I’ve been feeling somewhat smug that we hadn’t had a single issue with any predators and our chickens. Over labor day weekend I was awakened shortly before dawn by frantic clucking. I stuck my head out the window and saw a small racoon investigating our coop. I yelled at him, and as soon as he realized I was there he took off. I put on a bathrobe and went out to investigate, and other than a worked up chicken everything was fine.
Raccoons remember where food is, so unfortunately this means I now need to be doubly careful to make sure to always close the coop door or he might be back.
First Line of Defense
Chickens have a natural instinct to roost at night. As the sun goes down, they’ll trot into a raised coop and bed down. Most runs can be closed, ours is solid wood with a wooden door that slides into place. This is primary to protect the chickens – even if something gets into the run it hopefully won’t be able to get into the coop.
This, of course, relies on the door being opened in the morning and closed at night, which I forgot to do the night we had the problem. I didn’t go out to close the door in the evening, so in the predawn one of the chickens got up, wandered out into the run and attracted the raccoon’s attention.
The coop would be very warm during the day and your chickens wouldn’t be happy if they were stuck in the coop, so it’s even more important to remember to open the door in the morning. The chickens will probably start making noise if you don’t let them out.
At night chickens are like zombies, and if anything ever makes its way INTO the coop, they won’t defend themselves. There is a similar behavior if you grab your chickens by their legs, they just hang there and go limp – they almost immediately stop fighting.
Our coop is attached to a run, with the door to the coop being inside the run. This gives us SOME additional protection, as a predator needs to get into the run, then into the coop. Otherwise they need to go through solid wood.
Some animals might want to get into the run, as we have pellets for the chickens and other food we feed them there. It isn’t the end of the world for us if something got in and ate the chicken’s food. If we saw evidence of this, we’d certainly start thinking about fortifying the run – as we wouldn’t want something that was after the chickens to get in the same way. AND, we wouldn’t be overjoyed at something else eating our chickens’ food.
Making The Run More Secure
Chicken wire is to keep chickens in, not to keep predators out, so a standard run shouldn’t be viewed as much protection.
There are some additional things you can do to make it harder for predators to get into a run:
- Cover the top of the run with wire to help keep birds of prey away.
- Dig a trench and bury the run into the trench. If the bottom is deeper, it will be harder for anything to dig underneath.
- Hardware cloth can be used to cover any opening, buried underneath the run or as a skirt around the coop to prevent things from getting in.
- Motion sensor lights
- A night camera so you can see what is messing with your coop
- A dog that will protect the flock (instead of eat them)
Last Line of Defense
Chickens have beaks and claws and will try to defend themselves if attacked. They really aren’t that tough and won’t be able to stand up to many of the things that like to eat chickens. There are sad stories of owners coming upon a scene where something has attacked their chickens and their rooster died defending the hens.
Have you had anything attack your chickens? What happened? How have you modified your setup to prevent it in the future?