Though you may not like it, preventing predation is a part of keeping chickens. With many predators (including foxes, raccoons, coyotes, weasels, badgers, snakes, hawks and rats), it is important to know what kind of predators are in your area and how to protect your precious birds from them.
Domestic chickens make easy prey as their evolution into farmyard animals has provided them with limited survival skills. Therefore, it is important to make your chicken coop as safe as possible.
Expert advice is to build the coop as strong as your own house! With that in mind, here are six savvy tips and tricks to help you protect your chicken’s home and keep it as safe as possible.
Tip #1 – Proper fencing
When it comes to keeping chickens safe from predators, your first priority should be proper fencing. Chicken wire is useful for keeping chickens in, but a determine or hungry fox or badger can easily break through this. To combat this, chicken coops should also be lined with hardware mesh, extending at least two feet under the coop, ideally up to four, to discourage attempts to dig in. A correctly fenced coop is pictured below.
Alternatively, a thin trench can be drug around the coop in which you can place enviroblocks or rammed earth to prevent predators from digging in. This same tactic can be applied to the floor of the coop, both for protection but also for ease of cleaning.
If you live in an area where bears often roam, it may be worth adding electric fencing into your hardware mesh.
It is important to ensure even the smallest holes or gaps are covered. Though they may not attack your chickens, snakes (especially copperheads) can enter through small gaps in the fencing and eat unprotected eggs in the coop. If you find snakes are continually raiding your coop, it may be possible to relocate them!
Tip #2 – Lock up
At night, it is important to lock up your chickens in their coop or run. Locking up, especially at night, is a good way to ensure your chickens safety when you are not present to supervise them. Using a mechanism that cannot be unlocked by a hungry animal, such as a raccoon, is essential.
Experts recommend using tools such as a carabiner, as it requires opposable thumbs to unlock. Alternatively, a weather-proof lock can be employed.
Whatever you choose to secure your coop, it should be checked for damage regularly and cleaned to remove dust, dirt, and other grime.
Tip #3 – Secure roof
In areas where birds of prey are prevalent, it may be beneficial to keep your chickens covered from above as well as below. In the daytime, hawks may attack chickens from above, and at night chickens may fall pray to owls.
Using metal on your roof can help to create a slippery surface, that makes it difficult for predators to grip thus deterring predation. Using hardware mesh to make the roof harder to breakthrough can also be an alternative tactic.
Tip #4 – Training
One way to ensure you don’t have any stray chickens wandering around outside the coop at night is to train them to always come in the evening. A simple and effective way to do this is to always feed your chickens just before you lock the gates for the night. Do this at the same time each night and your chickens will soon come to learn that this time of night means food and so to head back to the coop.
After feeding, food should be stored in an airtight container to prevent attracting the attention of other animals. Spills and leftover food should be cleaned up quickly.
Tip #5 – Motion sensor lighting
If possible, it may be useful to fit motion sensor lighting around the coop. Many predators, such as raccoons or foxes, will only hunt in the dead of night, and so the presence of lights can deter them. Only the bravest of hunters will risk venturing out into bright light!
Equally, rats who may wish to raid your coop for eggs will not wish to do so when exposed in bright light.
Lights can also alert you to the presence of predators, and you can also get lights that will send an alert to your phone when activated.
Tip #6 – Location of the coop
When placing your chicken coop, location is everything! Try to place your chicken coop as far away from any major trees or hedgerows. Where possible, grass should be mowed around the coop, as this will deter nervous predators as they won’t wish to expose themselves.