Don’t risk losing your backyard chickens to predators! Keep your hens safe with these 24 features you’ll find on a predator-proof chicken coop.
It can take only one predator to completely wipe out your entire flock in a night. They say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and I think this is definitely one area where you don’t want to skimp! (Feed that frugal bone of yours when you start finding creative ways to save money on your feed bill.)
While you don’t need all of these features on this list, I recommend you learn what the predators are in your area and tailor your coop to meet your needs.
Thankfully, there are many measures so you don’t have to know the heartbreak of losing one of your beloved chickens! Consider adding these features to predator-proof your chicken coop.
24 Features on a Predator-Proof Chicken Coop
Predator-Proof Chicken Coop Construction
Choose Hardware Cloth
While chicken wire is a more economical choice, in the long run, it’s a poor investment. Chicken wire doesn’t last nearly as long as more sturdy options. But not only that, chicken wire is only designed to keep chickens in… not predators out.
Chicken wire is not a good choice for the predator-proof chicken coop and run.
Instead, construct your shelter with ¼-½” hardware cloth. Hardware cloth is more secure and has the durability to withstand a hungry predator. What size you choose will depend on the size of the predators in your area. (Remember, some predators can squeeze into remarkably small places.)
Install a Predator Apron
Install a predator apron around your chicken coop to deter burrowing and digging predators. These are often constructed by digging a trench down 12″ around the entire perimeter of your chicken run and burying the hardware cloth beneath the ground.
Alternately, you can bury a predator apron just below the surface of the soil, parallel to ground level. When the predator tries to dig down, they’ll immediately be foiled by your predator-proof chicken coop!
Raise the Coop
When you build your chicken coop, be sure that you keep it elevated off the ground. Raising the chicken coop off the ground will help the wood to last longer. Rotten spots in your wood make for easy entry points for many predators.
Start with a Solid Floor
Construct your coop with a solid floor. If you’re building a predator-proof chicken coop, you’re not going to want any entry points from above or below. A solid floor will protect your flock from many predators including snakes.
I think Advan Tech OSB Subfloor is a really great choice considering your chickens will be putting a lot of moisture on the floor from the top. It’s a super strong engineered wood product and has the extra advantage of being waterproof.
Hardware Cloth the Bottom of the Run
Perhaps it’s overkill, but if you don’t want to take any chances, you can cover the bottom of the entire chicken run with hardware cloth. Really, it just depends on how severe of a predator problem you’re dealing with. Lay down the hardware cloth and cover it with a layer of topsoil.
Use Heavy Gauge Hardware
Make sure you construct your coop with heavy gauge hardware. Flimsy, poor quality products, such as hinges, are easy for larger, more agile predators to destroy and gain entry.
Cover the Roof of Your Chicken Run
Most people have some form of aerial predators. Whether it’s from hawks, owls, eagles, or falcons, the best way to deter them and make your chicken coop predator-proof is to screen the top of your chicken run.
Lock The Chickens Up
Install rust-proof locks on your doors. Man, some of these guys are crafty! It’s amazing the way they can manage to get into the coop when they really are determined to do so! Choose two-step locks or ones that require the use of opposable thumbs to get open.
Screen in Your Windows
If you open windows to provide ventilation for your coop, make sure you protect them with screens or scraps of leftover hardware cloth.
I’d like to say that hardware cloth is the best choice. In theory, it is. But one evening we had a raccoon break into our first chicken coop at dusk. We had regular screens over the windows and they saved our hens lives because they were able to burst out through the screen to escape danger.
Use an Automatic Coop Door
If you simply can not remember to close up your chickens at night or you’re not home in the evenings, the best way to protect your flock is to take advantage of a nifty piece of modern technology: the automatic coop door. And, don’t worry, they’re programmable so you don’t have to be concerned about closing your hens out.
Roosters can be a great way to protect your backyard chicken flock from predators. Their natural desire is to protect their ladies. They’re always on the lookout and will set off an alarm call that sends the rest of the flock running for cover.
Hey, look! An excuse to buy more poultry! But many folks swear by placing a guard goose in with their flock to warn of attacking predators and scare them off.
Livestock Guardian Dog
I swear by having a livestock guardian dog. You can have signs of predators all around you but none will dare come near the coop. These dogs naturally seem to be paranoid and spend time patrolling the property, barking at anything that comes on their radar, and peeing all over the place to let others know they’re there.
The most common livestock guardian dog breeds are Great Pyrenees. But Anatolian Shepherds, Maremmas, and Akbash dogs are also breeds you can consider that have excellent guarding instincts.
