Take these steps to protect your backyard chickens from predators such as coyotes, bobcats, foxes, raccoons, owls, hawks, and more.
You’ve spent precious time raising your backyard chickens from day old chicks to young laying hens. You feel sheer joy as you watch your birds free range on the lawn, grazing on clover leaves and feasting on fresh grubs scratched up from the earth.
And then one day it happens: You discover the bloody remains of your favorite pullet – feathers scattered all over the place.
They were picked off and slaughtered by a coyote, fox, bobcat, skunk, raccoon, owl or hawk. It's time to get serious and do everything you can to protect your chickens from predators.
Your backyard chickens depend on you for health, housing and safety. In return, they will supply you with endless eggs, fertilizer, meat and entertainment. But as prey animals, chickens are also a big attraction to everything from domestic dogs to snakes, rats, coyote, owls and hawks. You should expect to lose a bird to predation occasionally, but these 10 tips will go far to help keep your flock safe.
Protecting Your Backyard Chickens From Predators
1. Train Your Chickens To Return To The Coop In The Evening
Train your backyard chickens to return to the coop every evening – and be sure to close it up securely with a locked door. If you raise your chicks in the coop, they will naturally return to lay eggs and roost at night after you let them range for the day. Make sure the house is predator-proof and that you close it up at night once the birds have settled.
2. Raise The Chicken Coop
Raise the chicken coop off the ground by a foot or so to discourage rats, skunks and snakes from taking up residence beneath it. Some predators take to stealing eggs, chicks or young hens. Raising the coop keeps predators from being tempted to set up underneath it. Be certain to keep your henhouse floor tight and patch any holes that snakes and rats can get through.
3. Enclose The Coop
Enclose the coop in a secure poultry run to discourage dogs, coyotes, and other carnivores from gaining access to your flock. You have a variety of options when it comes to enclosing the coop. You can choose poultry wire, welded-wire mesh, or electric netting. Any fencing materials with sufficiently small openings (or sufficiently high-voltage electrical pulses) will keep your birds in and predators out. Bobcats and coyotes are impressive jumpers and can easily clear 4-foot-high fences. Make sure you build your enclosure appropriately tall, or add a cover net to keep predators from vaulting the fence.
4. Cover The Run
Cover the chicken run with welded-wire fencing, chicken wire or game-bird netting. Alternatively, you can install a random array of crisscrossing wires overhead to discourage owls or hawks from making a meal out of your birds. If you shut your chickens in the coop at night, owl attacks will not be an issue. But hungry owls are cagey and may try to grab their meal right at dusk. If owls are a problem in your area, don’t wait until after dark to close up the coop.
5. Consider What Predators You're Dealing With
Choose small-mesh fencing materials for enclosing coops and runs when raccoons and members of the mink or fisher family are among the predators. Raccoons and other fairly dexterous animals are infamous for reaching through larger meshed fencing or chicken wire and killing any chickens they can snag. This is especially important when you keep your chickens in a fully enclosed wire coop/run, like various chicken tractor designs. Although 2x3 inch welded-wire fencing is less expensive, you will lose fewer birds if you use 1x2 inch mesh or smaller welded wire.
6. Create An L-Fence Around The Perimeter of The Coop
Bury galvanized hardware cloth or other welded-wire fencing around the perimeter of the chicken run if you have problems with predators digging beneath your surface fencing.
7. Add Deterrent Lights
Provide a night light (motion-sensor-activated) that will flood the chicken run with light after dark or install a set of Predator Guard Solar LED deterrent lights. This will keep most nocturnal predators away from the coop.
8. Let Your Chicken-Friendly Dogs Out
Give your chicken-friendly dogs the run of the chicken yard – particularly at night. Their protective instincts will keep predators away. Be sure your dogs aren’t tempted to chase running, squawking chickens if you choose not to close up the coop at night. You can also leave the dogs out with your backyard chickens during the day to ward off predators.
9. Prepare To Intervene
Prepare yourself to take swift action if you discover any predation. Take measures to eliminate the predator's access to your birds. Failure to do so will result in subsequent losses. If predators think they have an easy catch available they will keep returning.
10. Limit Bushes And Cover Around The Coop And Run
Create a predator-danger zone around the coop and chicken yard. Most terrestrial predators are very uncomfortable crossing an area with minimal cover. You can plant bushes inside the chicken run – your birds will love the shade and nibbling on the leaves – but leave the perimeter as cover-free as you can. Most predators are unlikely to work their way into a welded-wire enclosure when they have to do it out in the open.
Taking the correct measures will greatly decrease your chances of losing one of your beloved backyard chickens.