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21 Tips: Keeping Your Chickens 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. Today I have put together my favorite 21 tips for keeping your chickens safe from predators and healthy.

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.

21 tips Keeping Your Chickens Safe From Predators infographics

21 Tips for Keeping Your Chickens Safe From Predators

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.

Keeping 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

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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 principle applies. Cover the tractor floor in hardware mesh to prevent predators from 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 swooping 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.
Predators can use even small trivial gaps/holes 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.
It might also surprise you to learn that barn cats will slip into openings and, if hungry enough, they will tag-team and take out your smaller chickens.
It is helpful to prevent predators with savvy climbing skills from entering through the roof of your coop. Lining your coop or even fencing with metal siding will prevent these agile critters from getting a grip on your fencing and climbing to the top and over or thorough to your sleeping hens.
You’d be surprised at how easy it is for small predators, like snakes, to slither into coops and eat your eggs and even your chickens in some cases. Closing off all access holes while allowing for proper ventilation can be a challenge for chicken owners.
The best way to solve this is to have openings for ventilation at the top of the coop and prevent predators from climbing into the holes.

6. Lock Your Ladies Up At Night

Most importantly, remember to lock up your ladies at night!
Use a mechanism that smart creatures can’t open. 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 into the neighborhood, they can and will eat eggs and chicks.
If you see rats during the daytime, you likely have a serious problem.
Note: Rats dislike daylight, so only those 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 be relocated to another area if necessary, although snakes 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 from attacking.
The light will turn on when it detects any motion near the coop. They can also modify them to send you an alarm when the lights are activated.
Most predators will run away from the spotlight.

Keeping Your Chickens

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.
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 start a fire accidentally!

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 roaming, they can run underneath these safety shelters to keep them covered.

14. Get Roosters

There are usually restrictions on having roosters within town and city limits – 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: Ensure 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 a predator!

Keeping Your Chickens

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 keep the predators at bay. Sometimes the biggest threats are already in your garden.

16. Avoid Toxic Chemicals

Weedkillers 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. It would help if you disposed of any dead animals you find somewhere they can’t access them.
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 that 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. The 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 several 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.

72 thoughts on “21 Tips: Keeping Your Chickens Safe From Predators

      1. Thanks. I have only two hensbut they are pets & I love them dearly. Two nights ago there was a racket outside – my dog sounded the alarm. When I opened the back door to see what was going on Polly literally flew into the house & my arms. She was a mess but not hurt THANKFULLY. I COULDN’T find my second girl. A Mousse ,the d of was determined to find the meanie but no luck. Yesterday around noon I was watering , out came Mop!!! She had been hiding!!! I was so glad to see her. They are getting extra crickets , mealy worms!!
        I am sure it was a juvenile racoon that attacked them & I will fix him!!! Have read that cayenne pepper is a deterrent.

        1. Thank you for being kind to the young raccoon that tried to make a meal out of your two precious chickens. Having pepper deter him is much better than killing him! They cant help what they are…

      2. How do you keep stray cats away? I just recently had a 7 week old chicken get caught by a stray cat. My dog is kind of a guard dog, but we can’t let her out all the time. Because a cat got to one of our chickens, we have to keep them in the coop when we are not there. They have a good sized cage around the coop, which we used to let them out in during the day. I would let our chickens out, but I am still afraid. Please give me some tips ??

  1. 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 🙂 )

    1. A guard dog is definitely the best way to keep the raccoons away!
      Fingers crossed your dad gets you one 🙂

  2. 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?

    1. 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…

  3. 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. 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?

    1. Hi Judi,
      Sorry to hear about your loss. Have you considered placing a roof on your fence with chicken wire?

    2. I’m sure this very informative, thoughtful article has saved many people from wasted time, troubles and money.
      Many thanks, James

  5. 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.

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

      1. We are starting on a chicken journey ourselves. I’ve been watching videos and reading every article I can find. Pertaining to Victoria’s question, we are getting an automatic chicken door. That way if you can not be home to get them in the coop, they can go in on their own and the door will automatically close itself blocking preditors out. Most chickens will put themselves to bed at sunset. If they don’t do it on their own, they can be trained to go in at a certain time. I’m no pro at this, but I’ve listened to several people who have had chickens for a few years and got my info from them.

  6. 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?

    1. 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,

  7. 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. 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

    1. I tried the rooster. I now have no hens and a rooster that ran for cover and never protected any of my 10 hens. He was a rescue rooster mixed breed, half barred rock. I would recomend finding a more agressive breed.

