With a warm start to our late fall/winter I worry about the possibility of predators getting to my chickens. Hungry predators getting ready for the long winter are on the prowl looking for food and if my chickens are not secure it is just as likely as not that they could be on the menu.
Losing chickens or for that matter ducks and turkeys, to predators of all kinds (that includes dogs who find your coop an easy meal) is common and it is heartbreaking. It only takes one break in to lose all of your flock to a hungry predator, then you will find yourself starting all over again.
Whether you are building your chicken coop for the first time or want to make sure it is predator proof, there are several things you need to look at. It can help to know what type of predators you might have in the area, if you live in a rural area it can help to talk with neighbors, to see if they have had any troubles and what type of animals have been skulking around their birds.
Creating a barrier
It could be tempting it use chicken wire to fence in your chickens, it makes sense, but if you have had a lot of large dogs roaming around in your area, chicken wire is not very likely to keep them out, at least not on its own. There are several animals that can make short work of your fence, such as big dogs, raccoons, coyotes and foxes. You can still use chicken wire but be sure to use some sort of barrier to keep animals from tearing at the wire.
We used old metal roofing around the outside of the coop, it provide a barrier above ground as well as one below ground. Hardware cloth is more expensive than chicken wire but lasts longer and provides a much sturdier barrier to keep predators out.
Watch out for Burrowing Animals
Don’t forget that a lot of rodents and dogs will dig under your fence, so having a 12” barrier all the way around your coop is essential to keep diggers out. You can use a variety of materials for this, metal roofing, hardware cloth, and concrete all work equally well to keep animals from digging under the fences of your chicken coop.
Opt for a secure chicken coop with a solid floor
One mistake that a lot of people make is buying or building chicken coops that have open access and no way to secure birds at night. Most predators will try to attack your coop at night, so having a secure coop that cannot be entered is just one more layer of protection for your birds. Doors should close, even the hatches that are meant for just birds to go through (you would be surprised what can squeeze through there when they are hungry enough). Windows should have a way to be covered or secured, and your coop should have some sort of foundation that cannot be dug into.
Even better have your coop off the ground, this eliminates any chances of rodents being able to reach your birds. Nesting boxes and roosts will let your chickens get away from predators, so provide plenty of them.
One thing that bird owners do not often think about is how vulnerable their chickens are from above, especially if you have young birds. Hawks are a threat just about anywhere, so if you have a hawk problem you will want to cover your coop. For this instance chicken wire will work, it does not have to be sturdy it only needs to keep the hawks out of your coop. Some people have used brightly colored streamers and shiny aluminum strips to scare hawks away, but the best protection is going to be a barrier that hawks cannot get through.
With the right precautions the chicken coop you build can be secure enough to let you and your birds sleep well at night. If you need help with plans to build a secure chicken coop this site has some wonderful resources. Not only do they sell a book on how to build a chicken coop but they also have several free ebooks and a set of forums to help you on your way to a safe and healthy place for your chickens.
There are also several books on Amazon if you prefer a Kindle eBook or paper book