There’s almost nothing more devastating than the sudden loss of a beloved chicken to a predator. While it can seem overwhelming and hopeless, there are many ways you can be proactive and protect your flock from common chicken predators.
Different types of predators require different preventative measures. Below, we’ll outline exactly what steps to take to protect your chickens from 12 common predators. Using these methods will at the very least cut down on predator attacks, and lead to a safer and happier flock!
How to Keep Chickens Safe from Common Predators
Raccoons top the list as one of the worst chicken predators. Raccoons are nocturnal, so they hunt while you sleep. They’re also insanely clever and can open doors and unlock locks without any trouble. Lastly, raccoons are persistent. Once they discover you have tasty chicken in your backyard they’ll come back night after night and continue attempts to break into your coop.
How to Protect Chickens from Raccoons:
Your best defense against raccoons is to have a loud, obnoxious dog that hates raccoons. We had a big raccoon problem when we first bought our house. They were eating out of our garbage cans every night, ripping the bags to shreds, and leaving litter every where.
When we got chickens I was terrified the raccoons were going to figure out how to get into the coop. Our Australian Shepherd, Nico, solved the problem in an instant. The raccoons were gone the night she moved in and haven’t once stepped foot on our property since.
If you don’t have a dog, make sure you have very tough locks and latches on the coop and run to keep raccoons out. Spring loaded latches are best, and it’s a good idea to put multiple locks on each door. Raccoons can open swinging locks and turning locks without much issue, so be sure to put a little extra money and effort into good quality locks.
Photo credit: Tammy Grimes
Weasels are the bane of many chicken keeper’s existence. These bloodthirsty creatures kill for the fun of it, and can squeeze into impossibly tiny spaces.
While they might look cute and cuddly, these predators are destruction machines. Weasels and minks tend to hunt at night, and their specialty is breaking into the coop. They usually kill several chickens at a time, and leave the bodies behind. They’ll come back night after night until your whole flock is wiped out.
How to Protect Chickens from Minks and Weasels
There are only a few ways to protect your chickens against minks and weasels. One is to fortify the coop and keep it closed tight at night. Make sure every window and door is shut and locked. Ensure there are no holes larger than a quarter anywhere in the walls, floor, or ceiling of the coop.
If weasels continue to get into your coop after fortification, the only other option is to trap and kill these predators. Weasels and minks are intelligent and won’t be trapped easily, but some have had luck with baiting a Havahart trap to catch them.
Photo credit: Michal Zacharzewski
Opossums can be sneaky little predators as well. Although they don’t have the intelligence of the raccoon, they certainly have the same level of determination. Opossums are truly not one of the biggest chicken predators, and are mostly good for your property, but they have been known to find their way into chicken coops and cause damage.
How to keep chickens safe from Opossums:
Keep opossums out by building a strong coop and ensuring there’s no easy access on top of or below the coop, as they are climbers and diggers. Also be sure there is no animal feed outside, including cat and dog food, as this will attract opossums. Opossums can be easily caught using a Havahart trap and released elsewhere.
Photo Credit: Robert Linder
Rats are a common problem in chicken coops as they’re abundant in the city, suburbs, and county. You may think of rats as more of a pest than a predator, but they can indeed be a real threat to your flock.
Rats will eat your eggs, kill and eat chicks, and in desperation will attack adult birds in the dead of night. Rats are so sneaky that we’ve seen them pull a one day old chick right out from under her sleeping mother!
Keep Chickens Safe from Rats
The best way to keep young chicks safe from rats is to either raise them indoors or in a cage in the coop until they fill out and are able to defend themselves.
The skunk is by far the stinkiest of chicken predators. Skunks are certainly not the biggest concern for chicken keepers, but they are opportunists, and will hunt down chickens if the opportunity arises.
Skunks are usually drawn to your property by things like trash and bowls of cat food. They’ll stick around for the free eggs and meat supplied by your chicken flock.
How to Keep Chickens Safe from Skunks:
Skunks are excellent diggers, keep them out of the coop and run by either laying down hardware cloth along the floor, or burying a foot of hardware cloth along the perimeter of the coop.
Photo Credit: Torli Roberts
Surprisingly, hawks are pretty common chicken predators, even in urban and suburban areas. They’re courageous and fast, darting into the yard from above. Hawks can capture and carry off a chicken in mere seconds.
The one advantage is that flocks of chickens tend to have their eye on the sky and their ear to the wind. If they hear other birds fussing, they’ll run for cover, knowing a bird of prey is in the area.
Our flock has had several close calls with a hawk. This hawk was so brave it flew directly past me while I was standing outside, and came too close to catching one of our birds right in the backyard. Luckily, they had seen the hawk before I did and were already running for cover in the coop by the time it attacked.
How to Protect Chickens from Hawks
It’s illegal to kill hawks, so your only line of defense against them is extra protection during free range time.
