Predators are everywhere. Even if you live in the city, your flock could succumb to dogs, hawks or even neighbors. The predator issue triples when you’re in suburbia or the countryside. So what do you need to do to secure your flock? You evaluate your particular situation and address each weakness you find.
Start with the coop. Make sure it is secure. If your coop sits on the ground and does not have a floor (like mine!), you have some options:
- Dig the dirt floor down several inches, lay chicken wire, fold up and secure to the bottom frame of the coop, and cover with dirt. This will help prevent predators digging up through the bottom.
- Dig down along the sides of the coop several inches, and insert chicken wire, then cover up. This discourages predator digging as well.
- Line the outside of the coop with large and small rocks. Again, it discourages predator digging.
If your coop does have a hard floor, that will go a long way to keeping your flock safe at night. If a predator can’t dig through, they can’t get in for a yummy chicken dinner.
With all coops, ensure there are no holes in the walls, roof, or floors. And I’m sure you know to shut everything up at night. If penned, make sure both the gate and coop are secure.
Make sure the coop door shuts completely and latch it. You don’t want it flapping open in the middle of the night.
If you have windows, make sure they are screened. For instance, during the summer, I like to keep the windows on the second floor of my A-Frame coop open. To keep the girls secure, I put some cut out fencing over the openings. They get air, they get to feel like they are outdoors, but the fencing keep out predators.
If your birds are penned, evaluate how the pen is secured. Many people like to put deer netting over the top of their pens. This serves two purposes: keeping the chickens in while keeping the predators out. I did not go this route as I have a tree in the pen to help discourage predators from the sky. I also don’t worry about the girls getting out as my fence height is a minimum of eight feet. Last, I do want the guineas to have the option of flying in and out at will. While they tend to be needy and want me to open the gates for them, they can come and go as they please. Deer netting would stop that.
- I strongly recommend putting a light in or near your pen. Predators don’t like lights and will avoid them. It can be light or motion activated, whatever you prefer for your situation.
- I also strongly recommend putting a small radio near the pen and play it all night. Predators will think there are humans nearby and will most likely avoid the area.
After the Fishercat Incident of 2013, I found the lights, radio, and rocks really did the trick. I didn’t even have electric lights to begin with, just solar powered garden lights. Now that I have a pen, electric lights and radio, I don’t even close the coop down completely. Rocks around the bottom of the coop are my friend and the girls get to boogie all night if they want. While it’s no guarantee, I can’t recommend a radio strongly enough.
The holidays are coming. Eggs make the best present and your eggs deserve the very best!
During the winter, since the flock was “cooped up” in the hoop house, with several feet of snow on the outside, I didn’t do anything except try to keep them warm. When the snow started to melt, I saw there were several holes where the wood for the raised bed had rotted. I was worried sick about predators. So I stuffed the holes full of rocks, got my garden lights out and turned on the radio. I’m happy to report I had no predator problem although I didn’t sleep well until the pen was completed.
Bear in mind, though, I’m in a suburban neighborhood, with a fenced yard. While we do have wildlife (I’ve even seen a coyote), the more rural the area, the more predators there are hanging around.
Completing your security evaluation is dependent on your set up. Do your birds free range during the day and are penned at night? If so, the pen suggestions may help with night security. During the day, I’m not sure there’s a lot you can do. From my observations, the birds are pretty good at staying under some type of cover to avoid air predation. If possible, a fenced yard or field may help guard against other predators, both during the day and at night.
Are bears or foxes an issue in your area? Maybe you need to invest in an electric fence and very bright, blinking, motion activated lights. Raccoons? Get raccoon-proof latches and if possible, double-fence (i.e., fenced coop and fenced pen, or a pen with a few inches between an inner and outer fence). Why a double fence? Raccoons can reach through a fence and injure your chickens. Putting space between the outer fence and where the birds are can reduce or eliminate that hazard.
Much like the “Free Range vs Pen” question, security is dependent on your unique situation. But with a little bit of thought and preparation, you can keep your girls safe from predators looking for a chicken dinner.