Protecting Chickens From Predators: Can You Predator Proof Your Flock?
Do Skunks Kill Chickens? Take Steps to Protect Your Flock
Can you predator proof your flock? Of course, the answer is yes and no. As with most all other issues in life, the question of protecting chickens from predators is relative to the situation. Protecting chickens from predators is a top priority for most poultry keepers, and if you’ve ever had the misfortune of having your flock attacked by some predator, then you know how devastating it can be.
So what do I mean by yes and no? Well, if you live in a suburban or urban area your chances of success are greater. Many areas have restrictions on the number of birds you can have and whether or not you can have a rooster for protection and breeding. Most of these areas have requirements for containment in a yard or at least within the borders of the owner’s property. I’ve seen some of my suburban/urban counterparts with some of the cutest covered chicken yards and coops in all of chickendom. Some of them are lovelier than my home!
Many people have covered chicken runs in urban and suburban settings as a way of protecting chickens from predators. Fenced-in yards or some other kind of protective border is usually required, especially if you’re keeping chickens as pets. I have friends in Georgia who turned the last two stalls of their horse barn into the most amazing chicken yard. They included a closed in coop area, a screened porch area and an outside covered run. It is amazingly functional and dare I say beautiful? Of course, depending on where you’re located, your list of predators will be smaller than your rural counterpart. The challenges faced by each location of chicken keepers varies, but the desire to protect the flock is the same. The pleasure of keeping a flock is undeniably universal.
In rural areas, we face larger threats to our flocks, and protecting chickens from predators is more difficult. Here on our farm we have coyotes, skunks, raccoons, opossums, snakes, bobcats, fox, hawks, eagles, an occasional stray dog, panthers, and wild hogs. We don’t confine our birds; they are free ranged most of the year. We offer protection to them in several ways.
For the rooster yard, where we keep the rooster who is breeding or the “backup” guy, and the breeding coops/yards we provide multiple layers of protection. All of the yards are made with poultry wire all around, but the rooster yard and breeding coops have rabbit wire inside that. We have also had to cut tin, tap it into the ground, and zip-tie it to the wire to keep skunks from digging. Over their yards, we have wire and/or netting. Also, their respective gates have clip locks. Because they are in a confined area, they are more vulnerable since they have limited places to hide and run.
For the flock in general, there is an elevated coop so they can get under it to escape aerial predators, and of course their coop is left open all day for protection and egg laying. They also have a nice stand of trees they can hide under in their yard. When they are free ranged, the dogs are on patrol and the rooster is always on the lookout for danger. We have a rooster, “Red,” who is extremely watchful and sounds the alarm at the least threat. He even responds to the hawks screaming at a distance. You can see him trying to decide if the hawk is coming his way. The flock can also hide under brush, trees, buildings, and sheds.
We have found that having livestock on the farm cuts down on our predator numbers too. When the land beside and behind us was clear cut, we had a sudden influx of predators, but they seemed to move on quickly.
Several years ago, we had the chickens in the fruit orchard for clean-up duty. I can’t remember the circumstance, but for some reason, we were away from the farm when it was time to shut the chicken coop (ours is portable as you can see in the photo). When I made it out there and did my headcount, there were very few in the coop. I found some in the nearby trees and they could not be coaxed down. In the morning, I saw why. They had been invaded by the coyote pack. I lost over 15 birds that night and it was a struggle for several days to get them to trust me that the coop was safe and that I would shut them up on time. Lesson learned the hard way.
The reality is that we will lose some birds to chicken predators. With free ranging and the rural setting we farm in, it is inevitable. Keeping our losses as low as possible is what we strive for. We have not lost a bird to a predator in over 6 months. The last one we lost was to a hawk. Before that, it had been almost a year since we had experienced a loss of poultry life. For us, they are not pets or hobbies, they are part of our sustenance farming practice. We’re raising chickens for eggs, meat, and endless entertainment.
What do you do to when it comes to protecting chickens from predators? What restrictions do you have on you and your flock because of your location? What kind of predators do you have? I am always eager to learn what other poultry keepers do to keep their flocks safe from predators.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack
Originally published in 2015 and regularly vetted for accuracy.