If keeping an extra large dog on your property simply isn’t an option, you might be able to mimic having one. Try taking your dog to pee near the chicken coop. It certainly can’t hurt to let predators know there’s a dog nearby!
Extra Predator-Protection for Free-Range Chickens
Train Them To Come into the Coop at Night
Take your hens a few treats in the evening and pass them out in the coop. It won’t take long before they recognize your call and the promise of goodies will have them flocking to the coop at dusk every evening. Safe and sound!
These are some of our favorite treats for our chickens.
Provide Indoor Roosts
When you build a chicken coop, make sure to provide them with indoor roosts. Chickens have a natural instinct to sleep off the ground and by giving them a roost inside they will feel secure and want to go into the coop at night. Thankfully, that’s exactly where predators can’t get them.
If you built a predator-proof, chicken coop that is.
We had a flock of guinea fowl that refused to come into the coop at night to roost. They preferred the cover of pine trees and one by one, they were eventually taken by Barred owls. Finally, when there was just one guinea left, it decided the coop was the safe place to be and guess who’s still alive today?
Provide Cover for Free-Range Chickens
If you opt for enjoying the benefits of free-range chickens, you’ll need to provide them with cover. Just in case a predator comes sailing overhead. They will need a place or two where they can quickly run to hide when they sense danger. Consider planting taller perennials to pull double duty as forage and cover from predators.
Don’t Attract Predators to Your Chicken Coop
Part of creating a predator-proof chicken coop is to make sure you’re not managing your flock in such a way that you are attracting predators to find their next meal in your backyard.
Collect Eggs Frequently
If you fail to collect eggs every day, they are sitting in there like little orbs of bait, attracting all kinds of predators. Make sure you head out and gather eggs daily so there’s less of a temptation for predators to visit your chicken coop. (Side perk: It will keep your hens from eating their own eggs.)
Clean Up Scraps Chickens Don’t Eat
If you like to feed your hens treats (And who doesn’t? That’s half the fun of raising chickens…) make sure you clean up any scraps they leave behind. I know, I know. Greedy little pigs, that’s not very likely to happen. But maybe you tried something new that wasn’t their favorite. Just like with the eggs sitting in the coop overnight, food scraps could work as a predator attractant.
Contain the Chicken Feed
Keep your feed under lock and key! Ok, maybe that’ s a little extreme, but at least keep feed securely contained. Many chicken predators are omnivores and just as happy to snack on your feed as they are on your chickens. Not to mention, keeping food put away will keep the rats out of your chicken coop.
Eliminate Predator Cover
I know I told you above to make sure your chickens had cover to run to in the event an aerial predator like a hawk or owl is scanning the ground for lunch. But those same trees, bushes, and grasses that serve as a cover for free-range chickens can also hide ground predators. You have to evaluate your biggest predator risks to determine which is best for your situation.
Use Predator Deterrent Devices
Try motion activated lights to spook predators away. There are mixed reviews as to how well these works, but it doesn’t hurt to try if you don’t have other options available to you right away. I suspect they may work at first, but once nothing happens, predators will realize they’re harmless. My suggestion would be to use the light to signal YOU that somethings up and to go check it out.
Depending on the size of your predators (bears!), a hot wire around the coop might be a deterrent you need to consider. Not only will they take out your whole flock, but they can wreak havoc on your coop itself. A reel of poly wire and a portable solar charger are an inexpensive option that can save you and your flock from devastation in the long run.
Small coops can be encircled with electric poultry netting to keep predators away. Just make sure the grass around the perimeter isn’t tall enough to short out the fence. In my experience, these fences rarely work to keep chickens in, but they will keep predators out. (Chicken feathers insulated them from the shock. And it is pretty insane how they can squeeze through those small holes! When they grow to be too large, our hens would pace the perimeter searching for the smallest breach in the fence so they could scoot underneath and find freedom.)
Predator Deterrent Devices
From the aforementioned motion activated lights to ultrasonic devices, to predator lights meant to look like eyes (and other “eye” deterrents), ground spikes, and reflective tape (or aluminum pie pans), there are a lot of products on the market. Make sure you read reviews and find the most reliable products to meet your needs.
Another solution you could try, if all else fails, is to trap your predators. Position your trap near your coop and entice the predators with bait that is even more luring than the chickens themselves will be.
Make sure you check your state and local regulations to learn the best way to manage the predators you capture. (Just make sure your predator you trap isn’t a skunk! Can you imagine having to try to figure out what to do with that? Definitely not going to end well!)
Hopefully, by taking these precautions to create a predator-proof chicken coop, your predator problems will be at an end and your biggest backyard-chicken-keeping-challenge will be what to name your new chicks!