How to Provide the Best Predator Protection for Your Poultry

“The night belongs to beasts of prey, and always has. It’s easy to forget that when you’re indoors, protected by light and solid walls.” ~ Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

Predatory birds stalking the coop. Hawks and owls dive-bombing the coop from above. Snakes slithering through an undiscovered crevice. Ambidextrous raccoons trying to pick run locks and rip screens off coop windows.

If you’re a poultry parent, safeguarding your feathered family from backyard chicken predators 24/7 night and day is essential. Whether you're in an urban area or out on hundreds of acres, it’s usually not a matter of “if” but “when” predators will show up for “chicken, it’s what’s for dinner”!

Whew, it’s “game on” to combat predators!! In order to safeguard your barn babes you’ll need a formidable fortress to keep the baddies out. In this blog, we’ll explore predator deterrents to help keep your chickens, ducks, and geese safe, happy, and stress-free.

What is the most common predator for chickens?

Some of the most common chicken predators are raccoons, coyotes, snakes, rats, and hawks.

What animals eat chickens?

Chickens are eaten by almost all carnivore species including but not limited to:

  • Snakes
  • Cats
  • Coyote
  • Minks
  • Hawks
  • Rats
  • Weasels
  • Foxes
  • Badgers
  • Cats
  • Mountain lions
  • Bobcats
  • Opossums
  • Skunks
  • Wolverines
  • Bears
  • Raccoons
  • Owls
  • Birds like jays, crows, and ravens
  • Dogs

What birds will attack chickens?

Birds of prey that will attack chickens include hawks, owls, eagles, ravens, crows, and rooks.

Signs of attack

Signs of attack depend on predator type and can include but are not limited to:

  • Footprints
  • Skunk scent
  • Broken or missing eggs
  • Blood in various areas of the coop or run
  • Feathers strewn about
  • Wounds on surviving birds
  • Birds with injuries on the neck, throat, vent, etc
  • Dead birds

Predators also tend to have their own patterns. For example, hawks hunt during the daytime while owls stalk their prey at night.

Raccoons are infamous for reaching through coop mesh and wire openings and tearing off the birds’ heads and/or limbs.

Feral and domestic cats tend to only prey on chicks, not adult chickens unless a mature bird is incapacitated with an injury.

How to stop predators

One of the best ways to stop predators is investing in predator-proof coop supplies and constructing a coop and run that’s impenetrable to predators.

Additionally, sound equipment and motion light sensors can be used to scare critters away.

Removing food sources near the coop like horse feed, livestock feed, pet food, and any nuts or fruit dropped from trees, helps to deter predators. Unprotected food sources can attract predators that may also pursue your chickens.

Chickens are natural “predator magnets” so it’s important predator-proof their coops and runs prior to housing them for the first time.

For more information on stopping common predators, check out the Manna Pro YolkTube episode, “Tips on Keeping Your Chickens Safe from Predators” or watch below!

How to catch chicken predators

Methods on how to catch chicken predators will vary by predator type.

Be sure to research your local laws on trapping and eliminating various predator species. In some cases it may be illegal to trap or kill certain animals. Contact the USDA Wildlife Service for predator management assistance.

How to protect chickens?

One of the first steps in protecting your chickens is to build predator-proof chicken runs and coops.

  1. Build the coop with a solid floor. Building a solid floor in the coop versus having a dirt floor will prevent access from predators like snakes and those that can easily get in by digging like domestic dogs, foxes, and coyotes.
  2. Use high-quality building materials in constructing your coop and run. It’s important to invest in high quality building materials when constructing your run and coop so the area will withstand deadly predator attacks.

How to keep predators out of chicken coop

Some ways to keep predators out of the chicken coop and specifically how to keep snakes out of the chicken coop include:

  • Raising the coop off ground. Raising the chicken coop off the ground discourages rats, skunks and snakes from taking up residence beneath it and stealing eggs, chicks, or young hens.
  • Burying mesh around the coop. Burying mesh at least one foot deep around the sides of the enclosure will prevent predators from digging to get in the coop.
  • Using hardware cloth as a barrier (not chicken wire). The preferred wire fencing for a secure chicken fence is called hardware cloth. Hardware cloth comes in various sizes of mesh. The product is made of metal that is welded and galvanized to be very durable and nearly impenetrable. Chicken wire is an ineffective predator barrier. Ironically, even though it’s called “chicken wire” it’s not very durable, and predators can easily force or chew their way through it.
  • Keeping the chicken coop area clean. Refrain from decorating around the coop area as predators can easily hide behind plants, hedges, decorative trim, etc. Most terrestrial predators are uncomfortable crossing an area with minimal cover.

With careful planning, construction, and environmental management, you’ll have peace of mind that your feathered family will be protected from predators day and night!

