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

PredatorWhen ActiveEvidenceMethod of EntryNumber of chickens
CoyoteDay and nightLittle to none- some remaining feathersDigging under the run

While free-ranging

RaccoonNightCrops and heads missingUnlocks simple locks

Pulls through chicken wire

3 or more
FoxDay and nightLittle to none- some remaining feathers

If body found- breasts are eaten first

Digging under the run

While free-ranging

Birds of PreyDay and nightNo evidenceAerial attack1
Weasel/MinkNightSneaks through small holes around the size of an inch. ClimbersSmall bite marks, Dead chickens found in a pile, maybe some heads eaten3 or more
RatsDay and nightSqueeze through very small holes and can chew through chicken wire, creates an underground tunnel systemBite marks on adult birds, dead baby chicks, will eat eggs3 or more
SkunkNightUnsecured coopPossible skunk odor, baby chicks killed, bird abdomens missing, will eat eggsSeveral
SnakeDay and nightSneaks through small holesWill eat eggs and missing baby chicksSeveral
Fisher CatDay and nightWill claw through chicken wire, enter unlocked coops and will digMultiple carcassesSeveral
OpossumNightEnters unlocked coop,  or comes in through holes in the ground and can get through worn wireAbdomen missing, mauls bodies, vent area eaten, will eat the eggs but leaves behind the shells1-2
Feral CatDay and nightUnlocked coopVery messy, parts of birds and feathers scattered all about, meaty portions of birds are eaten1
Family DogDayWhile free-ranging

Will dig

Mauled but not eaten2 or more
BearDay and nightBrute force, incredibly destructiveAfter chicken feed, but will maul those it encounters2 or more
Mountain LionMostly nightBrute force,Little to no evidence, dragged away3 or more
Bobcat/LynxNight in summer, Day and night in winterUnlocked coopHeads are missing and eaten, will eat eggs1 or more
HumanDay and nightUnlocked coopMissing birds, no evidence1 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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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.