Fresh eggs, low maintenance, great pets, a fun hobby – chickens are the best! But unfortunately, humans aren’t the only ones who think so, which is why you need a predator proof chicken coop.
Predators like foxes, raccoons, weasels, and birds are notorious for breaking into backyard chicken coops and killing the chickens or stealing their eggs.
Dealing with these pesky rodents can be a real pain in the neck, but with a little preparation, you can keep your chickens safe and avoid less favorable clean-ups.
So, let’s take a look at the top things you have to know when making a predator proof chicken coop.
Your chickens will be eternally grateful–even if they don’t say it!
1. How Do Predators Get into Chicken Coops?
Predators are sneaky and can find seemingly impossible ways to break into your chicken coop.
Let’s check out the top ways chicken predators are able to break in.
Gnawing through chicken wire.
Undoing one-step locks.
Jumping over fences.
Flying down on uncovered roofs.
Digging holes under fences.
Finding rotted or weak entrance points.
Squeezing through holes.
Although there are several ways animals can break in, making a predator proof chicken coop is a fairly simple process as long as you use the right materials and do frequent inspections.
So, let’s now look at how to properly secure a chicken coop!
2. How do you create a predator proof Chicken Coop?
Chicken coops that haven’t been properly secured are vulnerable–very vulnerable.
Predators are sneaky and can come up with quite clever ways to break inside.
So, what can you do?
Fear not because we’re going to check out the best ways to secure a chicken coop.
Build the Chicken Coop with Hardware Cloth, Not Chicken Wire
Chicken wire is not strong enough to keep out predators.
Weasels, foxes, skunks, and several other pests can easily rip through the mesh and wreak havoc, and rats are known for being able to squeeze through it.
Hardware cloth, on the other hand, is much more durable, and the small openings make it impossible for rats and snakes to sneak through.
Install Wood Floors or Hardware Cloth Floors
Even if the walls of your coop are secured, your chickens still aren’t safe.
Some predators are able to dig their way into the coop, so securing your floors is a must.
Solid floors are ideal for preventing any hungry critters from entering, but the coop should be raised off the floor to prevent rotting if made of wood.
If your coop has a run, a great way to secure the floors is by putting down dirt or straw and then layering it with buried hardware cloth.
Install Secure Roofing
To prevent birds of prey from attacking, installing bird netting is a quick and easy solution.
But if you have other predators that will try and scale over the walls, you’ll need to install wooden slats or strong metal meshing.
Use Padlocks to Lock the Coop
You’d be amazed at how capable some predators, like raccoons, are of figuring out locks.
Padlocks are the most secure option that no animal will be able to crack, and they can be paired with other locks.
Avoid using one-step locks.
Clever pests will eventually figure them out and get into the coop.
Know the Predators
Knowing which predators are threatening your chickens will help you better secure the coop.
Do a little research on the animals in your area and set up cameras to see what comes snooping around.
Frequently Inspect the Coop
Chicken coops don’t stay secure forever.
Even if you feel like you’ve confidently secured the coop, you should do frequent inspections.
Weather and predators can do damage that could threaten its integrity!
3. How Do I Keep Raccoons out of My Chicken Coop?
Raccoons are some of the most difficult predators to deal with because they’re smart and vicious.
To prevent raccoons, your chicken coop must have a multi-step lock.
One-step locks are too simple, and raccoons are known for being surprisingly lock-savvy.
Chicken wire will not be enough to stop raccoons from getting through; you’ll need to use hardware cloth.
Outdoor dogs are a wonderful defense mechanism to have on your property–and they’re great pets!
Getting a watchdog that has an intimidating bark should be enough to keep most critters away.
Raccoons are sensitive to certain smells, like cayenne, garlic, onion, peppermint oil, and Epsom salt.
You could make a mixture of these ingredients and spray the chicken coop and the surrounding area!
In desperate situations, you could set up traps to capture the raccoons and then relocate them.
Keep in mind that you will have to take the raccoon at least five miles away from your property to ensure it doesn’t come back.
Raccoons can be a real headache, but if you follow these straightforward tips, you can sleep easy knowing your chickens are nice and safe in their coop.
4. How Do I Keep Rats Out of My Chicken Coop?
Rats are smaller predators and might not threaten the lives of your chickens–although it can happen–but they are known for breaking in to steal feed and eggs.
At times, if rats are desperate enough, they could go after your chickens.
Despite the rather large size of rats, they can surprisingly squeeze through tiny spaces–an unsettling thing to see.
So, you need to make sure your chicken coop is free of small openings.
Small rats can get through holes the size of a quarter (around an inch).
Half-inch hardware cloth is the perfect material to prevent any rat from getting into the coop.
It’s also durable enough, so they won’t be able to bite through it–unlike chicken wire or other softer mesh.
Another important factor is to not leave feed on the floor.
Chicken feed is what primarily attracts a rat to the coop in the first place (and to steal eggs), so if you’re on top of keeping the coop clean, you’ll be cutting down the likelihood of rats coming for a visit.
If you just can’t seem to prevent rats from coming in, you can fall back on rat traps.
Keep in mind that if you’d like to capture and relocate the rat, you’ll need to take it a couple of miles away to ensure it doesn’t come back!
5. Will Lights on a Chicken Coop Keep Predators Away?
Installing motion sensor lights is a great way to deter night-time predators.
