30 Ways of Predator-Proofing a Chicken Coop
There are many ways you can keep your chickens safe from predators, depending on the space you have, what predators you’re dealing with and how you keep your chickens. Read on to know the 411 on predator-proofing a chicken coop.
- Preventative measures
- Building related predator proof tips
- Introduce some Animal Guardians
- Free-Range Predator proof Tactics
- Trick the Predators
- Final Thoughts
The saying “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” holds true when it comes to protecting your chickens.
This section lets you know about the little things you could do to prevent common chicken predators from targeting your flock, even before setting up a whole perimeter security system.
But before we get into this list remember that prevention is much easier than fixing a problem. So first things first, make sure you build a tidy coop (or buy one if you can’t be bothered building), and consider installing an automatic chicken coop door like one of these to make your job easier.
1. Identify the Threat
Before you start predator-proofing, it’s important to know what predators you are dealing with so you can secure your chickens the right way. Each predator will require a different tactic, and the best way to deal with the threats is to know how they hunt and what they are capable of doing.
Some hunt at night, others during the day, observe the animals around to see which are potential threats. You can also identify the predators by looking for tracks. Learn more about the common predators here.
2. Train your chickens
Assuming you already have a coop, train your chickens to return to their coop a few minutes before nightfall. Training chickens is based on a reward system. Use a whistle or a sound that they can associate with getting a treat in a specific place, in this case, their coop. It will take a few days of constant treat giving while making the sound, but eventually you will become a Chicken Piper. Know about the process here.
3. Secure the Feed
Feed that is not stored properly can attract small predators, particularly rats. Although they are small and won’t prey on full grown chickens, they can eat their eggs.
To avoid rats in the coop, secure your feed stash in airtight containers, take out the water containers and clean up the coop of unfinished feed. It may be extra work, but it will be worth it to keep those pesky rats out of your coop. Read more about it here.
Related: best auto chicken feeders
4. Use a Treadle Feeder
As a follow up to the previous item, you may want to build a treadle feeder. It keeps the feed easily accessible to chickens but also contained, so it doesn’t scatter. How does it work? Basically, the chickens step onto a platform and their weight triggers a mechanism that opens a hatch where the feed is contained. After they eat, they step off and the lld closes. It’s unlikely that chickens make a mess with this process, so it also means less clean up for you. Build one now.
5. Collect Eggs Regularly
Believe it or not, chickens themselves can be their own predator, preying on their own eggs. There are several reasons for this, ranging from calcium deficiency (1) to plain boredom. Overcrowding can also be a factor, with accidental breakages leading to them eating it and eventually continuing to do it once they discover they can eat the eggs. Although it is not innate for them to start this bad habit, it is definitely preventable. Just be sure to check the nests at least twice a day and collect eggs as you see them, especially before nightfall. Learn more here.
6. Install Motion Sensitive Lights
To deter predators from getting near the coop at night, you may want to install motion sensitive lights. Predators will be taken aback by the light and will at least hesitate moving forward. Do note that this deterrent may not always work since the predators can get used to the lights and learn that nothing else will happen. To make this tactic work, go outside when the lights go on and chase them away! They will associate the light with people going out and may not attempt it anymore after a while. Check out the tactic here.
Your coop is the last line of defense against predators. It should be secure yet still comfortable for your chickens to live in. Read on what to consider when building a coop and how to improve your existing coop.
If you’re on the lookout for a new chicken coop kit, we’ve reviewed the best ones currently available in the market here.
7. Location, Location, Location
As with building anything, location is the first thing you have to consider. For chicken coops, you want to build them in open spaces. You may have watched enough nature shows to know that predators like to hide and creep up on their prey. That said, building the coop in an open space eliminates the ambush factor of the hunt. Also, consider building the coop close to your house, in view from a window, so it’s easy to keep an eye on the birds. Read about it here.
8. Choose the Appropriate Flooring
Although not all coops require flooring, it is something you may want to consider if you are dealing with predators, specifically those that dig. Even if you have a fence around your coop, some predators can still dig under and get to the chickens. There are several options for flooring, depending on the permanence of your coop, your budget, and durability. Also consider that it should be easy for you to clean and will be comfortable for your chickens, afterall, they are the ones using it. Know your options here.
9. Mesh Flooring For Tractors
Speaking of flooring, if you are building a tractor, you will definitely want to put some kind of flooring, as the space is limited for chickens to move around if ever a predator does get in. Another thing you can do is elevate the tractor to prevent direct contact from the ground. This, combined with a mesh flooring would greatly increase protection. This featured coop has a lot of unique features of how to predator-proof a tractor. Check out the build here.
10. Set Up the Roofing
Ground predators are not the only predators you have to worry about getting your chickens. Familiarise yourself with the birds of prey in your area. Hawks and eagles usually hunt during the day, while owls hunt at night. They are particularly dangerous to free ranging chickens (2). To secure your chickens, put a roof on the coop and run with aviary netting. For extra measure, use a more structured roofing. Take your pick here.