How to keep chickens safe?

Tips to building a predator-proof chicken coop include:

  • Use ¼ inch hardware cloth to protect your run and coop. The ¼” size is recommended as it makes it difficult for snakes to crawl through and for predators’ paws and talons to reach in and grab your poultry.
  • Install ¼ hardware cloth to cover the top of your run to deter climbing and winged predators like hawks and owls.
  • Bury ¼” inch hardware cloth 12” deep on the run’s and coop’s perimeter to deter predator entry via digging.
  • Cover windows and window screens with ¼” hardware cloth and install it with screws and washers.
  • Install ¼” hardware cloth at the bottom of the run and/or coop floor. (Installing the cloth with staples is not recommended as the staples can easily be pried loose by predators.)

*HOT TIP: Traditional chicken wire is not recommended to be used in coops and runs as the large holes in the wire allow entry and access for many predators. Snakes, for example, can easily slip through wire openings while the openings also allow racoons to easily slide their paws through to nab an unsuspecting hen.

Keep your run and coop feed-free

Feeding your chickens only as much as they will eat at feeding time and cleaning up any uneaten feed will discourage predators from entering the coop or run.

Consider a guardian animal

Guardian animals like donkeys, guineas, geese, roosters, llamas, or guard dogs like Pyrenees can assist in fending off unwelcome critters.

Close run doors and coop at sunset

Nighttime is prime hunting time for many predators. Closing your coop and run doors around sunset will help protect your flock and keep your birds stress-free.

Using a battery or solar-powered door like the Manna Pro Harris Farms Automated Chicken Coop Door gives you the option to close the coop door based on the amount of light or a specific set time. You also have the option to close the door manually if desired.

Check coop daily for predators

You’ll want to check your coop for predators each evening prior to locking in your chickens for the night. If you leave your coop open during the day, it’s easy for animals like snakes and possums to sneak in undetected.

Contact the USDA Wildlife Service for predator removal

If you need a predator trapped or relocated, contact the USDA Wildlife Service for assistance. Some predator species like owls and hawks are federally protected, and it’s illegal to kill them.

Locate your coop away from trees and brush If possible, place your coop away from trees and brush-laden areas where winged predators like red tail hawks can perch and other predators can hide.

Use tamper-resistant locks on doors and windows

Using tamper-resistant locks like barrel locks and spring locks can make doors and windows difficult to open for nimble predators like raccoons.

Only allow indoor roosting

By only allowing indoor roosting your chickens will not be exposed to the risk posed in roosting in an unprotected outdoor environment.

Identify your predators

Keep track of the predators using a trail camera with night vision. The camera will help you identify what predators are in your area so they can be trapped and relocated if needed.

Do daily egg collection

Collecting eggs daily prevents them from becoming a predator food source.

Best predator deterrent for chickens?

The best predator deterrent for chickens will depend on the predator type. You’ll want to ensure the coop and run area is 100% impervious to entry no matter the predator - snakes, hawks, raccoons, etc. If predators find a way to enter the coop or run it’s highly likely that they will keep returning.

An effective way to keep chicken predators at bay is to install an automatic coop door. Manna Pro Harris Farms Automated Chicken Coop Door provides security for your flock combined with ease of use in caring for your birds.

The automated door can be set to open and close by the amount of daylight or set for specific times. Adding the chicken coop automatic door means you get to sleep in on the weekends and enjoy uninterrupted evenings.

The door is simple to set up and can be powered by a power cord adapter or 4 AA batteries. It’s compatible with coop entrances that are 9 ⅞” tall x 8 ⅝” wide or smaller and comes with aluminum door, door frame, control box, and screws.

Automatic Chicken Coop Door Features and Benefits:

  1. Resists Predators. Keep your feathered family safe from predators in daytime and nighttime
  2. Weather-Friendly and Durable. Can withstand cold and hot weather ensuring your chickens are always protected.
  3. 3 Convenient Operating Modes. Door can be set to open/close by amount of light, set times only, or a combination of timer & light.
  4. Easy Installation. Can be quickly installed outside or inside your chicken coop.
  5. Automatic Door. Convenient and time saving automated so you don’t have to be present to secure your chickens in their coop.
  6. Flock Protection. Integrated guard rail helps keep your birds safe from predators.
  7. Battery Power. no electricity required. Plug and play model helps you get started quickly and easily.

At Manna Pro, we’re honored to join you in Nurturing the Life of your poultry with products like the Harris Farms Automated Chicken Coop Door, that help predator-proof your coops and runs.

You’re invited!

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Check out the Manna Pro Poultry blog to learn more about raising backyard chickens.

Watch our Yolk Tube episodes for more poultry tips.

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