They might not seem like much, but the shock of light is often enough to get rid of critters of all sizes.
It would be a good idea to direct one of the lights onto the chicken coop to give the chickens a warning.
If the predator sticks around, the light will hopefully cause the chickens to use their distress call, alerting you to intervene.
Lights will also be helpful in letting you know when animals are lurking about, even if your chickens aren’t crying out.
Try to position a light, or the entire coop, so that it’s visible from your home.
If you see the light go off or hear a noise, you can easily check to see what’s going on.
Motion sensor lights range from tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars, depending on their size and abilities.
The most expensive option doesn’t always mean the most effective, so you could always start with something affordable and upgrade your lights later.
6. What Predators Dig Under Chicken Coops?
A predator proof chicken coop is not complete until the floors are secure.
Many of the typical predators can easily get in and harm your chickens by digging a hole and sliding through.
You would think that this tactic would only be used by smaller animals, like weasels and minks, but coyotes, raccoons, and foxes are also digging predators.
Just when you think you have the ultimate predator proof chicken coop, one clever little animal will dig a hole and cause you to think again.
So, as we discussed in the upper section, it’s important to have secure flooring.
If you choose to use wood, make sure to raise the coop off the ground to prevent any rotting–the wood could become weak, which is bad for the structure’s integrity, and potentially be an entrance for predators.
Since chicken runs are usually directly on the ground, you could install a layer of hardware cloth.
But make sure that it is properly sealed at the edges to prevent any opening.
7. What Animals Kill Chickens at Night?
Unfortunately, chickens are on the menu of many nocturnal animals.
The list of predators might sound overwhelming if you’re new to owning chickens, but the good news is that preventing them from entering the coop is fairly straightforward.
Let’s take a look at the animals you need to be aware of.
Rats (for eggs)
Snakes (for eggs)
Kind of a long list, right?
Well, with some hardware cloth, bird netting, and multi-step locks, you will be able to outsmart these animals.
If you see any of these creatures lurking around your property, immediately inspect your coop for possible entrance points.
The best offense is a good defense, as they say.
8. Do Predators Hunt Chickens During the Day?
When it comes to protecting our chickens, we tend to focus on the threatening animals that come by at night.
But what about during the day?
Some predators will still hunt chickens during the day; however, the preferred hunting time is around dusk and dawn.
So, although it’s less common for predators to go after your chickens in broad daylight, it can happen.
An important thing to consider is that dogs can become a threat during the day.
If you live next to someone who has big dogs and you don’t have secure fences between the two properties, it could cause some problems.
The best defense against daytime predators is a chicken run.
These enclosed spaces still allow your chickens to walk around and get sunlight, but they prevent any animals from getting to them.
If you do decide to let your chickens roam in your backyard, check your fences to make sure no dogs can break through.
9. Can Foxes Open Chicken Coop Doors?
Raccoons are known for undoing locks and opening the doors of chicken coops, but what about foxes?
Foxes don’t have the same dexterity as raccoons, so they’re less likely to open chicken coop doors.
Usually, foxes will try and dig under the fence, climb over walls, or chew through meshing.
Don’t let that stop you from securely fastening the door and installing appropriate locks.
If a clever fox comes around and starts pawing at a one-step lock, well, cross your fingers it’s unable to get through.
No matter what type of animals you’re securing your chicken coop from, putting on a secure door and a strong lock system is crucial!
10. Do Roosters Deter Predators?
Having roosters around is a wonderful alarm system, and they can even provide a bit of protection.
Roosters are known to keep hens herded in particular areas and will start making calls of distress if a predator is around.
In some cases, the rooster may even be willing to put up a fight, depending on the size of the rooster and predator.
So, whether the rooster is used as an alarm system or a form of protection, it could give you a few extra seconds to intervene before anything happens to your chickens.
You do need to consider that roosters can get aggressive toward you and your family–they don’t always live by the rule don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Roosters can really do some damage with their beak and claws, so if you have little kids running around the backyard, having roosters might not be the best option.
11. How Long Can You Leave a Chicken Coop Unattended?
Chickens require a few basic needs: water, food, and protection (and a little love, of course).
You should only leave a chicken coop unattended for about four days.
Leaving chickens locked up in the coop can cause stress and will result in quite a mess.
If you do have to leave your chickens unattended for a few days, make sure to provide them with the appropriate amount of feed and water, and do a deep cleaning of the space, including changing the bedding.
Be careful not to leave too much feed, as you don’t want to attract any other hungry critters.
It’s important to know that predators can sense when humans aren’t in the area, making them braver and more determined to get through the chicken coop.
So, before you leave, you need to do a very thorough inspection of the coop for any vulnerable entry points.
If you can, ask a neighbor to look after your chickens.
All they would need to do is give them food and water and let them spend time in the chicken run for a while.
Getting your first chickens is an exciting moment, and you’ll question why you hadn’t gotten them earlier.
The thought of predators trying to attack your coop isn’t the most settling feeling, but if you take the steps we talked about in this article, you shouldn’t have any problems protecting your flock.
The most important thing you can do to create a predator proof chicken coop is to properly secure it and frequently look for potential openings.
Just because you haven’t had a problem doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
So, be proactive and keep those chickens safe!
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