Do’s and Don’ts When Protecting Chickens from Predators

Know the Predators of Chickens so you Have the Right Tools for Defense

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Besides providing basic care for your flock, protecting chickens from predators tops the must-do list for a chicken keeper. When thinking about the onslaught of predators your chickens may face, it’s important to remember why predators are so interested in our feathered friends. In a nutshell, when we keep backyard chickens, we put an all-you-can-eat buffet in our backyards. For a predator, life is tough. They’ve got to find a food source and then use all their tools to catch that food. Yes, they’re sated at that point, but hunger is never far away. Your backyard coop is their grocery store.

Easy pickings! Right? No. That’s also the crucial point to remember when protecting chickens from predators. Yes, you’ve put out the all-you-can-eat buffet, but you don’t have to make it easy to belly up to that buffet. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts that will help you keep your flock safe.

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Do’s for Protecting Chickens from Predators

Do use 1/2 inch hardware cloth to secure openings in your coop. Hardware cloth is welded wire. It’s sturdy and not easily ripped open, unlike chicken wire which is not predator-proof and better left for the craft cabinet. Make sure even the smallest of holes are secured. If you find weasels killing chickens, check for mouse and rodent tunnels. Weasels like to use those tunnels to gain entry to the coop. Also be sure to bury your hardware cloth at least six inches down into the ground and a foot out horizontally from the coop. This will stop digging predators. Even if you have windows with screens in your coop, make sure to add the welded wire too. Screens help keep the bugs out. Hardware cloth keeps the predators out.

Do know what predators are in your area. If you’re new to the area, you may want to check with your neighbors or the local extension agency to find a list of local culprits. Many predators, such as raccoons and foxes, can be found nationwide, but others are more local and may require some extra protection to keep them at bay.

Do change up your protection techniques on a regular basis. Predators are smart and they get used to routines and things that stay in place for a long time. For example, if you’ve got a scarecrow in the yard, move it to a different place every few days.

Do try to identify a culprit if you lose a chicken.What killed my chicken?” is a common question when someone suffers a loss. It may not seem immediately important since the deed has already been done, but it can be one of the most important questions asked. Protection techniques can vary from predator to predator. So, if you know what caused your loss, you can better protect the remaining flock members.

Do know your local and national laws. When you’re protecting your chickens from predators, you don’t want to run into legal troubles. While there are no-kill traps at your local farm store, many localities do not allow folks to trap and release. Directly killing a predator may or may not be allowed in your area and may vary from species to species. Plus, birds of prey are a protected species. It is illegal to harm them in any way. When figuring out how to protect chickens from hawks, methods must be proactive and not lethal.

Do embrace technology. Yes, we chicken keepers are a hardy sort, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use some extra help. Things like automatic chicken coop doors with built-in predator motion detection that can send you email alerts, night guard solar lights, and wildlife cameras can make all the difference.

 

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protecting-chickens-from-predators

Foxes are resourceful, they can climb and they learn our routines.

Don’ts for Protecting Chickens from Predators

Don’t leave your chickens in an open area. One of the best ways to protect chickens from hawks, owls, and eagles is to make sure your chickens have lots of places to hide when a predator is flying overhead. Bushes, large grasses, decks, and overhangs can be a perfect place to take shelter.

Don’t forget the seasons. While we tend to think of our chicken keeping chores as seasonal, predator protection can have highs and lows based on the seasons. During the spring and fall, many flying predators will migrate. If you’re in a natural flyway, then business at that time will be brisk. Spring is the time that most predators are reproducing. They’ll require more food during this time to feed their young and themselves.

Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over with the same results. Logically, this makes sense in life. It also makes sense for protecting chickens from predators. For instance, if you experience fox attacks early in the morning, then don’t let your chickens out early in the morning. Wait until a little later in the day.

Don’t assume your pets will love your chickens as much as you do. While many chicken keepers are most concerned about wild predators, domestic dogs are actually said to be the number one predator of chickens. Never leave your own pet dog alone in the yard with your chickens until you are 100 percent sure he or she can be trusted. Also, beware of roaming neighborhood dogs. While wild predators kill for food, domestic dogs will kill for the sport of it. They can kill an entire flock just for the fun of it. Domestic cats are not considered a predator of full-size standard chickens, but baby chicks and tiny bantams are bite-sized. So, make sure your brooder is secure and your smallest bantams are kept away from domestic cats.

