Pets & Animals | 9 August 2016Predator Prevention: Protect Your Chickens Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Protection from predators is just as important to your chickens as shelter is—perhaps more so. While you would never let a fox guard your hen house, will one be able to sneak in? Your coop and its run (and any additional fencing) act as your chickens’ primary protection from sneaky critters who would like nothing better than to grab a quick chicken snack. Authors Dan and Samantha Johnson take a look as some helpful methods for preventing predators’ access to your flock in How to Build Chicken Coops. So, what are the best ways to deal with a predator problem? While it’s virtually impossible for you to maintain an environment that is 100-percent safe for your chickens all the time, you can take specific steps to help lower and eliminate the danger of predator attack. Cooping your chickens at night will ensure their safety, as most predators that hunt are nocturnal. Photo credit: How to Build Chicken Coops Put your chickens in at night. Many predators hunt at night; it only makes sense to protect your flock by putting the coop to use during the nocturnal hours. Even if free ranging is important to you, allowing your chickens to go unprotected through the night will almost always lead to trouble. Bury the fence several inches. To prevent animals from gaining unwanted access to your coop by digging under the run, bury the wire at least several inches underground; this can help keep out domestic dogs, foxes, coyotes, and even small animals such as weasels and opossums. Burying wire is one of the best ways to deter predators from accessing the interior of your coop or runs, but another terrific idea is to place your coop over brick pavers at a width of about 18 inches. When the predator tries to dig, they won’t find easy access and will typically give up. Photo credit: How to Build Chicken Coops Use strong mesh for fencing—not chicken wire. Chicken wire is best put to use as a method of controlling and maneuvering the chickens themselves—not as the prime barrier between the flock and the predators. Larger predators can tear chicken wire and rip it down; smaller predators (especially rats) can “weasel” their way through small openings. Instead, opt for stronger wire mesh, such as hardware cloth, with smaller openings. Photo credit: How to Build Chicken Coops Keep latches locked. Some predators—raccoons in particular—are extremely clever about opening gate latches, or working a gate until it gives way. For these reasons, gate integrity is a prime issue for the chicken owner. In addition to strong hinges, it’s important to make sure that the gate fits snugly into the frame and that there are no gaps. But perhaps most important of all is to be sure that the gate latches are locked in a critter-proof manner. Snaps and padlocks—even something as simple as a piece of twisted wire!—can go a long way toward preventing your lovely chickens from falling into the paws of a greedy raccoon. Once you have a gate with a sturdy lock, take steps to establish an evening coop-locking schedule and chicken head count—doing this at a regular time each night will help ensure that the coop is not inadvertently left open overnight. Livestock guardian dogs such as this great Pyrenees provide protection and added safety for your chickens and other livestock. Photo credit: How to Build Chicken Coops Get a guard dog. While it’s true that your chicken coop is your number one defense against predators, a guard dog that is properly trained can be a great help in deterring predators as well. If your dog has been introduced to the idea that chickens are not playthings but rather something in need of protection, it can be another solution for preventing attacks from ground-based animals such as foxes, coyotes, raccoons, weasels, and skunks. In many cases, simply the presence of a dog on your property will be enough to discourage such predators. Be aware, however, that you do not want your dog to actually tangle with any of these animals—in addition to the potential injuries your dog could incur, wild animals potentially carry diseases, such as rabies. The intimidating presence of the dog—not physical contact with the predators—is what you’re after. Discourage predatory birds with shiny objects. Some people have had good success deterring eagles and hawks by hanging and arranging shiny objects (have any old CDs around?) on and near the coop. The predators don’t seem to like the objects and it certainly has the advantage of being an inexpensive option. Hawks are a common predator of chickens, and they’ll think nothing of stealing your hens. Maintaining a good roof on your coop and runs will deter most large bird predators. Photo credit: How to Build Chicken Coops Cover the top of your run with chicken wire/mesh. If predatory birds are an issue in your area, you may want to consider protecting your chickens from aerial attacks by enclosing the top of their run with some sort of wire mesh. Avoid leaving predator-attracting items lying around. Easily accessible garbage, pet food, and even potential critter housing (piles of wood or other materials) should be avoided whenever possible, as these items attract wild animals. Even small predators can cause headaches for you and your chickens later on, so try not to inadvertently encourage their presence. Set traps. Rats, of course, can be trapped with rattraps, and some of the other smaller predators (raccoons, opossums, etc.) can be trapped live and perhaps relocated (see the “Protect Yourself ” sidebar later in this chapter). Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: How to Build Chicken Coops: Plan, customize, and build the perfect home for your flock, brood, or clutch. Backed by the National FFA Organization, our acclaimed series of How to Raise guides has helped countless first-time animal owners confidently care for their new companions. How to Build Chicken Coops provides complete, thorough, and easy-to-follow instructions on building a coop. More importantly, it provides answers—so chicken owners don’t have to waste time searching online for advice. If you are involved in the FFA, interested in starting an urban or suburban hobby farm at home, or just curious about the country living or urban farming lifestyle, raising chickens is a great way to get started without a substantial investment of time or money. Building your own coop allows you to customize it to meet your needs—and it will save you money too! How to Build Chicken Coops is not just a collection of plans, but a compendium of the background and insider information for chicken owners. How much space will you need? What is dust bathing? How many nest boxes and windows will your coop need? How much will it cost? What steps do you need to take to keep your chickens safe from predators? All of these questions, and many more, are answered in How to Build Chicken Coops. This book takes the guesswork out of building a coop that’s just right for your flock of chickens. Samantha Johnson (Phelps, Wisconsin) and her brother, Daniel, have collaborated on a number of rural-living guidebooks, including How to Raise Rabbits and Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping. Both are 4-H alumni and live on the family farm, Fox Hill Farm, in far northern Wisconsin. Samantha is a certified horse show judge and raises purebred Welsh Mountain ponies and Dutch, Holland Lop, and Netherland Dwarf rabbits. Daniel Johnson is a professional photographer who specializes in imagery of farm life. He is the author of the 4-H Guide to Digital Photography and the coauthor of The Field Guide to Horses. He lives on a family-owned horse farm in Phelps, Wisconsin, called Fox Hill Farm. Daniel’s photography can be found at Fox Hill Photo. (www.foxhillphoto.com). Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.