Chicken Predators: protecting a Flock
Chicken predators, which vary in type
but all of which share the common goal of eating your chickens and/or
their eggs, are the bane of backyard chicken flocks and free range
poultry farms. The best way to secure your flock year round is by
building a secure
chicken coop to house the birds.
As a backyard chicken grower, I have lost over a dozen laying hens and pullets to opossums (“possum”) and raccoons, as well as rescued my hens in broad daylight from the fierce attack of a hawk. Our snares once caught a tom cat, whom I am sure would have enjoyed a feast of young chicks had they not been safely housed in their coop for the night. Preventing these chicken predators from destroying your egg laying chicken flock or meat birds is one of the harder and most important aspects of keeping chickens.
The first step to combating chicken predators is to prevent them from accessing your chickens at night. So even if you plan to free range during the day, or allow the chickens to have a wider area of accessible land during the day, their nighttime habitat (usually a chicken coop or a coop and pen combination) must be entirely secure.
Since most predators (with the exception of dogs, cats and hawks) strike at night, safeguarding them at this time is of primary importance. Begin by providing a coop with roosting bars and train your poultry to enter their coop at night (bring in any stragglers consistently for several nights in a row and they'll get the picture). Close the coop door securely in the evening after all birds are inside, and open it in the morning when the sun peeks over the horizon.
If you have a coop with a secure pen that includes chicken wire fencing over the top and all sides, and buried into the earth several inches at least, the chickens may be completely secure once they are inside the pen and all entrances are closed. However, there are more ways for chicken predators to get into a pen than a coop, so watching for gaps or breaches is necessary.
When possum, fox or raccoons are seen in the area or attack your flock at night, you will need to do your best to remove these animals as they will continue to come back to stalk your flock if they are even once successful in their endeavors. Depending on your expertise, live traps for catch-and-release (far from your flock; look for a national park) or a .22 rifle and a few late nights will be necessary.
Daytime predators, such as neighboring dogs and the occasional chicken hawk, must be taken into account as well. If chicken-attacking dogs coming onto your property are a problem, keep your chickens within a tall fence around their coop. Since they have not been an issue for us, we allow our chickens to free range in the yard on days we are home and lock them in their coop at night.
Hawks are a big problem in some areas. A good rooster can help protect the hens, especially if he is large, but a trained guard dog is even better. If your property is very open, not wooded, and hawks abound, keeping your chicks in a pen with a roof made of fencing may be the only way to keep your birds totally safe.
There are many different designs for secure coops and pens to protect your birds from chicken predators. Check out the chicken coop plans page for ideas and professional plans.
Go back to Raising Chickens or home to Egg Laying Chickens, or check out other chicken-related resources online:
Best Coop Plans:
How to Build a Chicken Coop - detailed plans and construction guide for making backyard coops.
These chicken coop plans and building guide are the best I've found, and purchased them myself to build our first coops. There are five different chicken coops included, beginning with the most basic double-story ark and culminating with the largest design, the Chicken Barn with attached screened-in chicken yard. I want to use their plans again for their largest chicken coop, the chicken barn, when we are ready to upsize our chicken flock's habitat. The coop pictured here is a medium-sized all-in-one design.
Recommended Chicken Books:
- Homemade Living - Keeping Chickens: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock by Ashley English
- Storey's Guide - Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow
- Barnyard in Your Backyard - A Beginner's Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, and Cattle
Favorite Chicken Quotes
“ A chicken you eat only once — eggs a hundred times." ~ Tajikistani Proverb
“ You cannot cook one half of the chicken and leave the other to lay eggs." ~ Sanskrit Proverb
“ You don’t have to kill the chicken to get eggs." ~ French Proverb