Knowing how to keep predators away from chickens is a top priority for most poultry keepers. I’ll cover the top ways to easily protect your chickens and other poultry from all types of predators.
Can you make your chickens predator proof? Of course, the answer is Yes and No. As with most all other issues in life, the question of predator proofing is relative to the situation.
So, what do I mean by yes and no? Well, if you live in a suburban or urban area your chances of success are greater.
I’ve seen many people who have covered chicken runs in urban and suburban settings. Fenced in yards or some other kind of protective border is usually required.
Of course, depending on where you’re located, your list of predators will be smaller than your rural counterpart. In a rural area, you face larger threats to keeping your flock safe.
How to Keep Predators Away from Chickens and Other Poultry
The challenges faced by all chicken keepers or poultry keepers vary, but the desire to protect the flock is the same. The pleasures of keeping a flock are undeniably universal as well.
During daylight hours, there are different potential predators than dusk or dark hours. They often require swift action. The first to come to my mind are hawks. While the night brings dexterous animals and hungry owls looking for an easy food source.
How We Deal With Predators on Our Farm
Here on our farm, we have coyotes, skunks, raccoons, opossums, snakes, bobcats, fox, panthers (no matter what Wildlife and Fisheries say), wild hogs, and birds of prey like hawks, eagles, and owls.
We even have the occasional neighborhood dogs. They can do more damage in a short time than all other prey animals of the chicken house.
We don’t confine our birds, they are free range chickens.
However, we keep roosters who are just for breeding or the “backup” guy in their own yard.
Confined areas make an animal more vulnerable since they have limited places to hide and run to. We provide multiple layers of protection for them as well as the breeding yards and grow-out yards.
The yards are made with poultry wire all around, then we put rabbit wire inside that most of the way up.
To protect the yards from skunks and other predators who like to dig their way in, we place a barrier of tin around the yard. My husband puts the tin at least 3″ into the ground.
We also place a bird net or poultry wire over their yards. Each gate has clip locks since these are almost impossible to open if you don’t have opposable thumbs!
For the flock in general, there is an elevated coop so they can get under it to escape aerial predators and, of course, their coop is left open all day for protection and egg laying.
They also have a nice stand of trees in their yard to hide under.
Free-range chickens are healthier and cost less to grow but to minimize the danger of wild birds of prey, the dogs are on patrol and the rooster is always on the lookout.
We have a rooster, “Red”, who is extremely watchful and sounds the alarm at the least threat. He even responds to the cries of a hawk who is at a distance. You can see him trying to decide if the hawk is coming his way.
There are brush, trees, buildings, and sheds they get under sometimes too.
We have found that having livestock on the farm cuts down on our predator number. When the land beside and behind us was clear cut, we had a sudden influx of predators, but they seemed to move on quickly.
Several years ago, we had the chickens in the fruit orchard for cleanup duty since our coop is portable. I can’t remember the circumstance, but for some reason, we were away from the farm when it was time to shut the chicken coop.
When I made it out there and did my headcount, there were fewer birds in the coop. I found some in the nearby trees and they could not be coaxed down. In the morning, I saw why.
They had been invaded by larger predators, the local coyote pack. I lost over 15 birds that night and it was a struggle for several days to get them to trust me that the coop was safe and that I would shut them up on time. Lesson learned the hard way.
Of course, the reality, for us and others like us, is that we will lose some birds to predators.
With free ranging and the rural setting we farm in, it is inevitable. Keeping our losses as low as possible is what we strive for.
We have not lost a bird to a predator in over 6 months. The last one we lost was to a hawk. Before that, it had been almost a year since we had experienced a loss of poultry life.
For us, they are not pets or hobbies, they are part of our sustenance farming practice. They provide us with meat, eggs, and endless entertainment.
Questions to Consider For Protecting Poultry
- Do you want a free-range flock or secure poultry run?
- Do you have large predators that require a fence of high-voltage electrical pulses to keep your flock safe?
- What kind of budget do you have or want to have to invest in projects or protections?
- Will you have a livestock guard dog?
Easy Ways to Protect Your Flock From Predators
1. Train your flock to come to a feed bucket! When you are ready to count tail feathers, you can easily get them to return to the safety of the coop and fenced area at dusk. Sometimes it’s the small things we can do that prove to be the important things to stop subsequent losses.
2. Build your own mobile coop. You can go a long way to having a predator-proof chicken coop by making a few thoughtful adjustments.
