Living in a Northern climate, our winters are brutal and cold. Temperatures can drop as low as -50 degrees Celsius (-58 degrees Fahrenheit) for weeks at a time. So during the winter months our chickens are house in an indoor heated coop. Each year, when Spring arrives, we open up the coop and let the hens free-range.
This year was no exception. Like always, the chickens raced outside to scratch in the dirt and delight in their new found freedom. Later in the evening, my husband and I returned to the coop to check on the hens and close the coop up for the night. To our horror we discovered half our flock was missing or dead and we had several injured hens. We were dumbfounded.
What could have gotten past our dog and caused so much damage? And how did it get into our chicken pen? Upon further investigation we discovered a weak spot in the fence where whatever it was had gotten in. My husband immediately went to work fixing it while I tended to the injured hens.
It was not until the next day, however, that the culprit was caught. As it turned out, the culprit was able to get past our dog because it WAS our dog! This became painfully apparent as, throughout the entire day, we had to repeatedly and forcefully take dead chickens away from him. It seems he had killed them and stockpiled them in the woods somewhere.
Our chickens have a killer guard dog!
So, to the point. Chickens are one of the best animals to raise for food security because they are hardy, low maintenance, and produce protein filled food on a daily basis. They also are entertaining and teach many lessons about life and responsibility. That being said, they are also very vulnerable. They are prey to predators in the sky, critters on the ground, and all things that go bump in the night. So here is a list some of common predators to watch out for when raising chickens.
Predators to Watch For:
- Cats (domestic and feral)
- Dogs (domestic and feral)
So now that you know what to watch for the next step is to create an environment that protects your chickens.
Prevention Methods to Protect your Chickens:
- An indoor confinement coop (insure appropriate space for chickens to move around).
- A coop with an outdoor run that is fully enclosed.
- If you have the space and a mobile coop, moving the coop regularly keeps the predators guessing where the chickens are.
- Raise the coop several feet off the ground or dig the coop floor into the ground to prevent snakes, rats, or skunks from setting up shop under the coop.
- Providing adequate overhead cover from aerial predators such as canopy trees or man-made chicken shelters.
- An electric fence.
- Digging the perimeter fence several inches into the ground.
- Keeping grasses and vegetation short in the area surrounding the perimeter as predators don’t like to be exposed.
- Locking the chickens up in the coop for the night.
- Install a motion sensor light by the chicken coop.
- Livestock guardian animal (properly trained of course).
Depending on where you live (urban or rural), your local predators, how you choose to raise your chickens (confinement, fenced, or free-range), and if you end up with a killer guard dog, your ideal protection plan will vary.
What predators do you have in your area and what would you suggest for protecting your chickens?