21 Tips: Keeping Your Chickens Healthy And Safe From Predators

21 Tips Keeping Your Chickens Healthy And Safe From Predators

We all love our fluffy, feathered friends and want to do the best for them. If you already have an established flock or haven’t started yet and are still in the planning stages – this article is definitely for you.

Before I got my chickens I spent the better part of a year researching the breed of chicken I wanted, how to house them and how to keep them safe and healthy.

I was called overly obsessive at times, but so far my efforts have paid off dividends as my girls are healthy and happy and we haven’t had any issues with predators in 5 years.

Today I have put together my favorite 21 tips for keeping your chickens safe from predators and healthy.

Coop Defenses

Protecting your flock from predators starts with the coop.

Whether you buy it pre-made or build the coop yourself, there are several simple things you can do to make it safer for your chickens.

1. Know The Enemy

First of all you, need to be aware of likely predators in your area: foxes, hawks, owls, coyotes, raccoons and possums tend to be the most common.

If you know which predators are likely to attack you can create effective defenses to stop them.

Some of these predators are very smart, others opportunists. Each can be deterred by simple backyard security.

2. Bury Chicken Wire

If you are constructing a run, it’s important to remember that many predators will try to dig under the run to attack your girls.

One thing to remember: chicken wire will keep chickens in; hardware mesh will keep predators out.

A determined, hungry animal can and will break through chicken wire.

When building your run, make sure you bury hardware mesh at least 2 feet deep around the compound- 4 feet deep would be ideal.

Chicken Coop Buried Chicken Wire

Dig a trench about 6 inches deep and 3 inches wide and bury the hardware mesh to create an underground security perimeter.

This will deter most predators from digging.

If you are using a chicken tractor instead of a run, the same principal applies. Cover the floor of the tractor in hardware mesh to prevent predators digging their way to your chickens.

Note: Occasionally when chickens stand on wire floors in chicken tractors for long periods of time their feet can get cut, so check their feet regularly for cuts or sores.

3. Cover Their Coop

If you live in an area with lots of hawks and owls you will need to place a cover over your run.

You can use chicken wire to cover your run- this still provides your chickens with visibility but stops any air-bound predators swopping down and attacking your flock.

If you want your birds to have some shade, as well as protection, you could use a tarp sheet instead of chicken wire.

4. Increase Visibility

If you are fortunate enough to have a large garden, make sure you cut down any tall grass, bush or overgrown areas within 50-75 feet of your coop.

The less cover a predator has, the more vulnerable they are at being seen before attacking.

This with thwart less confident predators, as they won’t risk exposing themselves to attack.

5. Block Any Access Holes

Make sure you regularly check your coop for any access holes.

Even small trivial gaps/holes can be used by predators to gain access to the coop- a weasel can squeeze through a ½ inch hole.

You do not want a weasel in your coop.

A weasel will kill seemingly for the fun of it and can kill a moderate size flock in a night.

Remember to check your coop at least monthly for signs of attempted entry and reinforce those areas.

6. Lock Your Ladies Up At Night

Most importantly, remember to lock up your ladies at night!

Use a mechanism that can’t be opened by smart creatures. Raccoons are notoriously intelligent and they can open simple locks & bolts.

I like to use a Carabiner because it requires opposable thumbs to use.

Using Carabiner To Keep Chickens Safe

Also remember to use a padlock to keep out the ultimate predator – man.

Unfortunately several of my friends have had their chickens stolen either for dinner, or because it’s a rare breed.

I use three locks on my coop – two on the entrance door and a separate lock for the ‘pop’ door.

7. Check Your Biosecurity

Make sure you clean up your pen in the evening after your chickens have gone to roost- pay special attention to any scraps and food lying around.

We may not think of rats as predators, but they are attracted by leftover food. Once they have moved in to the neighborhood, they can and will eat eggs and chicks.

If you see rats during the daytime, it’s likely you have a serious problem.

Note: Rats dislike daylight so only the ones lower in the hierarchy will risk a daylight raid.

8. Be Alert For Snakes

Check your coop daily for snakes. Black, rat and corn snakes will pilfer eggs and on occasion, small chicks. They can simply be re-located to another area if necessary, although snakes do help keep down the vermin.

Snake In Birds Nest

If you find that certain snakes keep returning to your coop, you will need to capture them and relocate them elsewhere.

9. Collect Eggs Daily

A lot of predators will only break into your coop to get eggs.

If you make sure to collect your eggs frequently during the day you will deter many predators- especially rats and snakes!

10. Fit Motion Sensor Lighting

Predators such as raccoons will only attack in the dark at night.