11. Elevate the Coop
Raising the coop already provides protection for your chickens from burrowing animals. It also prevents moisture build-up and wood rot that can create access points into the coop if not detected right away. The thing to consider with an elevated coop would be to have solid flooring so that the predators can’t break in. If your coop has an under hatch with a ladder, it would be best to secure it with bolts and latches, especially at night. Know more here.
12. Use Hardware Cloth
Although chicken wire is the common choice for chicken coops, a lot of chicken keepers say that they prefer hardware cloth. Chicken cloth is mentioned to be good for keeping chickens in, but not keeping predators out. This may be due to the chicken wire being quite flimsy and easy to tear into, especially for bigger predators like foxes. Hardware cloth on the other hand is said to be stronger and has less gaps that predators can use to break into. Check the difference here.
13. Patch Up the Holes
Predators aren’t always big. They can be small, but very clever and sneaky. Rodents and snakes are some examples. Rats have a tendency to chew through wood, making their own way into the coop, getting leftover feed and even targeting eggs. Snakes can take advantage of small cracks or push through rotten wood, slithering into the coop and getting your eggs. The point here is to make sure you check your coop regularly for damage or weak points that these sneaky pests can take advantage of. Know more here.
14. Make Anti-Digger Skirts
Outsmart those sly foxes and raccoons by installing a hardware cloth skirt around the perimeter of your coop and run. However clever these animals are, they do get tired and know when to stop trying. The strong mesh is to be stapled to the floor framing and covered with dirt. Since the predators don’t see it, they will still try to dig, but will eventually stop and leave when they realise there is a formidable barrier. This method is ideal for coops built for moving. Learn to build it here.
15. Build a Mesh Trench
A variation of the skirt mentioned in the previous item, the mesh trench is ideal for a more permanent coop. The purpose is the same, to prevent digging predators from entering the chicken house. The difference is the mesh wall is installed perpendicular to and buried under the ground. For this method, it is advisable that the mesh be buried about a metre deep. Naturally, the mesh trench is built when making the foundations of the coop. Check out the DIY set up here.
16. Double Lock the Coop
Raccoons, the bandits of the night. Aside from being really smart, they have another thing going for them, the ability to figure out how latches work. These masked critters have gotten into so many coops to steal eggs, learning how to unlock things in the process. You can put over them by using a combination of locking mechanisms, preferably with one requiring opposable thumbs. This will confuse the raccoons and eventually they will give up. See more here.
17. Treat Pests as Predators
Any other animal or creature that may cause harm to your chickens should be treated as predators and should either be deterred or eradicated. In the case of creepy crawly pests like flies and mites, the latter would be best. Everyone knows that flies are carriers of diseases. To prevent them from breeding in and around your coop, make sure to keep the surroundings clean and dry. Fly traps help solve the problem, but without prevention, the problem will persist. Learn more about pests here.
Introduce some Animal Guardians
Enlisting other animals to help protect your flock is a great move. Get to know the most compatible guard animals to keep with your chickens.
18. Knights in Shining Feathers
Roosters may not hold up much of a chance against big predators, but they are useful as an alarm system. They are alert and have the tendency to be protective of their flock, sometimes even taking on unfamiliar humans or fending off threats to their own death! Nonetheless, we should not underestimate the value of the rooster. Aside from protection, they also fertilise eggs if you do want to start breeding. Get to know the rooster more here.
19. Man’s Best Friend can also be a Chicken’s Best Friend
Dogs are such good companies to have, not only for humans but for other animals as well. There are some dog breeds that are better suited to guarding livestock than others. These guardians tend to be gentle with the animals they are tasked to take care of, but aggressive towards other animal predators. Their heightened senses keep them alert at all times and allow them to sense danger early. When using dogs to protect your flock, it is advisable to let them stay out at night so they can guard them well. See which dog breed suits you here.
20. Guinea Fowl Friends
If you’re looking into adding a few more birds to your flock, you may want to consider getting guinea fowls make for excellent sentries. They are vocal birds who are also quite fearsome. Another thing we learned from nature shows is that predators rely on stealth in their hunt. Once discovered early, they usually back off. The guinea fowl’s calls alone are enough to prevent predators from coming closer. In addition to being an alarm system, they are also great at eradicating bugs from the garden. Get to know more about them here.
Free-Range Predator proof Tactics
Let’s face it, even if we have a coop for chickens, the best way to keep them happy is to let them roam around and be normal chickens. After all, no one wants to be cooped up all day everyday. Allowing your young chicks outside for the first time can be stressful, even without the threat of predators!
Here rare some ideas on how to keep your roaming chickens safe outside the coop.
