Chickens are a great source of eggs and meat which is why millions of people all around the world raise them on their farms and gardens.
But these animals are not high on the food chain, which means they have a lot of natural enemies. For this reason, a lot of farmers ask the question of how to protect chickens from predators.
After all, none wants to feed chickens just for wild animals to snatch them when they are hungry.
So, let’s go through some of the most effective ways to keep the chickens sound and safe!
Step-by-Step Guide on How to Protect Chickens from Predators
Step 1: Pick a good spot for the coop
Picking a good spot for the coop is almost half of the battle against chicken predators. The area around the coop should be as clean and dull as possible because it will not provide potential attackers with hiding places – so, away from trash cans, other structures, tall grass, bush, etc.
The area above the coop is as important as the one around it, so do not build a coop directly under or near trees since birds of prey, such as eagles, hawks, and owls, can use them to ambush your chickens.
Step 2: Use hardware cloth instead of chicken wire
We enclose coops with chicken wire so chickens would not go out and predators waltz in. And while the wire is great at preventing the chickens from leaving the coop, it is not the best when it comes to keeping the animals with bad intentions out of it.
For example, the holes in the chicken wire can be big enough for certain animals in the weasel family to sneak in. Another problem is that it is not sturdy enough to withstand forceful entries by animals such as foxes, raccoons, and wolverines.
On the other hand, ¼ hardware cloth will not only keep any animal bigger than a fly from nosing in (well, maybe some of the smaller ones could stick their nose in) but it is also made out of galvanized, stainless steel or bare steel that can endure clawing and chewing of the aforementioned animals.
Pro tip: Sometimes, the problem is not the wire itself but the material with which it is secured to the structure. So, instead of using staples, fasten the hardware cloth with nails or screws.
Step 3: Bury hardware cloth at least 2 feet into the ground
Although most attacks come from air or ground, there are a few animals, such as coyotes, foxes, and raccoons, that will try to sneak up on the chicks or their eggs by digging a hole under the fence.
To prevent any digging predator from doing this, you need to bury the fence at least 2 feet into the ground.
Step 4: Cover the chicken run
Some people let chickens roam around their gardens or backyards during the day, while others build special areas where their hens can do the same.
These areas, called chicken runs or pens, are always enclosed on the sides, but some people either forget or choose not to cover them with any kind of wire.
Putting a roof over the run is crucial in preventing not only birds from snatching and killing one of your hens but also climbing predators such as foxes, opossums, and raccoons from going over the fence.
Of course, do not forget to use hardware cloth instead of poultry netting for maximum protection.
Step 5: Keep the chickens inside during the nights
Chickens are most exposed to attacks when free ranging or at night. Most people are asleep during the night, so even if they hear any sounds coming from the coop, it is usually too late by the time they wake up and go out to intervene.
For this reason, you should not let your chickens roost outside. You can easily train them to go inside at a specific time (usually around dusk) by rewarding them with snacks or making a distinct call when you want them to go in.
Step 6: Check the coop and run every evening before safely locking the chicks
Do you keep a tidy chicken coop and run that will not attract other animals? Do you check for holes through which, for example, rats and snakes could sneak in? Do you inspect all corners of the area where your chicks spend the night to see if a predator is hiding?
These are the questions that you should have on your mind every evening before you lock your hens. You do not want to leave them locked with unwanted company during the night!
Step 7: Install locks with a 2-step mechanism
Raccoons are cute animals when you do not have to deal with them. But when they are after your chickens, these masked bandits can cause havoc – they are skillful enough to open a lot of the simpler locks.
Other animals will also try to fiddle with the locks using their paws, claws, or noses. So, if you do not want to leave the safety of your hens to chance, you should install a lock with a 2-step locking and unlocking mechanism.
Step 8: Get a rooster
Roosters are famous for two things. The first one is that they are a natural and for some unwanted alarm that crows every morning just as the sun starts to appear. The other one is them being Casanovas which mate with several hens.
But what many people do not know is that roosters serve as flock security guards that will not only risk but sacrifice their lives in trying to warn and protect the ladies, making them a great addition to any household or farm on which chickens live.
However, before getting a rooster, please check your city or neighborhood’s code to see if you are allowed to keep them.
Step 9: Get a guard animal
If getting a rooster is not an option in your area, you should go the route of other animals that will protect your hens.
The most popular candidates for this job are, of course, dogs. In case you did not know, they have been successfully applying for and getting this job for the last six thousand years!
The great thing regarding livestock guardian dogs is that there are many different breeds from which you can choose!
If you are not a fan of dogs, going in the direction of other livestock animals like donkeys and alpacas that can double as guard animals is also an option.
Lastly, you can get other farm poultry like goose and guinea fowl to perform the duty of a security officer.
The added benefit of employing any of these animals as flock guardians is that they are bigger than roosters which will not only give them a bigger chance of survival in a potential fight but deter a lot of predators from coming close to your chicken.
If you follow the steps we provided in the previous section, the chances that something goes wrong are minimal.
However, when it comes to security, you can always do more and better. A hungry and desperate animal should not be underestimated, which is why we are giving you a few tips that will elevate your defense to another level.
1. Install electrical fencing
If you want to deter not only the animals we mentioned so far but also some of the larger ones, such as bobcats and bears, installing an electric fence is probably the best thing you can do.
The animals will definitely test the fence once or twice, but the electric shock will kindly notify them that it is not a good idea to keep going.
2. Install motion sensor lights and alarms
A lot of the animals which prey on chickens are nocturnal hunters. Their stealth movement and night vision abilities, combined with an almost complete absence of light and (loud) sounds, give them an advantage over chickens.
But there is a way to combat this – motion-activated sensor lights and alarms. When activated, the sensors will turn on lights and sirens, which will scare off the perpetrators and alarm you and your hens.
3. Build a shelter for free-ranging chickens
If your chickens are free-range during the day, you should build a shelter where they can hide from assaults of avian predators.
This shelter does not have to be some elaborate and sophisticated structure – it will be a good defense as long as it has some kind of roof and possibly something to block attacks from the sides.
So, there you have it – the best ways to protect chickens from predators.
In this article, we have given you the full step-by-step guide on how to prevent potential attacks, and some of those include picking a good spot for the coop, using hardware cloth instead of chicken wire, covering the chicken run, and getting a rooster or a guard animal.
It is not necessary to follow all of these steps, but it would be best to ensure maximum security for your chickens! In addition, we have offered some extended tips if you want to go over the board.
How do you protect your chickens from predators? Please share your experience! Please comment or ask if you have any questions or want to learn more!