Whether you've a flock of ten or a flock or two, protecting your essentially defensless chickens from predators such as hawks, raccoons, and coyotes, as well as a number of other animals, is an important part of caring for your poultry.
1. Make Your Coop Secure
At night, and during laying, your chickens will retire to their coop. Sleeping chickens are quite difficult to awaken and a stealthy predator (or a non-stealthy predator) and sneak into the coop and kill them before they even really wake up. Keeping your coop as secure as possible is the number one way of protecting your poultry at night. Make sure there are no holes or gaps in the floor and walls, and nothing that even a mouse can sneak into as mice love to creep into the grain. Set wire fencing at least half a meter underground around your chicken run, with footplates to prevent predators from digging underneath and popping up in the chicken safe zone.
2. Keep It Clean
Do not deposit compost near the coop, and keep the area around the coop and inside the chicken run mowed. This will keep predators from sneaking in while you're not looking and then pouncing out of tall grass and taking off with a bird. Keeping your compost away from the coop removes a temptation for animals to come up to the coop to begin with.
3. Dangers Above and Below
If your hens have a run, put hawk netting over head so that they are safe from hawks and eagles. Smaller birds are often enjoyed by these larger birds of prey, so keeping them covered will keep them safe. Be sure that you raise their nesting boxes and coop up off the ground, if possible. This will help protect them from animals that may find another way in and dig up into the coop taking your chickens with them.
4. Motion Sensors and Electric Fences
Most animals are frightened away when a bright light suddenly shines into their face. However, they may grow immune to this over time, which is why you should consider an electric fence on the OUTSIDE of your chicken coop. You can dig one line into the ground to catch digging predators, and one on the top of the fence to catch anyone who tries to climb over.
5. Invest in a Guard Dog
But be careful that you train your dog not to chase your chickens. Dogs love to chase chickens and chickens don't love to be chased. It is very easy for a harmless and simply excitable dog to chase chickens to death; at the very least this can severely mess up their laying cycle. A guard dog will certainly keep predators away, but you will need to spend time training them and watching them in the beginning to make sure that they don't get over zealous and try to herd your chickens back into their coop.
Lastly, consider investing in a gun; especially if you live in a rural area. Where we live we have the threats of everything from bears to cougars and coyotes. When faced with a predator of this size, often your only defense is an excellent offense. Don't eliminate the prospect of a firearm.
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Raising Chicks- Make Yourself the Mama Hen
Cold Climates and Chickens
What Every Coop Needs
Poultry Diseases and How to Prevent Them
Chicken Nutrition- What Your Chicken Needs In Its Feed
Protecting Your Flock From Predators
Common Chicken Parasites
Chicken Care- A Month by Month Guide
Dust Baths, The Chicken Preference for Keeping Clean
Molting: That's One Ugly Chicken!
How To Water-Bathe a Chicken
Helping Chickens Avoid Heat Stress
How Not to Care for Chickens
Maintaining Your Chicken Coop
Cannibalism In Chickens and What To Do To Prevent It
Trimming Your Chicken's Beak
What Every Chicken Needs
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Can Chickens Eat Table Scraps?
Selecting the Proper Feeder for Your Chickens
Cleaning Up After Your Chickens
The Proper Way to Handle a Chicken
Keeping Your Chickens' Nails in Check