Proper chicken coop plans and construction are essential to the survival of the flock. Protecting chickens from the many predators who want to eat them is not a difficult or expensive task, but it does require careful planning. Ensuring raccoons, dogs, mink, fox, snakes, hawks, and other predators cannot reach the flock will allow the chickens to live a safe and happy life until they become food for the family table.
Adorable chicken coop plans are readily available online, and similar coop kits or complete living structures can be purchased at most farm and garden stores. While these coops would be an attractive addition to the backyard, they might not be secure enough to protect the flock from predators.
Chicken wire was created for one purpose and one purpose only: keeping chickens in. Keeping predators out requires additional material in both the exterior and interior of the coop. Raccoons can chew through the chicken wire. Hawks can reach in through chicken wire or poultry netting and pull a chicken or duck to them with their sharp talons and rip their body to shreds in less than one minute. Chicken wire stretches over time when it is nibbled by the flock, pulled by raccoons, or is not secured tightly enough to its support posts. A mink and some snakes can burrow through a hole as small as one-fourth of an inch and garner access to the flock held captive inside the chicken coop or run.
Top 10 Chicken Coop Predator-Proofing Tips
- Install one-fourth-of-an-inch-thick hardware cloth around any opening in the chicken coop or run that is larger than a half dollar. Hardware cloth is commonly found at farm and garden centers and online. Cover any window screens and vents with the cloth as well. Drill thin strips of wood around the edges of the cloth to secure it. Raccoons can rip staples right out of the wood. The little creatures are a lot stronger than they look, and some have even been known to push aside concrete blocks to get inside chicken coops, Farming My Backyard notes.
- Invest in strong and complicated latches for windows and chicken coop doors. Raccoons are as smart as they are strong and have been known to unfasten latches that did not require multiple steps or different motions to unlock.
- Dig a 12-inch-deep trench all the way around the chicken coop and chicken run and bury a layer of hardware cloth inside the trench. Mink and raccoons, along with other nocturnal predators, do not mind doing a little digging to get to their dinner. Adding the hardware cloth as an obstacle in their path may very well save the flock, the Chicken Chick reports.
- If the chicken coop has a dirt floor, which is not recommended, bury a layer of chicken cloth 12 inches under the coop as well. Concrete floors might provide the safest base for a coop, but it can be rather expensive to have poured. A plywood floor with a sheet of both hardware cloth and pig wire attached on each side should provide enhanced protection from digging predators.
- A layer of hardware cloth covered by a layer of sheet metal is also advisable on both sides of wood chicken coop floors. The claws of predators cannot rip through metal sheeting like they can chicken wire or similar thin wire.
- Chicken runs are typically built over a grassy dirt area. Digging a bed into the run and placing a layer of hardware cloth down and then covering with dirt will help secure not only the run but the entire coop. If a predator gets into the run, they have passed an essential perimeter obstacle and are a lot closer to the flock. Dusk-to-dawn automatic coop doors could open with a predator still inside the run awaiting its breakfast.
- A hardware cloth “apron” around the perimeter of the coop and chicken run also offers an extra layer of protection. However, adding only the apron and not adding a trench as well will not keep the chickens and ducks as safe from eager predators that are willing to dig under the apron to get inside the coop.
- Adding a layer of metal sheeting around the bottom exterior foot or two of the coop and along the chicken run will also protect the wood structure from predators who can spend hours all night long trying to dig their way inside, the Spruce notes. Predators cannot climb the metal sheeting as they can wire, preventing them from getting to the top of the coop and run to try to burrow inside from above.
- The poultry coop access door from the run, human doors, and nest access panels should be extremely secure as well. The doors and panels should be reinforced on both sides with a layer of hardware cloth, and sheet metal if possible. Complicated latches should be added to all access points as well if not using an automatic poultry access door. Always check inside the coop for predators before putting the flock up at night. A snake or rat made its way into the shady enclosure it could still be lurking around come nightfall when the vulnerable flock will be locked inside.
- The top of the chicken coop and the run must be secured with more than poultry netting and chicken wire as well. Neither climbing nor flying predators will be deterred for long by thin wire or netting. Electric netting is more effective of a deterrent than typical mesh netting. A wood roof covered in either hardware cloth or metal sheeting — preferably both — will help complete the Fort Knox of chicken coops.
Guineas are the junkyard dogs of the poultry world. They attack and eat many of the same predators which go on the hunt for chickens and ducks each evening. Many homesteading families and preppers use guineas as an early warning system. They make a unique and loud sound that helps to scare off predators and alert humans danger is nearby. Allowing guineas to run free on the farm and naturally roost in trees while they patrol around the chicken coop will help deter the number of predators living nearby or venturing close to the chicken coop.
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