Want to know how to keep chickens safe from predators?
Keeping chickens safe is a struggle that many farmers have. If you have a flock and want to know more about how to keep them safe, then you are in the right place!
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One of the easiest ways to keep chickens safe from predators is to provide them with a coop.
Almost a year ago from now, we had over 30 chickens. We would let them out in the mornings and (attempt) to put them up each evening. We had a few older hens when we went a little crazy and bought 35 baby chicks.
I couldn’t help it. The feed stores around us had really neat breeds at the time. Plus, it didn’t help that my parents bought my kids chicks also!
If you are interested in reading about cool chicken breeds, check out my article about Easter Egger chickens.
So, long story short, we ended up with all of these young hens, a rooster and a few older hens. The older hens weren’t ever handled much and weren’t exactly friendly.
They weren’t mean or aggressive, they just did their own thing. We had tried to train them to go up each night and were only sort of successful.
To try to keep the young chickens safe from predators, we handled them every day so they would be eager to follow us.
So when we got the young chicks, we raised them inside of the coop. We were hoping that they would grow up knowing that coop was their safe spot. Hopefully, that would help make it easier to put them up each night when they were old enough to be let out.
We handled these young chicks daily. Dallas carried these chicks everywhere. She put them in her swing, played in the yard with them and even brought them in the house with her.
When the chicks were old enough to be let out in the yard, they followed her everywhere. If they saw her in the yard, they came running. It was hilarious!
If you want to get baby chicks to raise so that they can be super friendly, check out my article about preparing for baby chicks.
Eventually they were old enough to let out each day. Once we started letting them out more, the older hens corrupted them.
The older hens wouldn’t ever really train to go back into the coop at night. Slowly, they taught the younger hens the same bad habits. And guess what happened?
Slowly, our chickens started disappearing.
We’ve got dogs outside, and pigs, and even had a rooster. Most of the animals we have make noise of some kind when there are predators around.
Several chickens disappeared at night. We originally suspected that a raccoon was getting our chickens. Raccoons will come at night and get chickens.
Keep Chickens Safe From Predators
A few years ago, something was getting my mom’s chickens in the middle of the night. They found out that raccoons were tricking the chickens and then they were killing them.
The raccoons that were getting my mom’s chickens were really clever.
The raccoon would get feed out of the chicken feeder, which was on the side of the coop so my mom could fill it up from the outside. So the raccoon would get feed out of the feeder and put it on the ground in the coop.
The chickens would come over to get the food and get close enough to the side of the coop that the raccoon could reach it. The raccoon would grab the chicken and pull it piece by piece through the chicken wire.
It was pretty gruesome. Since our chickens started disappearing at night, we just assumed that it was probably a raccoon or two.
Then, we started to notice that the chickens were disappearing during the day.
This is NOT like a raccoon at all.
Raccoons are nocturnal and sleep during the day.
So something else was after our chickens.
We thought maybe there was a stray dog in the neighborhood. There aren’t many loose dogs in our neighborhood. Our dogs are loose but the only other dogs are my mom’s and some of the neighbors have coondogs that stay locked up.
For more information on how to keep chickens safe from raccoons, check out this article from Backyard Chickens, How to Protect Your Chickens from Coons.
We thought there was just a raccoon threat. Keeping my flock safe was more difficult than I thought it would be.
Every once in a while someone will drop a dog off in our area though that makes its way to our house. We never saw a stray dog though.
It wasn’t until I was getting the kids in the car to leave for school one morning when I saw the culprit.
Forrest had gone outside to start putting stuff in the car and came running back in talking about a loud noise outside coming from across the street.
He told me that he thought he had seen a weird dog across the street making the noises.
I thought we had finally found the stray dog that had been killing our chickens. I walked outside and up to the road. It wasn’t a dog at all, but a fox.
We figured out that the weird noise was her barking at our cat that had meandered close to her.
Evidently, she had a den nearby and was trying to get our cat away from her den.
We’ve seen her since then and she had several pups that have grown up. That’s not good news for us considering foxes love to eat chickens!
Keep Chickens Safe from Predators: Foxes
The group of foxes was able to very quickly kill our entire flock of chickens. When I say they quickly killed our entire flock, I mean in less than two days all of our chickens were gone. That’s how fast they hunted the entire flock down.
Foxes are bold and will come to your coop in the middle of the day, even if you are outside! If you have foxes after your chickens, you’ll see them running to your pen or trotting away after they’ve been to it.
Countryside Daily has an article about foxes on their website called Do Foxes Eat Chickens in Broad Daylight? I’m glad I’m not the only one that has had issues with foxes before!
I actually think we had a fox problem and a raccoon problem both. We had a few chickens that were killed inside of the chicken pen which is completely enclosed and pretty sturdy. There weren’t signs that foxes had broken in and killed chickens, which makes me think raccoons were responsible.
Keep Chickens Safe from Predators: Hawks
When I was a kid, my parents had a few chickens. We had a neighbor across the street that had chickens. At one point, he had over 50 hens. I always thought that it was so cool how many chickens he had.
His chickens were let out each morning and were trained to go into a hen house each evening.
