So you have decided to get backyard chickens? Congratulations… you are about to embark on a fun new adventure! You’re getting your supplies ready, preparing to get your chickens, and get the area all set up, but there’s one question you should consider. How will you protect your new feathered family members from predators? Chicken predators can be snakes, raccoons, possum, coyotes, or even hawks. That’s a big list of animals to worry about! If you have backyard chickens, you are going to need to get some safeguards in place to keep them well protected. You might consider setting up a night vision trail camera, or security camera to see what kinds of predators you can spot the most of around your property. This can help you know what kind of traps or safeguards you need to set up. Here are some suggestions to help you get started in making a safe space for your chickens.
First, don’t let them roost outside. This is key to keeping them safer at night. You want to teach them early to back into the covered coop at night. Chickens can be coop trained, so if you haven’t been doing that, it’s not too late to start. You should keep the doors and entrances to the chicken run and the coop closed at night. This is another safeguard for your chickens to help keep predators out. If your chickens are kept in a run all the time, you will want at least a good part – if not all, of the run covered by chicken wire and some sort of roof. This will protect them from rain, but also from flying animals that might prey on young chicks or even adult chickens, like hawks.
Next, put locks on your coop doors and make sure they are two-step locks! It’s a widely known fact that raccoons are notorious for unlocking gate latches so installing a more complex lock (like a barrel lock) will most likely deter him over a simple lock. They are crafty, determined critters though and may keep trying so stay vigilant!
Don’t think chicken wire is a foolproof safety plan. Its intention is not to keep predators out of the coop, but to contain the chickens. A predator like a raccoon can rip through chicken wire like it’s thin air. It is not a safety fence. You can get hardware cloth to cover over any openings that are bigger than a quarter of an inch. You can also protect your chickens from digging predators by putting hardware cloth at least a foot deep around the entire length and width of your chicken area. You can also do this for the dirt floor of the actual coop, and along the run as well. For extra safety, add a hardware cloth apron that extends out about a foot too. It will also help to discourage predators from getting at your chickens.
If you are having constant problems with predators, try to notice what is attracting them in the first place. A common culprit is leftover chicken feed and other food scraps. Rats and mice, even possum can try to get food that is left out and while it may not hurt the chickens it can stress them, and it can also tear up your coop and pen. Try not to leave feed out all the time, but if you do, consider using a feeder box that keeps the food covered.
Consider getting guard animals to help keep your chickens safe, along with the rest of your family. A Great Pyrenees is an excellent guard dog for livestock, and is a good family dog, too. If you haven’t thought about keeping a rooster, they are worth adding to the list, as they also will fearlessly defend the flock! If you see a lot of snakes on your property, this can be a danger to chicken eggs so you might want a couple of guinea fowl to help keep them at bay.
If you have free-range chickens, protecting them can be a little trickier. The first step is to provide them with shelters throughout the property where they can run and hide from predators. This also will provide some shelter from harsh weather. You could use bushes, or make a chicken “teepee” from branches or boards. You could even build a makeshift coop from old pallets. Guard dogs will also help look after free-range chickens too.
As long as you have backyard chickens, predators are going to be a factor. How you protect your chickens can take on many forms, but it may not always work. Some chickens still may get attacked or killed. This can feel devastating, but don’t let it discourage you to the point that you give up on raising your own livestock. As long as you are proactive and do your best to set up safeguards to help keep predators out, your chickens and their eggs should stay safe. If you lose a few chickens to a vicious attack, go back and evaluate how the predator entered and how you can prevent it from happening again.
Do you raise chickens? How do you protect them from predators?