Keeping chickens on your farm or in your backyard is an amazing experience. Unfortunately, this amazing experience also attracts unwanted predators. You may find that predators such as raccoons, foxes and hawks think your chickens are pretty amazing, too. They just have a different reason for thinking that they are amazing!
Predators Love Chickens
It's no secret that chickens aren't the smartest of the livestock animals. They tend to fall on the less-intelligent end of the spectrum. Because of that, they are an easy meal for predators. If predators find out that you have chickens (and they will), then you'll want to make sure that your flock is safe and secure.
Raccoons will try to catch your birds at night while they are roosting. Raccoons are nocturnal and will do most of their hunting and scavenging overnight. Chickens that are roosting don't move and rarely try to flee or fight if they are grabbed. Putting roosting chickens and hungry night-time predators together and you're in for disaster. Raccoons will take 1-2 chickens per night and drag them back home.
During the day, you'll need to make sure that foxes and hawks don't get your chickens. These predators are bolder and will come out in all hours of the day to get to your chickens. Foxes are wary of humans and you may not see them taking your chickens. They are fast and intelligent and will take numerous birds in a day and you might not even realize it. Hawks will try to take birds even if you're out with your chickens. Hawks are more likely to take smaller birds but don't be surprised if they try to take chickens that are bigger than them. They will fly off with any birds that they can.
Opossums and skunks are less likely to come after your chickens. These predators are usually more interested in the eggs inside of the coop than the birds themselves. Snakes can also be found in the chicken coop trying to make an easy meal of chicken eggs. So how do you make sure that your chickens are safe?
If You Have Chickens, You Need a Coop
There isn't a better way to take care of your chickens than to provide them with a coop.
The ideal coop can be completely closed off and secured so that the birds inside of the coop are safe from predators. Your coop needs to provide them with sturdy walls, a sturdy floor and a roof. You should be able to shut your chickens up in the coop at night to prevent predators from getting to them.
The run that is attached to the coop should also be sturdy and predator-proof. Make sure that the run has a solid roof. A tin or shingled roof works great to weather-proof the run and keep predators at bay. The sides of the run can be put together with chicken wire. Make sure that the wire is tight and free of holes. Even the smallest tear in the fencing can provide predators the chance they need to get into the coop. Make sure that the walls go completely from the ground to the roof. Don't leave open gaps where something could squeeze in. You may want to bury the walls of the coop into the ground to prevent animals from digging under the walls and breaking into the run under the ground.
You don't have to keep your chickens up 24/7, but be aware of your chickens throughout the day. If you notice a fox or a hawk stalking your chickens, put them in the coop until the predator is dealt with. Always put your chickens up at night to ensure they are safe from nocturnal predators.