Last night in total darkness I stumbled upon a coyote standing six feet from my chicken coop. I’ve seen her before pacing the fence line knowing just on the other side is enough food to feed her and her pups. The acreage across the road is a common stomping ground where coyotes raise their young. When the pups reach about four months old, the mother moves them to the desert mountain range behind our ranch.
Their food source is rabbits, and believe me, there is an endless supply. Every morning I see ten to fifteen on my property alone. My chickens don’t bother them, so my ranch has become a safe haven breeding ground for cotton tail bunnies. I find babies in my hay pile, compost pile, and under the feed shed all the time.
Apparently my coyote neighbors have grown tired of rabbits and have fresh chicken on the mind… mine. The six foot block wall around my property isn’t going to keep them out either. My ladies are in danger, and not just one, all of them in that particular hen house. Coyotes are not likely to just pick off one chicken and leave, they’re greedy and capable of wiping out an entire flock in minutes.
These particular hens at risk are from a previous flock and housed in a separate chain link enclosure with an elevated hen house inside. Only shade cloth covers the top, so they are the only ladies I’m worried about. The rest of my hens are safe from predators in another area.
I hung an LED light at the coyotes eye level right on the front of the coop where my at risk hens nest at night. I’ve read that coyotes avoid light, so needless to say, last night my entire property was lit up like a Christmas tree. This morning…. I was very pleased to find every single hen was accounted for.
Looks like I have a new project, out with the shade cloth roof and in with the chicken wire. Always something…
Will They Fly the Coop?
• How High and How Far?
It’s understandable having a concern for your chicken’s safety. Especially if you’ve nurtured them since they were little fuzzy day old chicks. We have all spent substantial time worrying about their well-being from the brooder all the way to the coop. But when it’s time to move them to the chicken yard or coop, there’s a whole new set of concerns.
Fortunately your chickens are not a big flight risk. Yes, they do indeed have wings, but I think we both know a chicken has yet to be seen soaring above roof tops. Their wings merely assist them, it’s doubtful a chicken could sustain flight for more than 10 seconds. They are capable of clearing a six foot fence, but it would not be effortless and seldom by choice. Their survival instincts are intact, so any predator threat including the family dog, could indeed send them over a fence or up a tree. But there’s no need to panic, they will come back when they’re ready, usually by dusk.
• Will They Wander?
Chickens are very curious, but if you provide them with entertainment, food, water, and comfort, they aren’t likely to wander off. A grassy patch, or garden, even something as simple as a mud puddle will keep them quite busy. They aren’t runaways by any means, wherever you place them from their first day out of the brooder will become their safety zone. I had five week old chicks escape through a small hole in the chicken yard and were gone the entire day, but all returned home by dark.
• The Alternatives
Another way to curb flight is to clip their wings, especially on the lighter or smaller birds. Heavy birds aren’t near as likely to scale a fence, but on occasion I have been proved wrong. Aviary netting atop the chicken enclosure also works nicely and also serves as excellent protection from hawks.
• The Bottom Line
Whether or not to worry about your chickens flying the coop is probably the last thing you should be concerned about. Keeping predators OUT is far more important than trying to keep chickens in.