat, a rooster will round the hens up into the coop and then return to fight off the predator.
You do not actually have to have a rooster to keep chickens, or for them to lay eggs. However, there are some benefits to keeping one around.
Use Quality Locks
When designing your gates and locks use quality locks. This may be hard to believe but some predators such as raccoons can open most gates that are not locked with a lock and key! A rule of thumb is that if a toddler can get into the gate than a raccoon probably can too.
It can also be a good idea to make two-step gates and locking systems if you really want to keep chicken safe from predators. Use a key for one and a latch for the other. Adding double the protection.
Install a Roof or Cover
Predators that can fly or climb may be able to get into your perimeter if there is no roof or cover. Consider putting a cover over the top of your chicken run. Most coops have roofs, but chicken runs are usually wide open.
A cover makes sure your birds are secure from above. Raptor birds can easily snatch up a chicken and carry them away. Foxes are great climbers and will climb their way in and out of any situation.
Last Minute Tips
- The more you do to protect your birds the safer they will be. Don’t just do any one thing but combine your effects to keep the yard secure.
- Consider seasonality, around springtime raptor birds are more active, keep an extra eye on your hens during seasons when they are most threatened.
- Change it up, foxes are particularly clever, they will stake out the yard for weeks, paying close attention to the vulnerabilities.
- Raise the coop off the ground. This helps make it harder for rodents and snakes to get to them. Elevate the coop and the nesting box.
Can chickens protect themselves? Chickens do not have very many protection mechanisms. They are flightless birds and rely mostly on their feet to gouge and push away. This does not protect them from most predators that prey on chickens.
Will dogs and pets attack chickens? Most pets will not be good around chickens, although this is not always the case. If you are going to keep a dog around your chickens make sure they are friendly with the birds. Most domestic dogs and cats will attack chickens. You can separate the coop from the run with a fence, letting a dog stay in the run at night with no access to the coop.