How to Keep your Flock Safe from These Common Natural Predators
Biggest Threat: Coyote
Coyotes are common in urban areas of Phoenix and are known to prey on chickens. These animals are highly adaptable predators that can thrive in a variety of habitats, including rural, and highly populated urban areas. They are opportunistic hunters & it’s almost certain the coyote will eventually find your chickens. Note: The coyote rarely takes one bird, they are known to kill the entire flock, take one or two birds and leave the dead behind.
Note: The coyote rarely takes one bird, they are known to kill the entire flock, take one or two birds and leave the dead behind.
The Harris Hawk is a bird of prey that can swoop down and carry off small animals, including chickens. They are known to be skilled predators, and they hunt a variety of prey. They hunt in groups, which is uncommon among raptors. They often hunt cooperatively, with one bird flushing prey from cover while another waits in ambush. This allows them to take down larger prey than they could handle alone. The Harris hawk is a skilled and adaptable hunter that has evolved unique hunting behaviors to maximize its chances of success in capturing prey.
Bobcats are carnivorous animals and are known to prey on a variety of animals, including chickens. When hunting chickens, bobcats use their keen senses of sight, hearing, and smell to detect their prey. So it’s especially important to keep your keep clean. Bobcats typically wait until dusk to hunt, but keep in mind, I have experienced an attack during the day, so always assume your birds are at risk if unprotected. Bobcats aren’t known to be greedy, they usually take just one bird.
Note: Bobcats aren’t known to be greedy, they usually take just one bird.
Raccoons are known to be skilled at breaking into chicken coops and killing chickens. They are not a huge threat in the city, but I have seen them on our urban farm. Raccoons are a type of mammal that are known for their distinctive “hands.” Raccoon hands which are very dexterous and have long, flexible fingers that can grasp and manipulate objects with ease, such as latches on coop doors.
Rattlesnakes can pose a threat to chickens, they are venomous snakes that are found not only in desert areas but the city as well. They are known to prey on small animals which includes birds. Chickens are potential prey for rattlesnakes because they are small and often forage on the ground, which makes them vulnerable to snake attacks. If a rattlesnake can get into a chicken coop or other chicken enclosure, it may be able to kill or injure chickens.
How to Protect Your Backyard Flock From Predators
Secure your coop: Make sure that your coop is secure and predator-proof. This includes using sturdy materials for the coop, such as wire mesh or hardware cloth, and ensuring that all openings are covered with tight-fitting, predator-resistant material. It is also important to have a strong lock on the door, as many predators are quite clever at finding their way in. Provide a secure run: A run is a fenced-in area where your chickens can roam during the day. Make sure the run is secure with a sturdy fence that is buried at least 6 inches into the ground to prevent predators from digging underneath it. Cover the top of the run with netting or wire mesh to prevent hawks or other birds of prey from swooping in. Keep the area clean: Predators are attracted to areas where they can easily find food, so make sure to clean up any spilled food or water and store feed in a secure container. Also, remove any debris or brush around the coop that predators could use as cover. Droppings from your birds are also an attractant, clean the coop at least once a week. Use lights and sound: Some predators are deterred by lights or loud noises. You can install motion-activated lights around the coop or a device that emits sound to deter predators.
Congratulations! By learning how to protect your birds, you have done your part to help keep your flock safe from predators. 🙂
The fox is an efficient and clever hunter with the capability to dig and maneuver through very small spaces. With little effort, a fox can chew through chicken wire and open latches that are of simple operation. Factory made coops often have both lightweight wire and flimsy latches which are merely an invitation to dinner for a fox.
Fox are mostly nocturnal animals, so your chickens are most at risk at night, unfortunately, when you’re sleeping. However, a hungry fox who knows chickens are free ranging during the day, will hunt then.
They’re smart and patient, they will watch your coop for weeks before they attack. Every bird the fox can grab in the coop will be killed, often the entire flock will be completely wiped out. They’ll take as many birds from the coop with them. I think I have your attention now, so here’s what you can do to help protect your flock…
How to Fox Proof the Chicken Coop
A wire floor secured to the coop frame will prevent fox from burrowing under the coop. You can get wire that has bigger holes so your chickens can still scratch in the dirt. If that’s not possible, attach a wire skirt around the coop so that a fox can’t dig or burrow near the coop. However, this means you won’t be able to move your coop.
Enclose the coop with heavy gauge wire and make sure there are no gaps in the corners, around doors, or where the sides meet the roof.
Put two sturdy latches on the coop door, or use a lock.
If there is access to the nest box make sure it’s locked at night.
Building or Buying a Coop?
Ideal housing for chickens where predators are a problem (which iseverywhere) is a ventilated shed or structure with solid walls and a floor for overnight. An attached covered pen with heavy gauge wire and perimeter wire skirting for daytime use.
Suggestions to Help Keep Fox Away
Sensor lights near the coop are a help keeping away fox, you can easily buy solar and put them low to the ground.
Motion sprinklers near the coop are another option, predators are startled by water.
The chicks are heading into their 5th week in the brooder and will be ready to move into the coop the following week. This is what I call their transitional week. Their radiant heat heat source is slowly taken away, and they’ll also lose their all-night red lighting.
The first few nights I switch from red lighting to a white night light, then the night light is taken away. By the time they transition from brooder to coop they will have learned to accept cooler temperatures and total darkness at night.
In most parts of the country chicks are kept in the brooder until they are fully feathered, which is usually around 8 weeks. Here in Phoenix, Arizona, by the end of April temperatures during the day reach about 85-90, lows about 65. Therefore, it’s plenty warm to move the chicks to the coop at about 6 weeks. As you can see, they’re pretty well feathered already!
The Finished Coop
The coop is an existing 10×10 x walk-in covered dog enclosure converted to a chicken coop. It’s inside a 3 stall covered open air barn, offering them plenty of shade and fresh air. It has taken almost 3 weeks to completely cover the chair link fencing with 1/2 inch hardware cloth. Needless to say, I have spent my self-quarantine time wisely. Unfortunately, my fingers are a mess from working with stubborn wire and zip ties.
Predators have been a problem in the past, we have had our share of traumatic experiences with hawks, bobcats, and coyotes. I’ve lost at 8 birds over the years, with so much time on my hands, this was a good time to put the effort into predator proofing the coop. Not to mention keeping wild birds from entering the coop and eating all the chicken feed.
Tip: Chicken wire isn’t going to keep your birds safe from predators, always use hardware cloth. Chicken wire can be chewed through or easily bent to give predators access. Also, lay /bury hardware cloth at the base of the coop to prevent digging by raccoons and coyotes, etc. More About Predators