In a recent article we wrote about how to identify predators that harm your flock. Now that you’ve identified your potential predator or predators, you can begin fixing the weak links in and around the coop and run.
First, let’s establish some basic ground rules to keep your flock safe:
- No outside roosting at night. Your flock is most vulnerable in the dark.
- Train your birds to come back to the coop every night. This may be natural for most chickens, but if your flock fails to return to the roost, simply keep them in the coop with no access to the run for at least a week. It shows the birds that this is their ‘home’. When doing so, make sure the temperature inside the coop does not exceed 70 degrees (F).
- Secure the coop. Do this by building it off the ground about 12 inches. This discourages skunks, snakes and rats from hiding under the coop and stealing your precious eggs.
- Keep the coop enclosed in a poultry run with poultry wire, electric netting, or wire mesh. Consider also covering the top with poultry netting.
Mesh fencing material is optimal material. Small (½ inch by ½ inch) mesh will deter creatures and snakes.
Electric fencing can be used for dogs, raccoons or coyotes.
Hardware cloth can be buried under the fence around the perimeter of your chicken run to prevent digging predators.
- A coop nightlight that stays on after dark will help keep your chickens safe. Chickens do need time for rest, though, so make sure the light is not shining directly into the coop, or opt for motion detector lights outside the coop.
- Having a watchful eye, such as a chicken-friendly dog or protective rooster, can also keep your girls safe — and alert you to potential predators.
- Secure feed. Feed/food scraps attract predators, encouraging them to break into the run. Making sure no feed is left in that area will help prevent pests such as mice and rats. It’s best to store feed in a sturdy, metal garbage can with a tight-fitting lid, which will also help keep out moisture.
Finally, never underestimate the unpredictability of a hungry wild animal. Protect your flock, but never put yourself in physical danger.