Don’t discount the worth of a good rooster. Yes, roosters aren’t allowed in many neighborhoods, but if you don’t face any restrictions, then consider getting a rooster. If you think about it, a rooster’s sole job in life is to reproduce. To do that, the “ladies” have to be safe. So, a good rooster will always keep an eye out for danger. If he spots anything, he’ll sound the alarm and gather his hens in a safe place. Some roosters have even been known to lose their lives while defending the flock.

Don’t always assume missing eggs or missing chickens are the end result of a wild predator. Hens can go on laying strikes for a number of reasons including stress, lack of water, time of year or lack of nutrition. Also, hens have been known to go broody and hide their nest really well, only to appear almost a month later with babies in tow.

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Raccoon with young bird.

What are your favorite techniques for protecting chickens from predators? Let us know in the comments below so we can learn from your experiences.

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Comments
  • I borrowed an idea from my koi pond keeping. I run fishing line across the top of my larger areas of day time runs. So far this has deterred the Hawks. They either see it as something solid or something that they might get tangled in. I be been using this for about 6 months and so far it’s been successful.

    Reply
  • Dogs make a fine compliment to flock protection. I’ve trained mine to “Go see” which has them do a patrol of the woods, going in about 50 years. This is also where they poop. Between physical presence (with no set times…keep it random in time of day and duration) and scents, I have had no attacks in 2 years. I also have two smaller roosters in a flock of 15 (more to come!) so the alert capabilities are high. A pair of bantams..Ozzie, a Lavender Orphington has the throne.

    Next, bury a 2×12 and or cinder blocks (I have both….blocks at the coop entrances, wood elsewhere) along the sides/walls. Since I had to dig out the ground, I back filled with egg/fist sized rocks and some chicken wire over that…then a 3″ layer of dirt tamped down.

    I know I’ll be hit again…it’s part and parcel to free ranging. But being proactive has made a difference. I have a very happy flock, fewer bugs and I enjoy watching and playing with my birds. They run to me when I call and a couple are content to sit on my lap.

    Reply
  • Rick B.

    I live in the mountains. My land butts up against the Allegheny National Forest. I have lots of local wild life to contend with. During the day my dogs leave their scent around the property and I look for predator sign every day. At night I put out traps around the coop and run with different bates such as oil from sardines or other scents. This takes care of most of the small to medium predators. I take them up before I let my dogs or the chickens out to run. Once or twice a week I’ll set up and pick off the coyote’s and roaming dogs. My guineas let me know when things are amiss and my rifle is always handy. I reload my own ammo so it’s a very cheap solution. Where I live in NW Pa. nothing that I’m doing is illegal. All I need is a valid hunting license. I love being a mountain man.

    Reply
    • Do you have any tips or hints for foxes? I have one that’s thinning out my flock of guineas and all I ever get is a glance of him when they sound the alarm. My rifle is sighted in and at the ready but fox always manages to be where I don’t expect him. Sly fox! 😉

      Reply
    • Do the electric fences keep predators out or just keep chickens in?

      Reply
      • Bill W.

        To the best of my knowledge, electric fencing works on only large,non jumping animals, though not bison. Yes cattle, and goats if spacing 2 lines apart so goat can’t go over or under. Unless you have multiple lines, enough to detur these chickens or predators from crossing. Sounds spending, yet a feasible alternative. Otherwise a strong tough sheepdog will do. One recommended Argentinan Dogo will do. These dogs are gentle, loyal defenders. Also will take down anything without guile, and kill it, or carry out orders. These dogs need special training, as extremely loyal. Happy hunting.

        Reply
  • I have had chickens for several years and the only problem i had was a dog that climed over a six foot wooden fence and killed all my chickens but four. This week i found one of my four month old chicks half way eaten. the next day i found a chicken snake with a egg in its mouth.I didnt think that that was the culprit so i put out a spring trap and sure enough I caught an opossum last night. i will continue to put the trap out to make sure there are not more of them

    Reply
  • Was told coyote urine keeps raccoons away…so our local farm store sold me a spray bottle of it! sprayed around coop and trees whee they climb up to get to my deck. I also have an automatic door opener and closure. I bought a flashing red light on ebay but didn’t work so got refund. Do you have a little red flashing light around your coop? I was wondering it the solar night lights in peoples’ yards that changes colors work to frighten preditors???

    Reply
    • Bill W.

      What happens when the automatic door closes and your chickens are not in. How does this work?

      Reply
  • I might add…I have two Great Pyrenees that roam our yard and around our horse barn and I see them around the coop a lot too…These dogs guard mainly at night!

    Reply

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