  9. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

  12. 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 ?

  13. Thank you for this well written and accurate info. These are great things to know about caring for a flock. That said we have a large free range flock and are having repetitive trouble with a hawk. We have an electric fence, plenty of cover/shelter and 5 roosters yet it touched down twice in the front yard this morning. It’s a small hawk but it’s harassing the flocks peace on a daily basis. We are going to do the CD idea today.

  14. All of these are great tips. The problem we’ve run into is that people around our home let their dogs roam free, and we don’t have a fence around our rather large property, nor can we afford one. Today, in broad daylight, we lost 11 of our 21 chooks. I am heartbroken. 🙁

    1. I don’t know about where you live but where I live it is illegal for a dog to kill livestock. We are allowed to shoot the dog. If I had this happen I would try to catch the dog the first time or take a picture go show the owner and say I’m just giving you fair warning that if the dog comes on my property again I’m going to shoot it. That being said when it did happen on my property it was my own daughter’s dog. I took it to our local shelter where she was adopted out to a good home and the folks were warned that she could not be around livestock. While I wouldn’t want to shoot anyone’s pet part of being a responsible owner is making sure your pet is not a danger to someone else’s animals.

    2. A little Rock Salt in a shot gun will get the point across to a dog with out killing or seriously injuring the dog. They will generally run from you when seen so if you shoot at the ground right behind them they get the hint.

  15. Hi I have a small flock but the girls are definitely pets I love them they free range during the day I lock them up at night . I have a dog who Kidd’s watches over them . However I lost one of my girls right before dusk to a great horned owl last night . Now I’m scared to let the girls out but thanks to your tip I’m going to hand CD s all over my woods ! I hope this will work . Thank you so much .

  16. Love your information, I’m completing a coop with an attached run. If both are Predator proof is a door required to lock the chickens up at night?
    If so why?

    1. Hi Mark,
      If they are both 100% predator proof then no lock is needed. However I don’t think a coop can be 100% so I’d always use a lock just in case 🙂

      1. The coopwill be locked, and the run will be locked at all times. I guess what I meant to ask was do I need to make a little door to the coop and close it at night and open it in the morning ?
        All of the plans I have seen show a sliding door to close them in for the night. I have also seen automatic doors for this application. I go to work well before sunrise, so my thought process was if the coop and run are secure the coop opening can be open all the time to allow them to roost and come out when they please. Does that make sense? Thanks

        1. Hi Mark,
          Yes, your question makes sense 🙂 I would always have a little entrance door into the coop. Leaving an open hole is a bad idea, because the temperature will be very cold during winter for them.
          Like you said if you’re up too early for them, an automatic coop door will do the trick 🙂

  17. Excellent article, very informative. Predators are an important part of nature, but they need to be looking for their natural prey.
    I know what you mean about weasels, but it isn’t for fun. It’s an instinct run amuck. Chickens in an enclosed space are so easy for them to kill–much easier than groups of natural prey (like grouse or quail), which would scatter.
    They have super-fast metabolisms, need to eat a lot every day to stay alive. Their instincts tell them not to let all this easy prey escape–they can’t comprehend that these are domesticated animals, that aren’t going anywhere. They figure they can come back later and eat more of the ones they killed. It makes sense in their world, not in ours.
    Same reason coyotes may kill a lot of sheep, instead of just one. Not vicious killers. Just trying to survive in a strange new world. Doing their jobs.
    And rats (which weasels also eat) can also be destructive to poultry.
    Again, thanks for showing how to deter predators without shooting, trapping, or poisoning them. Great work.

  18. Thank you for all your very helpful guidance. I’m new to chickens and currently have 3 12 old Sussex and 3 more 12 week old Easter Eggers, all hens, so far!
    My girls have been living in a large run with their own coop, separated from bigger girls by dividers.
    This past week end, we moved my 6 girls into their own large run, 10×20, along with the coop they used before. They seem to be enjoying it, but have started dropping feathers, lots of feathers. Big wing feathers, little fluffy feathers, you name it.
    What could be going on? There’s no fighting, the new run is about 100ft from the old one, they have the same food and their water is kept clean.
    Thanks for your help.