By having a coop that is mobile, you can tow around water, feed, and laying boxes so they are always close to the safety of the coop. A mobile coop sits high enough off of the ground to discourage rats, skunks, and snakes from taking up residence underneath it.
It really cuts down on the egg stealing, keeping chicks or young hens safe. We put rabbit wire under the floorboards and over small openings for ventilation. This also makes it easy to clean out a few times a year.
3. Build a fenced-in coop run to park the mobile coop in securely when you will be gone for a while.
This will keep common chicken predators like stray dogs, coyotes, and bobcats from gaining access to your flock.
Fencing materials to use would be poultry wire, welded wire mesh, electric netting, and even electric fencing. These will help keep your baby chicks safe and smaller predators out as well.
You want to make sure to cover small access points as some predators can fit through small holes you wouldn’t think possible.
Some predators can easily clear 4-foot-high fences, so you can add a game-bird netting or build your enclosure taller. We cut long thin trees from our property to make poles. We then drove them in the ground and stapled bird netting to the tops of the poles.
This covered the open area near the coop to help keep hawk or owl attacks to a minimum. We tried a random array of 2-inch mesh here and there but we still had hawks threading the needle in their attacks trying for a quick meal so we came up with this line of defense.
We also left junk trees and bushes in the large, enclosed area to provide additional places to run for cover, which we found to be the easiest and best way.
4. Make sure to know which predators are in your area.
If raccoons are one of your main challenges, make sure to look at using one strand of electric fence wire about a foot off the ground. Turn it on at night when the chickens are enclosed in the coop. A raccoon will always reach out and touch a wire before jumping over or under it which will make a believer out of him.
Make sure to use rabbit wire or small-mesh if you have skunks, mink, or possums prowling around your coop. Some of these predators get very ingenious ideas when an easy meal is on the other side of a fence. They will reach through chicken wire or try to bite through it to gain access.
Always remember that these predators will destroy thinner gauge wire when given the opportunity to gnaw and pull at it for hours in the night and early morning. So, it’s better to start off with something they won’t easily destroy.
5. Bury galvanized tin or other welded wire fencing around the perimeter of the chicken run to keep predators from digging under it. Members of the mink family are notorious for digging under it.
If you bury or pound it at least 3 inches deep, the animal will not even try since they can smell the buried tin or fencing.
A layer of 1 inch hardware cloth is enough to stop a majority of fox attacks when they’re looking for a delicious chicken dinner.
If you have a dirt floor coop, it may be a good idea to make sure the henhouse floor is free of food scraps for effective pest control. Just a few mice can be something that attracts egg-sucking snakes to the perimeter of the coop in the first place.
6. Install a motion-sensor-activated bright light that will flood your chicken coop and nighttime predators when motion is detected.
This can be very effective with nocturnal predators who love the cover of darkness! This also helps when you need to visit the coop after dark and forget to bring your flashlight.
We did try hanging old CDs around the perimeter but it didn’t seem like an effective way to deter wild animals. A better option may be to install solar lights as a night light around the enclosed wire coop. Keeping small animals visible will prevent them from having the run of the chicken yard or backyard flocks at night.
7. Raising chicken-friendly dogs is a great way to protect the backyard flock.
Having a guard dog with your chickens will stop most common predators which helps give your flock a secure coop. Some of the best domestic dogs which make great guard animals for guarding chickens on any farm are:
- Great Pyrenees
- Maremma Sheepdog
- Polish Tatra Sheepdog
- Anatolian Shepherd
Also, consider some of the watch birds you can add to your farm to sound the predator alarm. These include the guinea fowl, geese, and large poultry that can deter or alert you to a predator’s presence.
8. Keep your coop and chicken area where you can monitor sounds and can easily check in on them with your eyes.
This means keeping the line of sight free from any kind of cover a predator can for hiding in the shadows on their way to the fence. This creates a predator-danger zone.
Most predators are wary of crossing an area with minimal cover. Brush piles should be kept at least 500 yards from the chicken coop of your flock of backyard chickens. They provide predators a place to camp out and it won’t be long before they seize an opportunity to strike.
We have helpful information for chicken keepers in our other chicken articles. Let me know if you need information you don’t find. I’ll do all I can to help you.
What do you do to keep your flock safe? What restrictions do you have on you and your flock because of your location? What kind of predators do you have?
I am always eager to learn what other poultry keepers do to keep their flocks safe from predators.