Flock Safety: Backyard Chicken Predators

November 22, 2019

Over the years, I’ve written quite a bit about backyard chicken predators, including a few different post on how to best predator-proof your chickens’ home. Meanwhile, emails and questions about chicken predators fill my inbox on a regular basis. Therefore, I thought that it might be time to do a more extensive post on what predators you should be concerned about, how to keep them away and what signs they leave after an attack.

Chicken coop Tillys Nest

Depending on where you live, chicken predators will vary. All too often, predator-proofing is a second thought. For instance, I find people reach out to me after an attack, when in all likelihood, most attacks are preventable except from when your flock is free-ranging. Most importantly, if you allow your flock to free-range, then you accept the risk that you may lose a chicken or two from time to time. On the other hand, I do allow my girls to free-range, but it is always supervised.

Chickens forage for chicken scratch from the safety of their run

Most importantly, backyard chicken predators can be found in the sky, on land and will prey on flocks day and night. Keeping track of predators can be confusion. Consequently, I’ve come up with a simple table to help you navigate the most common backyard chicken predators.

Most Common Backyard Chicken Predators Quick Guide

Predator When Active Evidence Method of Entry Number of chickens
Coyote Day and night Little to none- some remaining feathers Digging under the run

While free-ranging

1
Raccoon Night Crops and heads missing Unlocks simple locks

Pulls through chicken wire

3 or more
Fox Day and night Little to none- some remaining feathers

If body found- breasts are eaten first

Digging under the run

While free-ranging

1
Birds of Prey Day and night No evidence Aerial attack 1
Weasel/Mink Night Sneaks through small holes around the size of an inch. Climbers Small bite marks, Dead chickens found in a pile, maybe some heads eaten 3 or more
Rats Day and night Squeeze through very small holes and can chew through chicken wire, creates an underground tunnel system Bite marks on adult birds, dead baby chicks, will eat eggs 3 or more
Skunk Night Unsecured coop Possible skunk odor, baby chicks killed, bird abdomens missing, will eat eggs Several
Snake Day and night Sneaks through small holes Will eat eggs and missing baby chicks Several
Fisher Cat Day and night Will claw through chicken wire, enter unlocked coops and will dig Multiple carcasses Several
Opossum Night Enters unlocked coop,  or comes in through holes in the ground and can get through worn wire Abdomen missing, mauls bodies, vent area eaten, will eat the eggs but leaves behind the shells 1-2
Feral Cat Day and night Unlocked coop Very messy, parts of birds and feathers scattered all about, meaty portions of birds are eaten 1
Family Dog Day While free-ranging

Will dig

Mauled but not eaten 2 or more
Bear Day and night Brute force, incredibly destructive After chicken feed, but will maul those it encounters 2 or more
Mountain Lion Mostly night Brute force, Little to no evidence, dragged away 3 or more
Bobcat/Lynx Night in summer, Day and night in winter Unlocked coop Heads are missing and eaten, will eat eggs 1 or more
Human Day and night Unlocked coop Missing birds, no evidence 1 or more

Predator proofing is not difficult but it does take time and the best time to do it is when you are starting out keeping chickens. Here are my top suggestions to keep your flock safe.

Backyard Chicken Predator Proofing Tips

First off, research what predators live in your area. Whether you are keeping chickens in the city, suburbs, or country there are chicken predators present. As a result, this will assist you in determining what steps you need to take in order to keep your flock safe.

When installing your coop, be sure to avoid using chicken wire. Instead, use 1/2 inch hardware cloth, even taking time to create hardware cloth screens that can cover and allow windows to remain open.

First, install the hardware cloth on the run panels. After that, be sure to create an apron that runs around the perimeter of the chicken run. I have 2 aprons.  The first apron goes all the way around the run and is dug down and inserted about 18 inches deep. In addition, the second apron flays out from the run about 3 feet just below the ground surface. This is the best way to deter diggers including dogs, rats, coyotes and fox.

hardware cloth covers the chicken coop window to prevent backyard chicken predators
A hardware cloth screen with two step lock over the existing coop window.

Next, add predator proof locks to your chicken coop and run. Surprisingly, a raccoon can open any lock that a toddler can. For example, Two step locks work best. In fact, locking your chickens in at night is a good habit to develop.  A good lock to prevent human theft might be necessary too, especially if you have prize winning birds.

To prevent birds of prey, try stringing old CDs around the coop and run. Subsequently the birds of prey, do not like the reflective properties of the CDs.  In addition, you can also cover the run too, with a roof or hardware cloth.

Sadly, large predators such as bears, mountain lions and bobcats are difficult. However, you can try to deter them with an electric fence and avoid leaving chicken feed in the coop or run overnight. Above all, chicken feed should be stored away from the coop in metal lidded containers.

In addition, lighting can also be helpful. Evening motion activated lights can startle and scare predators away. Similarly, there are also blinking solar lights that can be placed at predator eye level that are also beneficial.

Meanwhile be sure to harvest chicken eggs regularly. Not only does this help to curtail your chickens from egg eating, subsequently it also helps to keep away egg eating predators as mentioned above.

Finally, take time every so often and inspect the coop and run to look for signs of entry attempts and also areas that might need more attention or repair. In conclusion, with a little bit of thoughtfulness into predators in your neck of the woods and taking some preventative measures as suggested above, your flock should remain safe and provide you with years of happiness.

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Melissa

Sharing adventures with backyard chickens, beekeeping, gardening, crafting, cooking and more.

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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.