Taking steps to protect chickens from predators should be on every chicken owner’s mind. What are the important steps to take to guard the chickens? Raccoon, fox, hawks, bears, bobcats and the neighborhood dog, are all capable of wiping out a flock. All carnivorous and omnivorous creatures would be happy to find a chicken waiting to be dinner. I see a huge uptick in predator activity in the fall as the wildlife starts to get ready for a long cold winter. Spring also sees a lot of activity as new kits are being born.
Learning how to protect chickens from predators such as hawks and others, throughout the year, is an ongoing process. Just when you think you have covered all the bases, a wily coyote may sneak in the coop and help herself to a free meal. Taking precautions is what we do to keep our chickens from becoming sitting ducks.
Chicken Coop Security
Raccoons are the biggest threat to my chickens where I live on the east coast. Our next biggest threat is the fox. Knowing this, we build and secure our coops with the behavior of fox and raccoon in mind. Raccoon have paws that work much like the human hand. Latches are often not a problem for them to open, thereby accessing your chickens. We use snap hooks and carabiner clips to secure the door latches and gates.
Most books will tell you that predators hunt and eat at dawn and dusk. I am here to tell you that this is not the only time that they will hunt and eat. Foxes will hunt when hungry and a momma fox with kits learning to eat is going to hunt at any time to provide food for her hungry babies. Young raccoon will also hunt out of the ordinary times.
Particularly in Spring and Fall, predators may not stick to a text book routine for hunting and eating. Last spring we had an increase in the fox population surrounding our farm. Neighboring farms saw the same and for many weeks we all battled the hungry mother foxes. They were doing what they needed to do and we were protecting our chickens. It was a no win situation. We increased the stability of our chicken run after a fox got into the area. This was after a loss of three hens, a rooster and a duck, in one attack.
As Fall approaches the young foxes and raccoon are getting ready to survive their first winter. They know they need calories and extra fat for the cold temperatures so they are hungry. We have increased vigilance, and increased security around the coops again. We wait until later in the morning to let the chickens out. If we let them out to close to sunrise, they are a tasty meal waiting for predators who are still lurking. As the days are getting shorter, we have to get back to the barnyard earlier to make sure that the chickens are not disturbed by a predator as they fill their crop before they go to roost. The extra effort is part of how we protect chickens from predators.
As cold weather approaches, check the exterior of your coop and run for weaknesses and openings. Our coop had been surrounded by board fencing and chicken wire for years, even though I knew it was not the best choice. After the attack we attached a second layer of welded wire fencing to the outside. This is another method used to protect chickens from predators.
Do Skunks Eat Chickens? Keeping Rodents out of the coop!
Check for holes leading into the coop. Patch with crumpled chicken wire and cement. Skunks, opossums, rats and other rodents can gain access through a very small hole and will eventually attack your chickens when they are roosting. In addition they will eat all the chicken food left out if given the chance. It is best to remove all feed and empty the bowls before locking the chickens in the coop for the night.
Raccoons will also eat the food left out. In addition they will use the water bowls and fonts as their personal food washing stations. Dump out the water at the end of the day. Not only will this make your run less attractive, it will also help prevent the possible spread of disease.
Dogs and Cats
When learning to protect chickens from predators, don’t forget the neighborhood dog or your own pet. Your dog may be trained to leave the chickens alone, but any other dog will see something fun to play with. An untrained dog will probably also see a free meal. This is a good reason to not let your chickens free range in a neighborhood setting. It’s hard to tell when a roaming dog might be visiting. Dogs can be quick to strike and you might get caught in the “crossfire” trying to save your chicken’s life.
Cats are not much of a problem as far as I have seen. All of our barn cats have had a healthy fear of the chickens. The chickens are large enough to take care of scaring off a normal size cat. I have never seen a cat attack a chicken. Chicks on the other hand, are a quick moving interesting snack for a cat to chase, kill and eat.
What Predators are in your Area
If you are unsure what animals lurk in your area,waiting to eat your chickens, contact your local extension service. They will have information on the wildlife in your area. Look for clues around your property. Look for scat left behind by predators.Look for foot prints in mud or snow. With some research you will be ready to protect chickens from predators.
Learning how to protect chickens from predators requires that we learn as much as possible about the wildlife and their habits.