How to Protect Your Chicken Coop From Predators
Unfortunately, the worst-case situation will eventually be found when you walk inside your chicken coop. Your chickens were slaughtered by something. Anyone who raises poultry experiences this nightmarish scenario. While it is unrealistic to believe that you can completely eliminate the chance of someone preying on your hens, there are certain things you can do to reduce the risk to your flock.
Without hesitation, I answer, "Keeping them safe from predators," when asked what the hardest part of keeping backyard hens is. If you maintain chickens long enough, a predator will eventually approach your flock. Find out more about how to keep your hens safe.
Unfortunately, because chickens are at the very bottom of the food chain, almost everyone wants to eat them. Predators are a concern no matter where you reside. They can be found in urban, suburban, and rural locations, and they are constantly looking for a quick meal. But in all honesty, raising hens is hardly a losing endeavor. It simply requires being more savvy and watchful than the predators. The best course of action is always to be proactive with risk reduction strategies. In other words, take action to mitigate hazards before they actually materialize. When your chickens are unable to defend themselves, you may still protect them by being vigilant and proactive all the time.
The Risk Analysis
You can approach risk evaluations for your hens in one of two ways: before or after building the coop. There is a method you may use for each assessment strategy to assist you identify potential issues or reduce the risk even before it materializes into an issue.
It's pretty simple to plan ahead and use construction techniques to make your coop predator-proof when your chickens are in the pen if you haven't completed your coop yet. By acting like a predator, you can use construction methods and materials to reduce risks.
If your coop is already constructed, there are still several upgrades you can do. Your chickens will appreciate it if you take a few easy precautions.
Considerations for Building
It is considerably simpler to plan predator-proof construction methods at the outset if you are building a chicken coop from scratch. The need to cut costs and save money on building is constant, but if you want to safeguard your chickens and have a low-maintenance chicken coop and run on top of that, start with decent materials and maintain a high standard of workmanship.
For instance, your wire of choice might be the most important building material. You may find chicken wire in any hardware or feed store that sells fencing supplies. Chicken wire is a thin-gauge, hexagonally-shaped wire designed to keep predators out rather than chickens in.
Chicken wire is easily torn through by raccoons or bobcats, who can then enter the coop and slaughter your flock. Instead, cover your chicks with hardware cloth. In comparison to chicken wire, hardware cloth has smaller perforations between the wires and a thicker gauge wire. A hawk's talon or a raccoon's ability to rip a hole in the wire is made more difficult by the smaller perforations.
Therefore, it makes sense to spend a little more money on designing your chicken run efficiently and using hardware cloth to cover any coop windows rather than chicken wire. Think about covering your chicken run's top as well. When your flock is out foraging throughout the day, it will shield your chickens from avian predators or wild cats.
Hardware cloth or sheet metal can both be used to cover the top of the run. Materials like R-panels or associated metal can protect your chickens from hazards that are coming from above. A coop roof might additionally offer shade on hot days.
You may also take into account purchasing an apron to wear around the chicken run using the same hardware cloth material. An apron is nothing more than a length of hardware cloth laid horizontally across the base of the chicken run's perimeter. Once the apron is in position, you can conceal it by covering it with dirt.
It shouldn't be possible for grass to grow through the apron due to the open wire spacing. However, the apron does stop predators from digging through the chicken run's base and entering.
Fortunately, the majority of common predators are primarily nocturnal and hunt mostly at night. Raccoons, opossums, weasels, coyotes, fisher cats, and wolves are rarely seen in the open during the day, however an ill or starving animal may get desperate and come out of concealment. Your greatest line of defense against a night attack is to lock your chickens up in a coop with locks on the doors that even a cunning raccoon can't access. You should cover windows and vents with 1/2 "welded wire to bar even the tiniest weasels from entering. Since a raccoon or other animal can readily eat through chicken wire, it is useless as a window covering.
Read also: How Much Space Do Chickens Need To Keep Them Healthy
Wild animals can be deterred by installing solar-powered flashing lights around the coop's perimeter because they mistake the red lights for the eyes of a different predator. An automatic coop door is useful if you can't get home until later in the evening because it closes as dusk falls once all the hens have gone to the roost.
Even while a coop should protect your chickens at night, there are still daytime predators. Predators like foxes and coyotes prefer to hunt between twilight and morning, but it's not unusual to observe them during the day. Dogs pose a threat to backyard flocks as well. Rats and snakes will prowl the area in search of eggs or young chickens to eat.
The best daytime confinement for chickens is a sizable enclosed run where they are confined during the day. Welding wire should also be used for run fencing—1 "will typically be adequate because, as was already indicated, chicken wire won't keep a dog or fox out of the pen. Chain link fencing prevents access for smaller predators like weasels, snakes, rodents, and the occasional raccoon that tries to reach through the fence to steal a chicken, but it is effective against larger predators like bobcats or bears.
Run fence should be sloped outward and buried at least 8 to 12 inches into the ground to prevent predators from digging through it. Digging beneath the fencing can be made more challenging by excavating a trench around the run and filling it with rocks or metal pieces.
You should also cover the top of your run or pen. There are airborne predators to take into account in addition to the fact that fox and raccoon can climb extremely well and might simply climb over. If given the chance, hawks, eagles, and owls will all try to eat your hens. Even though owls often hunt at night and hawks and eagles tend to be more active in the morning, any of them might pose a hazard to your hens when they are outside.
Over the top, some basic bird netting or plastic poultry netting would do to keep predators out and any stray hens in. Although they are not technically capable of flying, chickens are quite adept at climbing low fences. Most hawks and other larger raptors won't fly into your chicken pen if you just stretch fishing line across the top of your run in a diamond pattern no wider than four feet or so, assuming you aren't concerned about your chickens getting out or anything climbing over.
Free Range Free ranging your hens is probably never going to turn out properly. Simply put, they are too weak to effectively defend against all of the predators, and there are simply too many of them. However, there are a few things you may do to reduce your risk. It's a good idea to keep an eye on your chickens when they're outside. Having a rooster in your flock will at least help your hens have a greater chance of being warned and given enough time to flee if that isn't possible.
Your flock will be safer if you have an LGD (livestock guard dog) or another type of security animal, like a donkey, goose, or alpaca. As well as varying your schedule to keep any potential predators on their toes and unable to rely on a routine, restricting your free ranging to only certain times of the day, such as early afternoon, or certain seasons (such as summer and winter), when predators seem to be less likely to pay a visit can help.
Predator attacks appear to be more frequent during the spring and fall bird migration seasons, as well as in the spring when most animals have more mouths to feed or are out teaching their young how to hunt and in the fall when food sources are beginning to become sparse.
You may find out which predators might be nearby and possibly trying to enter your coop by installing a trail camera trained on it and by examining for paw tracks in the mud or snow around your coop and run. Before attempting to capture or kill any predator, always check your state's laws. Although many jurisdictions permit the shooting of any animal that is "running cattle," the majority of flying raptors are protected by federal law, and the states have rules restricting your rights to shoot or trap certain predators. The majority of the time, though, a much more equitable answer is to learn to coexist with the predators and keep your chickens safe day and night.