You can fit solar powered motion-detection lights to your coop to stop predators attacking.

The light will turn on when it detects any motion near the coop. They can also be modified to send you an alarm when the lights are activated.

Most predators will simply run away from the spotlight.

Free Ranging Defense

Whilst it’s relatively easy to secure a chicken coop and run, what do you do when your chickens are free-range?

Keeping free range chickens safe is hard but not impossible if you follow the tips below.

11. Hang Your Old CDs

If you have free ranging hens it can be more difficult to protect them against birds of prey.

One effective way I’ve found is to hang unwanted CDs from trees, posts etc.

Using CD To Protect Chicken From Predator
Using CD To Protect Chicken From Predator Mike

The reflection of the sun from the CD will deter them. You can also use pie pans, disco balls – anything that will reflect light.

Note: Do not use mirrors; you don’t want to accidentally start a fire!

12. Use Electric Fences

If your chickens are free-ranging you can erect an electric fence around the perimeter to keep predators away.

They are fairly inexpensive and easy to install.

I don’t personally use electric fences, but people I know who have them swear by them.

13. Install Safety Shelters

Sometimes with birds of prey they can get extremely desperate and will attack no matter what.

Make a couple of safety shelters for your birds to run into. You can use a 55 gallon plastic drum cut lengthways or a wooden pallet perched on blocks.

Safety Chicken Shelter

If your chickens get caught out whilst they are roaming they can run underneath these safety shelters to keep covered.

14. Get Roosters

Within town and city limits there are usually restrictions on having roosters – they can be a noisy pest to your neighbors.

Establishing The Pecking Order

There aren’t too many folks who like to be woken up at the crack of dawn by a rooster crowing his head off!

However, if you live in the country it’s usually ok.

A good rooster will protect his ladies and will give his life to preserve theirs.

Note: Make sure to research the breed of rooster you want thoroughly before you jump in and get one.

15. Use Guard Dogs

A guard dog does the same job as a rooster – only better.

Dogs can range further away from the flock and the scent of a dog is very disturbing to most predators, so they will likely leave your flock in peace.

Make sure your dog is good with your chickens before you leave them together unattended. You don’t want your guard dog turning into the predator!

Hygiene and Cleanliness

Chickens are inquisitive creatures. They love to investigate new things and this can get them into trouble! The following tips will help you be more aware of potential hazards to your flock.

To keep your chickens safe you need to do more than just keep the predators at bay. Sometimes the biggest threats are already in your garden.

16. Avoid Toxic Chemicals

Weed killer and other commonly used garden chemicals (Insect Baits/Traps etc.) can be accidentally ingested by chickens.

As with small children, keep your flock away from any area of your garden which you may have sprayed or treated. Also keep the chemical bottles well away from your girls.

If your chickens do ingest any toxic chemical call your vet immediately.

17. Botulism

For those of you that haven’t heard of the term Botulism before, it’s a “rare poisoning caused by toxins”.

If you use poison to keep the rodent population in check, be aware your chickens can be poisoned by pecking at the carcass. You should dispose of any dead animals you find somewhere they can’t be accessed.

Botulism can also be caused by fouled drinking water (usually by ducks). If you keep ducks, make sure the chickens don’t make a habit of drinking water which the ducks have pooped in.

18. Clean Their Feeders

Following on from Botulism you need to keep food and water dishes clean.

I use a 1:10 bleach solution weekly in all my feeders and drinkers.

19. Keep Their Feed Fresh

Ensure your feed is fresh and not moldy.

Keep it stored in waterproof containers – plastic totes, garbage bins or something similar. Moldy feed can and does kill chickens, so make sure the lid for your containers is airtight also.

20. Keep Their Coop Tidy

A dirty coop not only attracts flies but can cause a number of health issues for your birds.

For instance high levels of ammonia can cause blindness and respiratory issues. I normally clean my coop once a week and occasionally more during winter. A good test is if you can smell ammonia in your coop – cleaning is overdue!

21. Ensure Regular Health Checks

Last but by no means least is regular health checks.

Try to check your birds visually every day.

Included in your visual health check should be a vent check. They can get matted and poopy back there- this creates a perfect environment for flystrike.

Cleaning Chicken Vent
Checking Chicken’s Vent

If it’s dirty – clean it.

Go gently using soap and water. Sit the bird in the warm water and try to soak off the matted area. You may have to trim some feathers.

These 21 tips will definitely help keep your chickens healthy and the predators at bay!

Let us know your favorite health tip in the comments below.