    1. I had the same thing happen. Same circumstances as well. I’d just moved my first group of babies outside when they started dropping feathers. About lost my mind. Then found out that chicks go through a “juvenile molt” at 12-16 weeks. It’s not as intense at the ones the adults experience. I currently have 5 doingvthat right now.

  19. We have a problem with hawks locally called chicken hawks. The thing is it’s mainly the young hawks starting out. The chickens are easy targets compared to wildlife but while they can kill the chicken they can’t carry it off. Nobody wins.

  20. I use 7 ft welded wire fence with 5 ft fence post. That way if something is climbing it, it starts bending when they get up to the top,animal gets scared and falls off.Also in winter I use a oil radiator from menards that cant start a fire keep it on low just to keep temp.around 35..I dont have shade so I installed a 5,000 btu air cond.set at 85. That way if they get too hot they go in the coop to cool off and they get ice in their water

  21. Great list! Thank you. Only one caveat I would offer (I keep 108 rescue ducks!)…never ever use rat poison. There’s no guarantee you will find a carcass, and any wild animal that eats a poisoned carcass…hawk, owl, etc will die, negating anyone’s efforts to safeguard wildlife and chicken simultaneously! Thanks!

  22. A quick point: using a mirror will NOT start a fire. Not even if you try. Perhaps you’re thinking of a magnifying glass.

  23. What about raising guiennas with your chickens? I’ve read that they will attack and raise a ruckus when what they consider theirs is threatened??
    I’m thinking of raising chickens about 4-6 in addition to 2 guiennas to protect my chickens. Neighbors have had issues with trying to raise chickens due to predators. Live in the country, lots of feral hogs, coons, squirrels, fixed, Hawks etc. Before I get started with any building I’m doing a lot of research.

  24. I’m having a problem with hawks. My hens free range all over the yard. I have a small pen for them to run into when a hawk flies overhead. But the hawk followed them into the pen through the door and broke through the roof and flew out with a hen in it’s claws. I just lost another girl today. I fear that they now consider my house their new diner.

  25. Thank you for the good information. I went a couple years owning chickens before I lost one to a predator, now I seem to have a serial killer raccoon, I’ve lost 3 hens in 3 weeks. I thought our coop was predator proof (buried chicken wire, totally enclosed), but raccoons are crafty and persistent. I could see where he tried to get in all around the enclosure until he found a vulnerability. In that first year without an incident, we had a rooster. He was mean to us, but I guess he was mean to predators, too. Your comment about “chicken wire keeps chickens in, but hard wire mesh keeps predators out” hit home for me. We will be reinforcing with hard wire this weekend. Also maybe looking for a rooster.

  26. This information has been very helpful. I do have a question about cleaning the coop though…what’s required to clean the coop weekly? I read on another blog to clean the coop once or twice per year. Is that a different level of cleaning? Do I need to clean out all the composting material every week?

    1. I’ve also saw the videos on composting the bedding and only cleaning it out once or twice a year. However, my understanding is that you need to stir or turn the bedding weekly and add fresh bedding to it. If it begins to get wet or smell like ammonia, then it is time to clean it totally out and start over regardless of how long or recent it’s been since the last cleaning. Hope this helps some, I’m new to all this too.

  27. I have a problem with foxes, they are just next door to our house.We put concrete under our fence and they can’t dig under,It has really helped.

  28. We just got two chicks a few weeks ago that are almost ready to go into their coop outside. These chicks are deeply loved by us and our children. We live in a suburban neighborhood in AZ and there are two cats next door, and owls and hawks also flying around. They roam the yard every day, but I’m mostly worried about the cats. Any way to deter the cats while keeping on good terms with our awesome, animal-loving neighbor?

  29. Knowledge is key to a healthy flock. Learn about the different body parts of your chickens, how feathers work, how eggs are laid, and much, much more!

  30. Thanks for the CD tip.
    We free ranged a small flock of 20 or so mixed breed girls for 8 years with no incident. They always had a great Pyrenees and a couple of roosters with them. Slept in an unlocked pen with in and out capabilities 24/7. Our 5 acres was made up 1-2 acres of pasture surrounded entirely by woods.
    Recently we moved to a 4 acre property that is not as wooded with more open pasture area. We have now lost 8 2-3 month old pullets in just under 3 months. We have witnessed 2 of the attacks and are sure its a hawk. Hope the CD trick works.

  31. Finally, before using any homemade weed killer, make sure that the container is sealed tightly. Once you have found the perfect product for your needs, be sure to keep it stored safely.

  32. 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.

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