When predators are near, use these tips to protect your chickens.
Updated – June 2023
This winter has been an interesting one. We have lost two chickens to predator attacks. We have had chickens for three years and 2022-2023 is the first winter we have had hawks, opossums, and foxes knocking on the run of our hen house.
So what can you do to prevent losing your priceless birds to these dime-a-dozen predators?
In my three years of raising chickens, I never would have thought that I would have such a rough winter simply because I failed to fix things as they came up. And isn’t that easy to do? As an urban farmer, I have external commitments that keep me off my property the majority of the time. And this winter, we paid the price for not tending to things quicker.
So take this as encouragement from me. These are tips and tricks that we have learned and we hope that they will serve you well in keeping your own backyard chickens safe.
Consider where you live, and adjust protection accordingly
Even though micro homesteaders live in urban areas doesn’t mean they won’t deal with predators. If you live in a rural area, there is a lot more you can do to protect your chickens. But these recommendations are for homesteaders in both regions.
– Do not free range your chickens. When winter has settled in and the grass is dead, your chickens will still find things to scrounge around for. But this does make them more susceptible to predators.
– Consider electric fencing or poultry wire. This may go against city ordinances for you micro homesteaders, but still worth looking into.
– Guard animals. Again – this level of protection may be out of reach for the urban homesteader, but an incredible option for anyone with the space and means to keep a guard dog. Dogs are more than capable of chasing out large predators and eliminating small predators.
Take a look at your food source
Predators were attacking our backyard chickens because it was the dead middle of winter and they were looking for food. We had a few opossums come around, and they were all interested in the chicken feed we leave out every night.
We quickly realized what was going on and made adjustments immediately. We have since changed when we feed our chickens and how much. Morning feedings are the priority. We also closely monitored how much our chickens were actually eating and have since stopped overfeeding them. We no longer leave feed in their feeders. It attracts pests!
Reinforce your chicken house
In our lack of planning, an opossum was in with our chickens because the chicken wire had come loose and animals were able to get into our chicken run. The same can be said for doors. A chicken may not be able to jump out of a screen door or a specialty door, but that doesn’t mean predators can’t get in.
We also don’t have a roof over our chicken run. This is an easy fix with some poultry netting. While it may seem like an unnecessary addition to your coop, it’s a great deterrent for birds of prey. Don’t be fooled – chickens are an easy catch for aerial predators.
There is also a lot you can do to make a predator-proof chicken coop with fencing material. But sometimes, simple bird netting will suffice.
The same goes for tackling things like exterior fences on your property. Large predators will be able to access your chickens with no problem if there are problems with your fence. Sometimes, your best defense is preventative maintenance.
Prepare your pest-control methods
Two of our predator attacks happen in the middle of the night. Preparing for predators is a great example of something to prepare for.
Since we live in the city, we are limited in what we can do to deter pests. The only forms of pest control available to us are live traps or our animal control officers. Any further methods require registering for a pest control permit through our state’s game and fish office. Or carefully placing chemicals or other deterrents in our yard. The only hesitation deterrents create is that they need to dissuade a predator but not bother your flock. A careful balance must be struck.
Whatever method you choose, you can grab a live trap similar to this one or save your animal control officer’s number into your phone. (BONUS: I also recommend grabbing a pair of work gloves, like these.)
Motion sensor lights are also a great way to deter nocturnal predators.
Electric poultry fencing or inch hardware cloth are both great for digging predators. However, be sure your own chickens don’t have access to electric poultry fencing. It may be a better option as a sort of fence around your free-range chickens for larger predators.
Finally, get rid of tall grass! Don’t give predators a space to hide in! Tall grass is a great way to encourage attacks during daylight hours. It’s also a home for all kinds of wild animals – very unwanted visitors!
The greatest threat to your backyard chickens
The greatest threat to your backyard chickens is an uneducated and underprepared chicken keeper. Don’t let small holes, potential predators, and other common problems prevent you from being a great chicken keeper. You are your flock’s first line of defense!
If necessary, make a list of predators in your area that are a known threat to chickens and begin taking measures to create a secure coop from those predators. Don’t forget domestic dogs can pose a threat as well, so factor that into your list of common predators.
Check out these other great blog posts!
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If you want to know more about caring for chickens, I’ve written posts about feed options, raising chicks, and farm-fresh eggs.
Homesteading in an urban environment
Isn’t it crazy to think that you can be raising your own food in your backyard? I have backyard chickens! I’m growing my own produce! However, it isn’t feasible for everyone.
If it isn’t feasible for you, or you have a friend who wants to begin homesteading but doesn’t know how, be sure to check out my ebook Making a Microhomestead. It’s chock full of tips and tricks you can use to get plugged into your local homesteading community, begin homesteading without any land, and more.
Because if you think about it, it’s true! You truly don’t need land or livestock to start a homestead. Take us for example. We’ve been raising our own eggs on less than half an acre of land for three years now! And even though we aren’t able to grow all of our food, we can work with local farmers. Since starting to get connected with my local homestead community, I no longer source beef, strawberries, flour, other grains, pork, or cooking fats from my grocery store! In the coming years, I hope to transition away from commercial dairy products and begin sourcing that from local farmers as well.
And all by just getting started today! Don’t let how overwhelming the process is stop you from making the change. In Making a Microhomestead, I have growth plans to guide you along the way. We are still mindful to consider where we want to be in five years, but what our homestead will look like in five years isn’t where we’re trying to be today. Growth takes time! Give yourself grace and really dive into those growth plans.
We talk a lot about what a micro homestead is. Do you know what it is? Read this post to learn more. Are you looking for a way to relax after dealing with a predator problem of your own? Make my lavender sugar scrub and kiss your worries goodbye.