Make sure your chickens have a covered area to run to if a hawk swoops in. Keep the door to the run or coop open while free ranging so chickens know to take cover there if needed. Plant bushes or trees on the perimeter of the yard for added protection. If you have the opportunity, free ranging your flock in the woods gives them much better protection against flying predators.
Putting chicken wire or bird netting cover on the chicken run will keep out hawks as well. We’ve had several friends tell us putting scare crows and reflective pinwheels in the yard also helped to drive away birds of prey.
Photo credit:P Widling
Loose dogs are one of the biggest problem predators for chickens. If your yard isn’t fenced, the chickens will be especially susceptible to attacks.
Loose dogs can attack and kill several chickens in under a minute. Even dogs that aren’t loose can dig underneath or jump over fences to get to your flock. A determined dog is truly one of the biggest threats to your flock.
Protect Chickens from Dogs
The number one way to protect your chickens from neighborhood dogs is a privacy fence. Dogs will be much less tempted to enter your yard if they can’t see what’s in it. If you have a good relationship with your neighbors you might even be able to split the cost of a fence with them!
Another great way to avoid predatory issues with dogs is to get on good terms with your neighbors about your flock before there is an issue. Speak to your neighbors frequently about the chickens, offer them fresh eggs, and be friendly. Neighbors that care about your flock are more likely to put in the energy keep their dogs under control.
The last effective way to protect your chickens against dogs is to fight fire with fire. Get yourself a protective dog and it will keep other dogs off your property.
Coyotes and Foxes
Coyotes and foxes are some of the sneakiest and most destructive predators for chicken flocks. They can snatch a chicken and run off with it in less than a second, and the fact that they tend to hunt in groups means even more damage to your flock.
Protecting against these predators is difficult, but it can be done!
How to Keep Chickens Safe from Coyotes and Foxes
Urban and suburban coyotes tend to live under porches and sheds, so keeping these areas tightly closed off will discourage them from making a home on your lot.
Keeping a chicken-friendly dog in the yard during free range time will also help to protect your flock from coyotes and foxes. If you don’t have a dog, your own presence in the yard will deter a lot of foxes and coyotes, as they’re wary of getting too close to people.
If you lose chickens to a coyote or fox even once, don’t allow your birds out to free range for a few weeks. These creatures will come back again and again if they know there’s an easy meal wandering around your yard.
If all else fails, cease free ranging all together. It’s sad to say, but some areas have bigger issues with these predators than others, and sometimes the only thing you can do is keep the chickens inside.
Photo Credit: Simeon
Surprise! Yes, humans fall under the predators category. Sad to say, but some fellow chicken keepers in our own city had their entire flock stolen out of their backyard while they were asleep one night, never to be found again.
While this in no way a common occurrence, it is something to be aware of.
How to Protect your Chickens from Thieves
Keeping the chicken coop locked up tight while you’re away or asleep is the only way to protect your flock from thieves. In this modern technological age, there are an abundance of affordable locks that could be installed on your coop. A keyless door lock with a keypad would be a great solution for easy and quick access into the coop, while keeping it safe from outsiders.
Feral cats are absolutely everywhere that people live. Hungry cats can be a problem for your flock, especially if you have very young chickens or bantam breeds.
Depending on their disposition, cats can either get along great with adult hens, or see them as prey and attack them. Cats can’t easily take down full grown hens, especially when the hens have an entire flock to back them up, but their predator instincts are definitely a good thing to keep an eye out for.
Cats aren’t high up on the list of chicken predators, but they can be particularly dangerous for chicks, young pullets, and bantam hens. The smaller size of these birds make them an easy target for a hungry cat.
Cats are an especially tricky predator because they can squeeze through small spaces and use their claws to climb fences and trees to get easy access to your yard.
How to Keep Chickens Safe from Cats
Considering cats generally tend to go after smaller birds, there’s a few simple solutions to this problem. The first is, protect chicks until they’re fully grown. If you have indoor cats, keep the chicks safe in a brooder, inside a closed room. Don’t let chicks outside to free range until they’re fully grown. A fully grown standard breed chicken can easily take on a cat, and cats are less likely to go after such a large bird in the first place.
The second way to keep chickens safe from cats is to only raise large breeds. Even the hungriest cat is unlikely to attack an eight pound chicken. Raising dual purpose breeds such as Orpington, Cochin, and Wyandotte will give your free range flock a better chance at survival.
If you plan to only raise bantam breeds and have problems with cats in your neighborhood it’s best not to free range your flock.
From one chicken lover to another, I hope you never have to deal with predators attacking your chickens, but if you do, I hope this guide will be of service to you. Doing everything you can to prevent predator attacks is of the utmost importance. Build a strong coop, supervise your flock during free range time, and provide lots of cover for your flock while they’re outside.