Comments

  1. Elsie says

    Thank you so much for this! its helped us a lot! there have been a couple times when raccoons have ended up in our backyard (it was before we got our chickens, but it still worries me.) There is also the possibility that my dad could be getting us a guard dog for the chickens because there a lot stronger than rosters. (We have roosters but I would rather not loose either of them 🙂 )

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      A guard dog is definitely the best way to keep the raccoons away!

      Fingers crossed your dad gets you one 🙂

  2. Kathleen Koppenhaver says

    very informative information. I am new to this venture and am having the time of my life. My girls follow me when I am outside. They come up on my porch and feed out of my hand. My one Bantam rooster is a sweetheart. I have hear that thyme is good in their water. What do you think?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Kathleen,

      I’m so happy you’re enjoying your new chickens!

      I wouldn’t recommend it in water no- but you can use it in their nesting box as an insect repellant…

      Claire

  3. Kim Clark says

    Love all your information, we are just getting our chicken run ready for our little flock. Taken on a few of your tips and plan to use them thanks.

  4. Judi Wigren-Slack says

    Great tips. Thanks. We do everything you suggest but have a problem with day time bobcat attacks. He got another hen yesterday. We electrified the top wire of our 7′ fence ( where they freerange all day) but it doesn’t matter. he can’t carry the hen out, too heavy we assume, so leaves the poorl dead girl inside the fence. Do you think a seated scarecrow would work? We’ve lost 7 girls in three years, most to bobcats, two to a Mt. lion, all during daylight. We have 2 dogs but they are never outside when this happens. Can u give any advise please?

  5. R. Victoria says

    Thank you for this helpful article! I too and doing allot of research before obtaining my chickens as it is only fair to them. When you note to lock up the chickens every night, do you mean in the general kennel/run area or actually inside the coop? I’m going to use a dog run as the general area (with reinforcements of course) along with an actual coop house. Will they be safe in the general kennel/run area, because I am not home every single night to place them in the coop structure.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Victoria,

      You need to lock them in the actual coop, the run/kennel area is not safe overnight.

      Claire

  6. Kay says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve had chickens for a few months now, a pretty small flock kept for fun! We’ve had one incident with a hawk, but our dogs chased it off before any of our girls could be in trouble. We are in the city, and they are free ranged hens.. Do you have any other tips for keeping birds of prey of our flock?

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Kay,

      My favorite is to use string on top of the run and also place cds in the trees to reflect light.

      Hope this helps,

      Claire

  7. G harrison says

    While not being the most humane way of making your girls safe, my grandfather always had a large flock and a large chicken coop. He would always go out before dark and they will greet him in the coop and he would close the chicken door then. But he showed me what he did to stop diggers from getting into the coop. We had a lot of foxes and raccoons in south Louisiana. So he dug a trench around the whole chicken coop about 4 inches deep, and filled it with broke glass. When the critter tried to dig around the coop, they would cut their paws/feet, and go away. This worked for over 20 years that I know of, but it does cause concerns to some. From what I gathered, years ago this was a cheap and easy way to get the job done. You can collect the glass for free, and a little labor and the job is done. If you ever go to New Orleans, which uses this practice still today on top of walls around their yards and gardens to keep pigeons off and people from sitting on their property as walls. This might not be for everyone, but I much rather see a fox running off with a cut foot, rather than finding a pile of feathers.

  8. Chris says

    Dear Claire,I take to heart everything you write.Iam presently concerned about Hawk deterants so We will hang cd’s in our yard .I do like the cracked glass idea for future problems if they occur.Thanks for the wise words.Chris in Atlanta

  9. Kathy says

    Thanks for your article. We free range and put them in the coop at sunset. But we are having a big fox problem right now! We have lost eleven chickens in the past week. Keeping the girls in the coop today and trying to live trap the fox.

  10. Rose says

    How many roosters do you dare get? Dont they fight with eachother? I am thinking of getting a small flock of chics, maybe 6 or 8

  11. Amanda says

    I’m curious about an automatic door. I definitely want one and will be securing it to the outside of the coop like all the videos & demonstrations show….but isn’t that leaving my coop open to predators? Couldn’t raccoons easily slide up that door on their own…putting a lock on it defeats the purpose of an automatic door.

    • The Happy Chicken Coop says

      Hi Amanda,

      It depends on the style of the automatic door you choose. With most of the modern automatic doors though it’s almost impossible to slide the door up without unlocking it first. And the lock is built into the door and only released at a set time.

      Claire

  12. EmilyJo says

    I am very interested in starting a small flock. We have recently moved to a little country place. However in the winter we will get snow. I want to free range. What to do when there is a couple feet of snow ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *