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How to Make a Predator Proof Chicken Coop

Updated on August 30, 2014

Prevent Predators from Killing Chickens

Chickens are highly vulnerable to attack from a variety of predators. Chickens have few defense mechanisms and are an easy target for weasels, hawks, coyotes, and neighborhood dogs. Creating a predator-proof chicken coop will keep the birds safe when roosting at night - adding a predator proof chicken run will prevent daytime predators from attacking your chickens.


An Elevated Chicken Coop

This chicken coop is elevated off the ground to provide proper air circulation and as an added barrier to small predators.
This chicken coop is elevated off the ground to provide proper air circulation and as an added barrier to small predators. | Source

Elevate the Chicken Coop

Chicken coops that rest on the ground are vulnerable to rot, poor air circulation, and create easy access for small predators. Raising the chicken coop off the ground by 1 foot or more creates an obstacle for small predators to overcome. This step helps to reduce the number of mice, rats, and snakes that can creep into the coop.

In addition, a raised coop reduces moisture, which can cause rot. Rot creates weak areas in the coop's infrastructure. Predators will exploit weak areas in the coop, burrowing or digging through the rotting wood to reach the chickens they find inside.

Free-ranging chickens may find protection from an elevated coop, since they are able to seek shelter under the coop when a hawk or other flying predator approaches. Rats and mice are less likely to nest in or around an elevated coop.

An elevated coop also prevents the growth of mold and fungi, which is detrimental to the health of chickens. All chickens have sensitive respiratory systems, so proper ventilation is necessary. In addition to deterring smaller pests, an elevated coop creates healthier conditions for the chickens kept inside.

Hardware Cloth

1/2" hardware cloth is much stronger than chicken wire, and will prevent predators from breaking into the coop.
1/2" hardware cloth is much stronger than chicken wire, and will prevent predators from breaking into the coop. | Source

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Use Hardware Cloth Over Openings

Chicken wire (or poultry wire) is completely useless for protecting chickens from predators. While chicken wire is inexpensive, predators such as raccoons and skunks are able to tear through the thin wire like butter.

A better alternative is 1/2" or 1/4" hardware cloth, which is a form of welded wire. The small openings make it difficult for a predator to reach through and grab a chicken - raccoons have been known to tear chickens limb-from-limb while reaching through wire. Hardware cloth is extremely durable and will not rip or tear when faced with a raccoon or fox.

Hardware cloth can be placed over all windows, vents, and can be used to make a predator-proof chicken run. When using hardware cloth to create a run, be sure to create a "skirt" around the run. Hardware cloth "skirts" should be dug at least 6" deep around the entire chicken run. By lining the bottom of the run with hardware cloth, you will prevent predators from digging under the run to attack the chickens.

The chicken run must also have a roof: a traditional tar-and-shingle roof or a metal roof will provide shade and protection from the elements. Some chicken runs simply use more hardware cloth as a "roof" - while this does not provide protection from the elements, it will prevent predators from flying into the run or from climbing into the run.

For an additional level of safety, electrified netting may be added to the chicken coop or run. This will keep stubborn predators away from the coop.

Proper Chicken Coop Security

This chicken coop originally had regular window screens, which created a vulnerability to predators. The screen was replaced with 1/2" hardware cloth to make this opening predator-proof.
This chicken coop originally had regular window screens, which created a vulnerability to predators. The screen was replaced with 1/2" hardware cloth to make this opening predator-proof. | Source

Did You Know?

Predators such as rats and weasels are able to enter a coop through an opening as small as 1" in diameter. A secure coop must have all openings covered with hardware cloth or a door with a secure latch. Inspect the coop regularly to ensure there are no hidden holes for predators to gain access to the coop!

Have Secure Latches on Coop Doors

Raccoons are particularly clever and aggressive predators. Since they have opposable thumbs, they are able to lift simple latches and gain access to a coop. Simple latches (such as a hook through an eye-bolt) do not provide appropriate security for a chicken coop.

A great, inexpensive door-latch system consists of a latch with a carabiner threaded through the hole in the latch. Raccoons are unable to open a carabiner and lift the latch at the same time. As a general rule of thumb, any latch system that requires two hands to operate will prevent raccoons from gaining access to the coop.


Secure Chicken Coop Latches

This chicken coop originally had a hook and eye-bolt style latch. A more secure latch was installed with a carabiner. This system will prevent raccoons from opening the latch and entering the coop.
This chicken coop originally had a hook and eye-bolt style latch. A more secure latch was installed with a carabiner. This system will prevent raccoons from opening the latch and entering the coop. | Source

Electrified Poultry Netting

Powerfields P-89-G Poultry Net, 42-Inch 165-Feet, Green
Powerfields P-89-G Poultry Net, 42-Inch 165-Feet, Green

Surrounding a coop or a chicken run with electrified netting is an effective deterrent to stubborn predators. This fence is easy to move and will work with a solar battery pack for those who do not have electricity at the coop site.

 

An Example of an Automatic Chicken Door

Automatic Coop Doors

While not necessary, automatic chicken coop doors are a wonderful security measure. For those who are not always home as dusk approaches, automatic doors will shut and lock the chickens securely inside the coop. Automatic doors often work from a timer system. Some models offer a light-sensor, which is advantageous as there is no timer to reset as the day length grows shorter in the winter.

Several chicken doors offer solar options for those who do not have electricity at the coop site. Most automatic chicken doors cost approximately $200, but may be well worth the investment for people who travel or work during the evening hours.

Feed Storage

Store all chicken feed in sealed metal containers. Rats and mice will chew through plastic containers. Any unsealed feed containers will attract pests and predators. In addition, if you have pet dogs or cats, do not leave their feed outside. Rats will nest where there is a reliable food source, so eliminate outdoor access to dog or cat food.

Hang chicken feeders outside the coop (preferably inside a secure chicken run). Hanging the feeders will prevent mice and rats from accessing the feed meant for chickens. As a general rule, hang feeders so they are as high as the chicken's chest. This will allow the chicken to feed easily - as a side benefit, hanging chicken feeders prevents the chickens from contaminating their feed with feces.

Coop Location

Do not situate your coop adjacent to woodlands. Most chicken predators live in the forest, and hawks and owls will perch on branches above the coop before swooping down to kill a chicken.

A Chicken Guard Dog

This Golden Retriever has been trained to protect its family's chickens.
This Golden Retriever has been trained to protect its family's chickens. | Source

A Guard Dog to Protect the Flock

Obtaining a good farm dog (or a friendly family watch dog) to guard the backyard flock is an excellent method to deter daytime predators. A good farm dog will bark and chase away predators. Take care, however, to ensure your dog is trustworthy and will not try to attack the chickens it is meant to protect. Some dog breeds are better at protecting chickens than others, and some dogs are very difficult to train around chickens. In general, dogs with a high prey drive (such as terriers and greyhounds) are more likely to attack chickens than guard them. Dogs with a low prey drive include Great Pyrenees, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Old English Sheepdogs.

Consider a Rooster

Roosters are not allowed in all locations and can be noisy, but they offer protection to a flock of laying hens. Roosters are aggressive and will sacrifice their own lives for the sake of the flock. In addition, a rooster will sound an alarm call when a bird of prey flies overhead, or when danger is imminent. While inappropriate for city flocks, a free-ranging farm flock would benefit from a protective rooster.

Common Chicken Predators

Predator
Attack Method
Time of Day
Raccoons
Kill multiple chickens, eating the entrails. Will often reach into a coop and pull off a chicken's leg or head. May carry the chicken to a remote area before consuming it.
Nocturnal
Dogs
Will attack multiple chickens and may not eat them. If provided access, will kill an entire flock.
Any time of day or night
Domesticated Cats
Will consume the fleshy parts of the chicken, leaving wings and feathers scattered around.
Any time of day or night
Birds of Prey
Will swoop down on free-ranging chickens or enter a coop. Bantam breeds are at the highest risk.
Any time of day or night
Opossums
Usually kill a single chicken, as opossums hunt alone. May take a bite out of the chicken's meaty areas.
Generally nocturnal
Rats
Will kill small chicks, and maim larger birds. May chew off beaks or feet.
Generally nocturnal
Skunks
Like opossums, skunks hunt alone. They tend to eat the entrails and leave the rest of the bird.
Nocturnal
Coyotes
Coyotes will abscond with an entire bird. They tend to break into the chicken run (or coop) and carry their prey to a remote location.
Just before dawn and just after dusk
Foxes
Rarely manage to get into a coop, but are determined predators. Foxes will carry off a chicken to a remote area to eat it. Free ranging chickens are at the highest risk.
Primarily nocturnal, but may attack during the day
Weasels
May enter a coop through an opening as small as 1" wide. Will attack in groups and may kill an entire flock in one night.
Primarily nocturnal
Bobcats
Will puncture the chicken's back, legs, and thighs. Will bite off the chicken's head.
Nocturnal

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    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Great details. At night my chickens and other fowl are protected by a plastic covered hardware cloth since I live by the beach, but during the day they are free range and are protected by my Pitbull.

      We no longer have a problem with cats, opossums, feral dogs, or kouati (similar to a racoon) because of my dog. It is hard to tell which dog breed is going to work, but for the best chances of your dog working out it is best to raise him around the chickens. Every chicken breeder needs to look into a poultry guard dog! Voted up and interesting.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      Very true, Dr. mark - we have a Golden Retriever (traditionally used to retrieve birds). He has been raised around the chickens and is absolutely fine with them. He has chased off a cat and a fisher, so he is very helpful. We live in a heavily wooded area with foxes, bears, coyotes, weasels, and other predators. We rely on our coop and run to keep our chickens safe!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      It makes sense to elevate the coop, clever! I have not heard of the hardware cloth but can certainly tell by your post how effective it is in keeping out pests. When I do get my farm, a dog is a must! Thanks for the great advice.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      The hardware cloth is a lifesaver (literally) - we have 1/2" hardware cloth over every opening on our coop and even the raccoons cannot get through it. Our dog is extremely helpful, too, teaches12345 - he chases off anything that wanders into our yard!

    • How to do blog profile image

      How to do blog 2 years ago

      A chicken guard is cool because it is a dog. This is an amazing idea that the dog who can eat chicken is now a bodyguard of chickens. Wow, thanks for share this cool hub with us.

    • mySuccess8 profile image

      mySuccess8 2 years ago

      Various security measures for Chicken Coops, being explained based on real experience, which I find amazing. And different levels of security, from the simple to the more technologically-advanced, can be introduced for different locations, depending on risks levels for that locality. Great Hub, and Congrats on HotD!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      Our dog is a fantastic chicken guard, How to do blog! He is really wonderful with the chickens - he will herd them (Golden Retrievers aren't herding dogs, but our dog will do it) and chases off predators. It is a really wonderful thing to have!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      We are finishing our outdoor chicken run at the moment, mySuccess8, and have dug a 6" deep pit lined with hardware cloth (and filled with gravel). Our coop will have the security of Fort Knox by the time we are done! Our chickens have never been attacked, and we live in an area filled with wildlife.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Useful and interesting information here. I've been reading up on raising chickens and this adds important information for protecting the flock. The hardware cloth idea is really important. Congratulations on winning Hub of the Day.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      Congrats on HOTD! I love chickens! Your chicken coop is so great, some people might just move in there! I bought a few hens for my children once, but lost them to racoons. I did not have a good coop like yours.

      Voted UP, etc.etc. Great Hub.

    • nightcats profile image

      June Campbell 2 years ago from North Vancouver

      This is an amazingly thorough hub. Well deserved HOTD

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 2 years ago from Kansas

      This information is very useful. I plan to build one soon. Thanks.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from Northern California, USA

      This is very informative. The suggestion to use the hardware cloth is invaluable. I also found the table helpful. The information is good for understanding when predators are likely to come out. The knowledge is valuable for humans, too. Congratulations on a great hub and for receiving Hub of the Day.

    • Lionrhod profile image

      Lionrhod 2 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Congrats on Hub of the Day! Excellent hub.

      I don't have chickens right now, but am hoping to move to a place where I can have them again. I'll definitely be referring back here when I'm ready to build a coop.

    • gator strong profile image

      gator strong 2 years ago from USA

      great post I lost one of my silkies to a hawk. I haven't heard a hawk for a few years. So I would let them free range when I was outside.One day I went in for a bit and that fast a hawk killed my smallest silky.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 2 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Great information, very well documented with the photos! We don't have chickens but think more and more about the possibility. We live near woods and would be concerned with just about every predator on your list. It would be an adventure for sure. Congratulations on the well-deserved HOTD honors!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, Mary615! We love our hens. They are wonderful - our coop was purchased second-hand, but we had to make a lot of modifications to keep the predators out. The original coop had regular window screen over the openings! We have been working hard to fortify the structure - it is now safe for our "girls!"

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      Thank you, nightcats. We have been working on our coop for quite some time!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      Good luck with your coop, Pawpawwrites. We were able to obtain a second-hand coop and renovate it, which was a fantastic cost-saver for us.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      There are so many different predators for chickens, MarleneB. They all attack in a slightly different manner, so sometimes you can determine which predator is attacking your flock by the signs. A missing chicken was probably taken by a fox - but an entire flock massacred is probably the work of a domesticated dog. Fortunately, our hens are safe and sound, the predators can't get through our hardware cloth!

    • leahlefler profile image
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      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      I hope you do get to move to a place that allows chickens, Lionrhod. We have a small flock of 5 hens and truly enjoy them!

    • leahlefler profile image
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      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      Hawks are so awful, gator strong. Our chickens are usually in a covered chicken tractor (netting over the top of the structure), but sometimes I let them out with me. Our dog tends to deter most predators, but it is a risk when they're out in the open. They love to free-range, though! I don't have any silkies, but my friend does and loves them. They are so soft!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      SusanDeppner, we originally obtained our chickens as a "life experience" for our boys - to have them raise the hens and learn about where food comes from. It has been a fantastic experience, and the hens are definitely a fun addition to our family. We are also nestled in the woods, but our coop has withstood every predator attack so far! We have not had a bear try to get into the coop yet, though - I don't think there is much you can do to ward off a bear (other than to use electrified fencing).

    • annerivendell profile image

      annerivendell 2 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      What a great hub. Well deserved to be the hub of the day! We've been thinking of getting some hens so the tips will be taken on board. Voted up.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      Hens are a great addition to a back garden, annerivendell. They are quite easy to care for - I work outside the home and we feed them, water them, and interact with them daily. We only clean the coop about once per week, and it takes about 15 minutes. Quite simple! I hope you are able to get some chickens one day!

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 2 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Nicely covered - my uncle had a rooster guarding his fenced in coop and several dogs on the outside.

    • profile image

      Lambservant 2 years ago

      I don't raise chickens but have many friends that do and every one of them have lost birds to predators. I will be passing this on.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      Roosters can be very helpful, MartieG. We live in an area that forbids them, unfortunately, so we rely on our trusty dog and a strong coop. Sometimes I wish we could have a rooster here!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      I hope the article is helpful to your friends, Lambservant. I need to include some pictures of our run, as it is also predator-proof. Nothing can dig into it, as we dug trenches and lined the trenches with hardware cloth.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 2 years ago from America

      We had a Fisher get our duck. We also had a guard poultry dog. The ducks never went in the lake without him. He guarded them so that they wouldn't go to far and herded them back to the shore. We never left him out at night with the chickens and ducks. Congrats on HOTD. Voted up.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Congrats on HOTD!!

      This was most interesting, even though we don't have, or plan to have chickens.

      A neighbor does, and his coop pretty much breaks every rule and suggestion you've made here. But, he hasn't had much trouble--we don't have too many critters around the area--so he's gotten lucky, even if he isn't the sharpest tack in the box.

      I wonder about the automatic door though: would the chickens possibly end up locked out? Or do they automatically go inside before dark? I don't know anything about chickens. ;-)

      Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • RobertConnorIII profile image

      Robert Connor 2 years ago from Michigan

      Got to keep those peppers safe!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      We saw a mink cross our street the other day! I have never seen one in our neighborhood before... I am convinced he knows that we have chickens now, moonlake!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      I have a cousin who has chickens in the bay area, DzyMsLizzy, and she doesn't need nearly as many anti-predator strategies due to her location. Hawks are a problem in almost any area, but are the easiest to defend against. Chickens naturally go back into their coop as daylight fades - sometimes young chicks take a while to do this (we still escort ours inside every evening, though 3 of the 5 are now going in on their own). The automatic door closes once it is dark, and by then, all of the chickens are safely tucked in for the night.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      Hi Robert - I agree! We want our peepers to be kept safe. Everything from the neighbor's cat to foxes and weasels create problems in our area, so we have a fortified coop!

    • profile image

      missirupp 2 years ago

      We had chickens when I was very young in Eastern Idaho and they were being killed by something that only left two marks on their neck, like a vampire. What predator was this. I never could figure it out.

    • Katya Drake profile image

      Katya Drake 2 years ago from Wisconsin

      Hi leahlefler. I love this Hub! I have friends who raise chickens and I am going to take a closer look at what they are doing to protect them. I also would like to have my own chickens someday. I think it would be a great experience for my boys and I (although I know it would be hard work!). This gave some great advice that I will carry with me.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      That is an odd pattern of bite marks, missirupp - bobcats, cats, and coyotes will all kill with a bite to the neck. Since the chickens weren't being eaten, however, I would guess a domesticated animal was killing the chickens. A domesticated cat, for instance, might kill a chicken for sport - and then not eat the killed chicken (since it is well-fed at home).

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      We obtained our chickens primarily as an educational experience for our boys, Katya - we were surprised at how easy they are to keep. They are about as difficult as fish to care for - we have a large feeder/waterer that only needs to be changed once per week, and we clean out the litter in their coop once per week as well. Other than that, we don't have to do much!

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