Predator Proofing Your Chicken Coop


by Kathy Shea Mormino
Read the full article here

Protecting a flock against predators is one of the biggest challenges a backyard chicken keeper faces. The best offense is a good defense and knowing the basics of coop security is essential to keeping chickens safe from harm. The following are my best recommendations for predator-proofing chickens based on my experiences.

Chicken wire will not keep chickens safe from predators, this hawk reached right in through the wire and grabbed a chick.

  1. Don't allow Chickens to Roost Outside 

Chickens are most vulnerable when they are asleep and many chicken predators are active at night, making the inside of a locked coop the safest place for them. Teaching chickens to return to the coop at night is best done from the time they first take up residence in the coop, but they can also be trained at a later date if necessary. Read about Coop Training, here

Teaching chickens to return to the coop at night is best done from the time they first take up residence in the coop, but they can also be trained at a later date if necessary. Read about Coop Training, here.

  1. Never Rely on Chicken Wire for Safety

Chicken wire is meant to contain chickens, not to exclude predators. A hungry raccoon can defeat chicken wire as easily as opening an envelope. Hawks can reach in through chicken wire with their talons, pulling a bird to its death. Never rely on chicken wire as a safety fencing.

Hardware cloth should be installed liberally in and around the chicken coop.

  1. Install ¼ inchHardware Cloth Liberally

Snakes and members of the weasel family can get into the coop through very small openings, devastating a flock in very short order. Using hardware cloth, cover any opening in the coop and around the run that is greater than ¼ inch. All windows should be secured with hardware cloth. Window screens will not keep predators out. Screws and washers should secure the hardware cloth to the structure, not staples. 

Window screens will not keep predators out. Screws and washers should secure the hardware cloth to the structure, not staples.

My best guess was that a raccoon tried to get into the coop this night. You can see his dirty calling card on the door jamb.

My chickens free-range all day and the coop doors are left open. The eastern rat snake in this video slithered into the coop nest box for a three egg lunch. He was scared off into the woods from whence he came. The only way to keep snakes out of the chicken coop completely is to secure it day and night with 1/4" hardware cloth at every possible access point into the coop and run. 
  1. Bury it or put an Apron on It

 To deter digging predators, dig a 12" trench all the way around the perimeter of the coop, burying the hardware cloth. Dirt floors should have hardware cloth buried at least 12" beneath them. An alternative to a trench is to extend a 12" hardware cloth apron out from the perimeter of the run. An apron isn't as effective as a trench, but will provide a degree of security from less ambitious digging critters.

Burrowing predators can be deterred by buried hardware cloth.

Evidence of a digging beastie, whose efforts were foiled by buried hardware cloth.

  1. Cover the Run

For maximum security, cover the run to protect against flying and climbing predators. A lesser degree of protection can be obtained by stringing netting on top of the run to deter hawks, owls, etc. Climbing predators will not be deterred by netting, however.

An enclosed, covered chicken run will keep aerial predators away from the flock.

  1. Close Coop and Run Doors at Dusk

One never knows when a nocturnal predator might begin its hunt for food prematurely, therefore, the coop and run doors should be secured as soon as the flock has gone to roost for the night. An an electronic poultry door can manage this detail automatically.
Always check the chicken run to be sure it's empty before securing the door at night. While my flock's pop door automatically closes after dusk, had I not checked the run to be sure it was clear, this opossum would have been locked inside, waiting for my flock in the morning.

Always check to be sure the chicken run is clear of predators before locking the door at night.

Bobcat via The Chicken Chick®

  1. USE 2 STEP LOCKS ON DOOR LATCHES
    Raccoons are very adept at unlatching simple locks and turning basic door handles. Locks requiring multiple steps to unlatch are more secure plan than a hook-and-eye style lock. Spring locks and barrel-style locks are recommended.

Locks requiring multiple steps to open are the most secure chicken coop locks.

Raccoons are very adept at unlatching simple locks and turning basic door handles. Locks requiring multiple steps to unlatch are more secure plan than a hook-and-eye style lock. Spring locks and barrel-style locks are recommended.

Important personal safety note: Many chicken keepers have had the misfortune of locking themselves inside the coop or run. Formulate a human escape route.

Latch with rope attached permits opening the chicken run door from the inside....

Read the full article here