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Chicken Coop + Run Predator Proofing

Chicken Coop Predator proofing 101: How to keep your chickens safe day and night.



If you have chickens, then there are predators keeping a close eye on your flock. Trust me. Just put up a trail cam pointed at your chicken coop and run and you'll be amazed at the activity you capture.

No matter where you live - be it an urban, suburban or rural setting - there is something lurking that wants to eat your chickens, and whatever it is, it's just waiting for the chance.

Coop and run security should be first and foremost on every chicken keeper's mind. It does take a bit of effort to out think the predators, but it's time (and money) well spent.

When you hear "predators", you likely think of the usual suspects: fox, coyotes, weasels, raccoons, hawks etc. but there are also other creatures that pose a slightly different threat to your chickens. 

Flies, rodents and snakes are all a danger as well. Rats and snakes will eat baby chicks and eggs, and rodents and flies can carry disease. 

So it's vitally important to be sure your chicken coop and run are safe and secure or your flock - day and night.

Chicken Coop + Run Predator Proofing 


Daytime

Free Ranging


Daytime predators of backyard chicken flocks predominantly include hawks and other raptors, fox and dogs. In fact, sadly pet and family dogs are the #1 killers of backyard flocks.

Free ranging your flock should only be done if you either have a specially trained guard dog or other animals who will chase predators away (llamas, donkeys, goats, geese, etc.) or are prepared for losses. 

We normally only free range for a limited time after dinner, just before dusk, and stay outside "supervising" the whole time to try to mitigate the risk from predators.

Even a rooster is no match for a fox or dog and an attack only takes a matter of seconds and can wipe out your entire flock in the blink of an eye.


Enclosed Pen or Run Predator Proofing


An enclosed run is far safer for your flock in which to spend their days. The run needs to be well-built and secure.

Run Fencing


Chicken wire alone is not adequate protection from predators. A far safer fencing choice is chain link or welded wire.  

Another option is to use welded wire fencing along the bottom foot or two and chicken wire above that. 



If the gauge of your run fencing is larger than an inch (if a quarter can slip through easily, then so can a weasel), wrapping the fencing in chicken wire or smaller gauge fencing is a good idea to keep smaller predators such as weasels, mice or snakes out. 

But be aware that a dog, raccoon or fox can chew or rip through chicken wire pretty easily.



The chicken run fencing should also be sunk into the ground at least 8-12" to prevent digging predators and stones or logs set around the perimeter to further work to keep predators out.


Covering on Top of Run


The run should be covered to deter aerial predators. Poultry netting is generally sufficient to cover the run, as long as it is only used for daytime and your chickens are safely locked in their coop at night.  

We ran wire roping lengthwise across the top of our run in Virginia and then laid the poultry netting over it and wired it in place for a fairly inexpensive solution.


If you don't plan on locking your chickens in the coop at night, then the top of the run will need to be welded wire like the sides to keep the chickens safe. Weasels and raccoon can easily scale the side of the pen and get in through the top.

Nighttime


Even still, a pen or chicken run is very hard to completely predator proof against night predators.

Depending on where you live, raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes, bobcats, bears, fisher cats, and weasels could all possibly be lurking after dark. 

Under the cover of darkness and over the course of several hours, predators can manage to break into most runs, so chickens are far safer locked inside a chicken coop at night.


Chicken Coop Predator Proofing

There are several points of entry into any chicken coop. The main door, the smaller chicken door, the windows and any air vents, as well as the lid of exterior nesting boxes.

These points of entry all have to be secure.


Coop Windows and Vents


All the coop windows and vents should have 1/4" or 1/2" welded wire mesh on them to keep even the smallest snake or rat out and to prevent raccoons or others from reaching in to grab your unsuspecting sleeping  chickens.

Staples aren't generally strong enough, so using bolts or screws and washers to attach the wire is far more secure.


Latches and Bolts


Deadbolts and simple latches pose no problem for a determined raccoon, so a latch secured with a carabiner or a spring-loaded eye hook is a better choice for a coop door.

A good rule of thumb is that if a three-year old can't open a latch, then likely a raccoon can't either. This deadbolt is not predator-proof.


Small Chicken Door


An automatic chicken door on the small chicken entrance on the side of the chicken coop is also an added layer of security, shutting either by solar or battery power before dark, in case you forget to lock the coop door.

It only takes one time for you to forget, because you can be pretty sure something is coming around each night to check.

Perimeter Security


Solar predator lights provide another layer of security. Mounted around the perimeter of your run, their blinking red light helps deter nocturnal predators from even trying to breach your run perimeter.



I've had them installed around my run for more than 5 years and not once seen any evidence of a predator even trying to dig under or get through my run fencing.

Last Resorts


Trapping persistent predators might be an option in your area as well, although that will generally only serve to let another predator take over the territory. 

Personally, I am glad that we have coyotes in our area, because (at least so far, knock on wood!) they have kept out the smaller predators like raccoon, weasels and even fox, which are far harder to protect the chickens against and also more likely to be active during the day.

Check with your local animal control officer and think about a live trap like this one. And be sure to check your local laws before shooting or killing a predator so you know what's allowed and what's not.

Combining several layers of security around your coop and run will keep your flock safe and allow you to sleep better, knowing they are not in harm's way.



Your chicken coop and run don't need to look like Fort Knox, but do need to operate like Fort Knox! It should be welcoming to your flock and family, but definitely not welcoming to predators!  

But a bit of paint, some window boxes, some cute decor and pretty landscaping will keep your chicken area from looking like a prison - while still keeping your chickens safe.



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