Protecting Chickens From Predators
Chickens are engaging, productive animals to keep in the backyard. They are also more than just simple livestock. A small flock can produce eggs and meat, of course, but they also work as an effective pest control, property sentries and your family’s entertainment committee.
That’s why it’s so upsetting to find a favorite chicken reduced to a pile of feathers in the hen yard or coop. As you see wildlife near your home, you might be wondering: Do foxes, skunks, or raccoons eat chickens? The answer is yes to all three. In fact, many other predators prey on farm poultry, too. Even snakes will slither through chicken wire to swallow eggs and gobble up chicks.
Protecting your chickens from these predators is an important step for any backyard poultry farmer
Effective Ways to Protect Chickens from Predators
The first step to protect your flock from roaming predators is to recognize that no matter where you live, there’s a predator waiting. Even suburban flocks may be prey for opossums, foxes, and raccoons. If wildlife is hungry enough, they’ll work day and night to get at your chickens.
Protecting chickens from predators starts with building a secure hen yard:
- Make your hen house unappealing to predators. Most predators want some brush or another source of cover in which to hide before they ambush. By keeping the area around your hens clear, you give predators fewer places to conceal themselves.
- Raise your hen house several feet off the ground. Provide ramps so that the chickens can enter and exit the hen house.
- Collect eggs at least twice a day. Don’t give wildlife any reason to visit. Eggs are a major attractant on their own.
- Fence the entire hen yard in. A fence or mesh barrier over the top will keep hawks and owls out of the chicken yard. Use a 1-inch by 2-inch wire mesh or smaller gauge to keep predators out.
- Even if your chickens are free-range, train them to return to the hen house each night so you can keep them safe. Shake a feed container two or three times as you feed your chickens. They will associate the sound with food, and come running when they hear the noise.
If that's not enough to deter predators, a few other steps may be necessary:
- Guard dogs or other livestock can warn you when predators are lurking around your property. Some poultry farmers keep a few guinea hens with their flock as avian early-warning sentries. Guinea hens make a racket if a predator comes near the flock. Guard dogs, if trained to leave chickens alone, are great at keeping foxes away from chickens. Dogs will also chase off coyotes and raccoons.
- Motion-sensitive lights can scare smaller creatures away at night. Activate them after your flock is secured in the hen house. If the lights go on, be ready to charge outside and chase off the predators. Noisemakers and party horns, which can be found in most stores, are great tools for scaring predators without hurting them. Just be sure not to make your alarm too loud or the neighbors may complain.
- If skunks or other predators burrowing under the hen yard fence, you can extend your fencing wire a few inches down into the ground and then a few inches out. To do so, dig a trench around your hen yard and install the wire several inches below ground. Angle it out in an L-shape away from the coop, and bury the wire. As predators dig, they’ll hit the wire and give up.
There are several ways you can address the presence of predators near your chicken house. The humane option is the Havahart® X-Large 1-Door Trap. These strong wire cages prevent fox-sized culprits from escaping and self-harming while durable carrying handles make it safe for you to carry and transport the animal. With the proper trapping, removing, and relocating plan, you will have an effective tool to handle raccoons, foxes and other predators determined to get to your chickens.
Keeping your chickens safe is a vital part of flock management. Fortunately, predators want an easy meal. When you make it difficult for them, they’ll move on to easier pickings.
How Do You Protect Your Chickens?
Do you have any unique methods for protecting your chickens from predators? Tell us in the comments below or visit Havahart® on Facebook and post your ideas and photos. Also, be sure to sign up for the Havahart eNewsletter to receive updates on new products and have informative articles delivered directly to your inbox.
Looking for more guidance on setting our humane animal traps? Contact us online or by phone by calling 1(855) 5-HAVAHART.