Everybody loves chicken! Unfortunately, that also includes nearly every predator in every region.
Chickens are like walking protein bundles that aren’t too fast, aren’t too bright, and aren’t too sorry to lose a member of their own flock.
It’s almost like they were bred to be eaten.
The list below includes the 25 most common methods and tactics homesteaders use to protect their flocks from predation.
You won’t need to employ everything on this list to keep your birds safe, but you should consider which tips are critical to keeping your flock alive.
1. Know What Predators Are Common in Your Area
Obviously, this is tip number one. To keep your chickens safe, you need to know what you are protecting your chickens from.
Knowing what wants to eat your chickens will help you put the correct safety measures in place.
2. Secure All Possible Entry Points
Doors and windows are the obvious entry points. However, if you have a ventilation fan on top of the coop or any small holes in the buildings or fences, make sure a raccoon or a possum can’t enter that way.
Also, consider digging animals, and examine your flooring and fencing carefully.
3. Cover the Run
If you have a run or a yard for your chickens, you’ll want to ensure the top is well covered.
Dogs and foxes can jump fairly high when they want, and a bobcat will jump out of a tree to get over that fence.
If you cover the top, you will protect your birds from not only those predators but also hawks and eagles that will happily dive for your smaller chickens.
4. Train Chickens To Sleep Inside Coop
When you first get a new batch of chickens, keep them inside the coop day and night for a few days. This will train the chickens to know where home is.
Once they get that down, they will return every night. If the chickens start to sleep outside, they might be taken by owls, raccoons, or other night predators.
5. Shut & Lock Coop Door at Sunset
Once your flock knows where home is, make sure to go to the coop every night to close and lock the door (unless you have an automated system).
Nothing will spell a quick end to your flock like an open door and an errant weasel.
6. Do Not Use Chicken Wire
Chicken wire is designed to control the movement of chickens, not predators. It is too thin and flimsy to stand up to a determined animal.
Even small dogs can bend it, break it, or knock it over with a little push. Whenever you use chicken wire around your garden or run, back it up with adequate fencing.
7. Bury All Fencing at Least 12 Inches
Dogs and foxes, the most common diggers, will lose interest after digging 1 foot reproductively.
Burying the fencing will also ensure that the chickens don’t make inviting entry points when scratching near the fence.
8. Use Hardware Cloth for Windows
Glass windows are nice, but they can often lack ventilation. If you cover the windows with hardware cloth, you can get the ventilation you need while securing the window from anything that might want to pry it open.
Again, do not use chicken wire!
9. Do Not Use Simple Latches for Doors
A simple latch may do well to close and lock the coop, but there are animals out there smart enough to simply unlatch the door.
Raccoons, foxes, and some dogs are more than capable of figuring that out. A padlock, deadbolt, or multi-step locking mechanism will keep your flock safe from intelligent critters.
10. Use Trail Cams
Trail cams will let you know what is stalking your flock. If you notice a few birds missing on a regular basis, set up some trail cams to get an idea of what your birds need protection from.
Furthermore, it might be a nice way to get some good pictures of a bear, a bobcat, or even an eagle — all of which are reclusive animals that are difficult to photograph.
11. Get a Rooster
Roosters will sacrifice themselves to save their hens. While we know that roosters can fight, there isn’t much they can do against most predators. What roosters are good for is watching over the hens.
Even if a rooster can’t keep a predator away, he can warn the rest of the flock so that the hens can escape, and his middle-of-the-night crowing or cries will alert you that danger is lurking.
12. Add Geese or Guineas to Your Flock
Geese are beautiful… and protective! They will try to chase away all but the biggest threats, and their honking will let you know that something is wrong.
Guineas will not chase anything away, but they are much more aware than your typical chicken and will make a loud alarm call if they are spooked.
Guineas spook very easily, so there will be very little happening in your yard that you don’t know about. Also, guineas love to eat ticks, so you can’t go wrong there.
13. Provide Shelters for Free-Range Flocks
If you free-range your birds, place a few shelters around the pasture with roofs and water. The water will let them know where the shelter is, and the roof will protect them from birds of prey.
They won’t do much against a land predator unless you can figure out a way to close them in when you aren’t around.
14. Use Electric Poultry Fencing in Pastures
Electric net fencing like this around your pasture will significantly help to keep the predators out. The shock will scare them enough to leave your birds alone.
Furthermore, you can set up solar chargers for the fencing so you don’t have to run a cord through the yard.
15. Check Routinely for Rotten Wood & Weak Spots
Giving your coop and fencing a routine maintenance schedule will ensure you aren’t leaving gaps in your chicken’s shelter.
Every couple of months should be good, but give an extra inspection after severe weather to make sure nothing was weakened or destroyed.
16. Don’t Leave Out Extra Feed
Many animals that eat chickens will also eat chicken feed. If they are attracted by the extra food, they will learn how to get in and out of your flock’s space.
Soon enough, there will come a day when there is no extra food lying around, and your chickens will be on the menu instead. Also, wasted feed attracts mice and rats, which in turn attract larger predators.
17. Gather Eggs Daily
If you gather eggs daily, you will not only get to see how secure your chicken’s living space is, but you will also make sure the chickens don’t start laying eggs somewhere you aren’t aware of.
If a hen gets a clutch somewhere out in the field, they will brood over it and then stop going into the coop. A lonely hen in the pasture will not survive long. Also, free eggs will attract predators that also eat eggs.
18. Clean the Coop Routinely
Many predators are attracted to smells. If the coop gets too dirty, the predators will be attracted to the coop and will actively search for a way inside.
Also, routine coop maintenance will let you check out the chicken’s shelter to make sure there are no holes or rotten wood that is easily broken away.
19. Install Motion-Activated Spotlights
Most predators hunt at night, and a sudden light will make them wary. If you put solar-powered motion lights at the most likely entrances to your coop, you will negate most of your potential predator problems.
20. Leave a Radio Playing at Night
Predators are wary of the sound of human voices. A small, battery-powered radio can make enough noise to keep predators away from the area. Leave it to talk radio if you can.
The most important piece, however, is to make sure your chosen station is active all night long.
21. Remove Cover for Predators From Around Pen
Most predators like to ambush their prey. If your coop is right up against your tree line or a hedgerow, you will be providing predators with the cover they need to sneak up on your flock and hide from you.
Depending on the predator, you may need up to 20 yards of open space on all sides if you can manage it.
22. Use Lures & Traps To Eliminate Repeat Offenders
Check your local laws and statutes, but you can often leave traps for coyotes, raccoons, foxes, and possums. Wolves may be protected if you live out West.
23. Move Attractants Far Away From Coop
Predators like garbage cans, compost bins, feed buckets, etc. Keep those far away from the coop so as not to tempt a predator more than they can bear.
24. Use Deterrents
If trapping is not an option, look for scent-based deterrents or decoy statues. Owls make for good decoys as they will keep away other owls and predatory rodents.
25. Consider a Guardian Dog
Lastly, a good guardian dog will be your best option to keep your birds safe. Nothing works as well as a good dog that is well-trained for the job at hand.