21. Use Protective Plants
If you are free-ranging your chickens during the day, you may want to set up their forage area with some emergency cover in the form of plants. In the wild, chickens have several bushes or shelter options they can run to in case a predator comes. That should also be the case for domestic chickens. Planting some fruit shrubs will not only benefit your chickens but also you! Do note that these chicken shelters can also be used by smaller predators as cover, so better keep your chickens foraging in a well-fenced enclosure with cover inside. Get more ideas here.
22. Build a Chicken Run Obstacle Course
One of the hardest predators to defend free-ranging chickens from is the aerial kind. Birds of prey have a great view of their surroundings and analyse their options for attack. You might ask how then do you keep them from attacking. Well, you first have to know how they hunt. They swoop down, so make sure you counter by adding elements to the coop that prevents them from doing so. You know they have quite a wing span, design spaces with narrow pathways. Get more ideas here.
23. CDs Can Save Chickens
Remember that scene from the movie Stuart Little 2 where the falcon was blinded by the glare from a shining ring? No? Well, the same principle works with CDs and hawks. The aerial predators would be deterred from attacking because the random glares from the hanging CDs throw off their tactics. They probably would avoid flying over your yard or farm at all. This would work with other reflective objects, but using mirrors isn’t such a good idea as they tend to reflect too much light, which may cause a fire. Copy the idea here.
24. Set Up Traps
Sometimes, despite your efforts to deter them, some predators just can’t get a hint and keep trying to get to your chickens. Since I’m hoping you aren’t into the idea of killing the predators, another option would be to set up humane traps for them. There are several kinds depending on the predator you are targeting. The idea is you set them free somewhere far away so they don’t bother your chickens again. Know about trapping here.
25. Use an Electric Fence
I think one of the most effective deterrents for ground predators would be an electric fence. This is also ideal for larger predators like bears. Keep in mind though that setting an electric fence requires the voltage to be quite high since you want to get through the fur of the animal. Although chickens can get shocked too, the shock isn’t enough to hurt them, but they will feel it and learn to keep away from it. This may go without saying, but be reminded to put a warning sign. Set it up here.
Trick the Predators
Now that you know about the predators in your area, it’s time to use their strengths against them. Outsmart the predators by using out of the box tactics they won’t see coming!
26. Scare Them Away
Scarecrows don’t only have to be used to deter crows. They apparently work well to deter hawks and other aerial predators as well. The principle remains the same: predators will be reluctant to attack when they see that humans are around. Another thing you can use is a dummy owl. Knowing that hawks and other birds of prey survey their surroundings before attacking, if they see another predator nearby, in this case already in the yard, they will most likely not attack. Just be sure you move the deterrent around so it looks convincing. Read more here.
27. Mimic Human Presence
Adding to the previous item, human presence is a huge deterrent for predators. Mimicking human presence is a good idea, especially during the night. Leaving a radio on leads animals to think that humans are around. Hanging your work clothes by the door sends off a scent that the predators may interpret as an actual person. Be creative about this, but try to change it up because even if they get fooled once, they may come to learn you are just playing around with them. Get more ideas here.
28. Change the Surroundings
If you don’t want predators going around your coop or yard, make it so they won’t even want to. As mentioned earlier, you may want to keep your yard clear so they have no place to hide. This may be difficult for free-range coops, in which case, you may want to plant shrubs or plants that predators don’t like. Setting up plastic spikes in the borders would pretty much ensure they don’t get in the property in the first place. Learn more here.
29. Play with Smell
Predators hunt with their noses. Use this to your advantage by masking the scent of your chickens or their feed. This would prove especially useful for deterring large predators like bears. If you can keep them away, do it. You don’t want to have to deal with them. A tactic some people use is to hang cloth soaked in vinegar or ammonia around the property. The strong smell distracts them from smelling chickens or feed. Hiding your feed in the garage is also a good idea. Know more here.
30. Predator Pee
We know that in the wild, animals mark their territory by urinating in certain areas. This natural marking system can also be beneficial for you to deter predators. Believe it or not, you can buy predator pee online! The catch with this tactic is to use the pee of the predator species you are trying to keep away. If you have a fox problem, get fox urine. Otherwise, it will not work. It may be odd, but it does seem to work for other chicken keepers. Get more info here.
Despite the many tactics you can use to predator proof your coop, the idea essentially boils down to three concepts:
- Knowing the threat at hand
- Preventing attacks based on what you know about the predator (3) and
- Having a backup method in case deterrents don’t work.
In the end, you want to keep your chickens safe without causing much harm to the predator. After all, they are still living things just trying to survive.
Alex lives in the sustainability capital of Australia (Byron Bay) where the local community thrives and strongly supports self-sufficient living and green tech entrepreneurship. He began Eco Peanut in 2014 with the mission to spread bite sized sustainability advice to the masses.