There are numerous predators that will eat your chickens or their eggs if you give them a chance to do so. Which predators you have to defend against will depend in part on where you live, but regardless of that you will have to build your chicken coop with predator protection of some sort in mind.
Here are some of the more common chicken predators, and how to keep your birds safe from them.
Raccoons are very intelligent and versatile animals. They are native to the Americas, but have also been introduced in other parts of the world. Although most people think of them as scavengers, raccoons are also skilled predators of wild birds and tame poultry. They usually kill chickens by breaking their necks, and cages will not necessarily deter them, as they can kill the birds if they are close enough to the end of the cage. Make sure you leave enough room in any outdoor runs so that your chickens can get clear of the fences.
These animals live throughout the continent of Northern America, and tend to prefer more plains-like climates. They can often be found living on the edges of wooded tracts of land, and are a real terror for chicken raisers. Because foxes often eat their food whole, without tearing chunks off like some other predators do, often all you’ll find on the site of a fox attack are feathers and upset survivors. They also tend to kill more than they can eat at one time and bury the rest, especially around breeding season when they may need the extra food for their pups.
Birds of prey like the red-tailed hawk can add a whole new level of worries when it comes to predator protection for your chicken coop. This particular type of hawk lives throughout North America, and can be found as far north as Alaska and as far south as Panama. Hawks have extremely good eyesight, and will tear larger prey to pieces if they cannot eat it all at once. To protect against airborne predators, make sure that any external parts of your coop have wire along the top as well as the sides.
Protecting your Chickens
Regardless of the type of predator, most aspects of predator protection for your chicken coop will remain the same. Make sure access to your coop is controlled. The easiest way to do this is to create a fenced-in “chicken run” outside of your coop.
Although chicken wire is the normal means of fencing in a coop and run, pretty much any kind of wire fencing will do as long as the holes in it are not big enough for your chickens to get out or predators to get in.
Remember that some predators can dig, so for maximum predator protection for your chicken coop, you might want to either bury a foot or so of fencing under the dirt for your walls or consider putting in floor tiles to keep these burrowing predators out.
Your chickens will not mind. Another good idea is to attach some kind of simple alarm mechanism to your coop’s fencing. This could be something as basic as bells that will ring when a predator touches the fence. The bells will not only alert you, but may even spook the predator and make them leave.