His chickens worked like clockwork. He’d let them out every morning right as the sun came up and about thirty minutes before the sun set, they would go back inside and all he would have to do is shut the door.
One day I was outside and heard a chicken squawking and going crazy. I looked across the street and a hawk had taken a hen and was attempting to fly off with it!
The hawk was struggling to carry it and the hen was making a fuss the entire time. Eventually, the hawk got about 50 feet into the air with the hen before it dropped it.
The hen was pretty beat up, but she survived. She had a few missing feathers and minor scratches. If she had been a smaller or younger hen, she might not have fared so well.
Countryside Network has an excellent article about How to Protect Chickens from Hawks. If you’re trying to keep chickens safe and have hawks around (which is most people!), then you’ll want to read it.
I’ve heard people talk about having chickens attacked by hawks, but you don’t really believe it until you’ve seen it happen.
Even though they are roughly the same size as hawks, chickens can still be hunted by hawks.
Keep in mind that hawks are both strong and very intelligent. Chickens aren’t.
The best way to keep chickens safe from predators is to provide them a coop.
I’m not saying that you need to keep your chickens on total lock-down every single day. If you want to let your chickens out, then by all means let them out!
I do think that you should keep them locked up at night. Chickens sleep at night. Once chickens begin to roost, you can walk right up to them and they won’t move. Even a shy chicken will let you handle them once they’ve been roosting.
If you are raising meat chickens, then you will really want to keep them confined.
We’ve raised meat chickens in the past and confining them helps with taking care of them.
We have designed and built a few different chicken coops, but one of the best ones we’ve made is created from an unused shed in our yard.
The same goes for predators.
If chickens are roosting, they are easy game for predators.
Foxes, raccoons, and coyotes can walk up to them and take one without a fight.
If you have chickens and they’re out at night and haven’t been attacked, consider yourself lucky. A predator probably just hasn’t found them yet. Once they do, they will quickly take out your flock.
Roosters can be a help to alert if predators are around. Many roosters will attempt to fight off predators, which will at least give you some warning that they are in trouble. Don’t worry about roosters and their spurs, you can easily remove rooster spurs.
If you want more information about chicken predators and how to keep chickens safe, check out Predator Management for Small and Backyard Poultry Flocks.
When designing a chicken coop, consider three things- the top, the sides and the floor.
Predators are crafty and will figure out how they can get into your chicken coop. Chickens are easy prey for them, so if they can find a way in, they will.
Some predators aren’t scared to climb up tall sides to get into a chicken pen. If your pen is made of wire or wood, that’s easy for raccoons to climb. If there are small spaces or gaps in your fence, make sure to fix them or raccoons will squeeze through.
I’ve even heard of people that used metal sheeting as sides have raccoons climb the slippery metal sheeting.
Make sure the sides are sturdy and a tough material that doesn’t have gaps.
If you have sides, then you also need a roof. You don’t have to have a roof that will keep the rain off of them necessarily, but you do need some sort of roof so that climbing over a wall isn’t an option for a predator. A roof will also prevent hawks from swooping down and getting your chickens.
If you can have a fully enclosed roof, then go for it.
Chickens aren’t the brightest animals and need somewhere to go when the weather is bad. A roof that keeps water and snow out of the coop is a huge benefit.
I’ve had both a metal roof and a wire roof for my chickens. The wire roof served the purpose of keeping predators out, but it didn’t keep rain and snow off of the chickens. It also collected leaves, which ended up being very difficult to clean off.
Once you’ve taken care of the sides and the top, don’t forget about the floor of the coop.
If you are building a hen house, then you definitely want a floor so that you can keep it clean. If you are building the coop itself, then you want to make sure predators cannot dig under the sides of the coop and get to your chickens.
There are several ways you can accomplish this.
You can bury the sides of your coop into the ground, which is what my coop now has.
You can build your sides and then use cinder blocks to anchor them down on either side of the wall. If you use cinder blocks, you can partially bury them to make digging under it even more difficult.
I’ve also seen where you can build the sides of the coop with extra wire at the bottom.
You then bury the wire all the way around the coop. If a coyote or fox is trying to dig around the coop then they will run into the wire which prevents them from digging further.
The Happy Coop has an excellent collection of 21 tips to help keep chickens safe and healthy if you’re wanting more information.
Keep all of these in mind when you are designing your chicken coop to keep chickens safe.
Make Sure You Keep Chickens Safe from Predators
If you have chickens or are planning on getting chickens, then you want to try to keep them as safe as possible. Make sure that you have provided them somewhere safe to go to get away from predators and bad weather.
Predators are smart and will work hard to get to your chickens. Think about things like raccoons, foxes, hawks and even coyotes. If you live somewhere with wolves or bears, then you will really want to amp up the protection that your chickens have.
Try to train your chickens to go into a coop or house each night. That will eliminate a lot of your safety concerns.
What kind of predators do you have that are a threat to your chickens? How do you keep chickens safe? Let me know below!
You might also be interested in:
- Preparing for Baby Chicks
- Preventing and Treating Water Belly in Chickens
- Creating the Ideal Brooder Temperature
- Ordering Chickens Online
- Should You Raise Pastured Poultry?
- Understanding Chicken Feed