In many parts of Australia, chickens are becoming popular backyard pets. They are relatively low maintenance and provide fresh eggs daily.
However, it is important chicken keepers be aware that chickens can fall prey to a variety of predators.
As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to keep your flock safe.
Wondering what animals kill chickens the most? Read on to find out plus our tips on how to prevent common predators…
Both feral cats and house cats are a serious threat to chickens.
Chickens are not equipped to defend themselves against cats, which can result in devastating losses for chicken owners. Cats have sharp claws and teeth that can kill chickens quickly. Not only do they eat chickens, but they also kill for sport.
Cats can also introduce parasites into the chicken coop, which can cause illness and death in chickens.
For these reasons, chicken owners need to be aware of the dangers posed by feral cats and take steps to protect their flock.
The best way to protect your chickens from a house cat is to put your flock in an enclosure with a roof. A regular fence will not be enough as cats are excellent climbers and will be able to jump over it.
Another way to help protect your chickens is to keep a pet dog in the yard. Dogs are natural predators of cats, and their presence will help to keep cats away from your property.
In addition, dogs can serve as an early warning system, barking to alert you to the presence of potential threats.
Dogs are often seen as loyal, protective companions. However, they are one of the most common chicken predators.
Dogs are attracted to chickens because they are prey animals. Their natural instinct is to chase and catch them.
Because chickens are small and vulnerable, even the most well-meaning, playful dog can cause scattered feathers or even kill them.
For these reasons, it is important to keep dogs away from chickens at all times.
One of the best ways to protect chickens from domestic dogs is to build a fence. A fence will not only keep the chickens in and the dogs out, but it will also give the chickens a sense of security.
If you have a small pet dog, you may be able to get away with a simple chicken wire fence.
However, if you have a large dog or if you live in an area where stray dogs roam, you will need a stronger, electric fence.
Fox attacks are one of the most common threats to chickens.
They are nocturnal predators who will lurk outside the coop for hours, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
Foxes are incredibly agile, meaning that they can easily scale fences or dig underneath them in order to get to their prey.
A fox attack can be especially brutal. They have sharp teeth and can kill an entire flock in a short period. They often kill for sport and won’t even eat the chickens.
Foxes are more common in rural areas but have been known to hunt in urban areas too.
The best way to keep foxes out of a chicken coop is to install a wire mesh floor on the base of the coop. This will prevent them from digging in.
The Somerzby Deluxe Mansion comes with a wire mesh floor already so is completely fox proof without any alterations.
Alternatively, you can build your coop onto a solid base such as pavers or a concrete slab. There is no way a fox could dig through that!
You should also have a tall run that a fox cannot jump over or set up electric fencing.
Goannas are a large lizard found throughout Australia. They have long tails and very sharp claws they use to climb trees.
While they most commonly eat eggs, they will sometimes eat young birds too.
They may also be attracted by any mice or rats that are visiting your coop frequently.
To protect your hen house from goannas, set up a strong chicken run that they will not be able to break through. Only allow your flock to free range under your supervision.
Empty the eggs from the coop every day, as these will attract goannas.
Similarly, make sure your coop is free of rodents including mice and rats.
Birds of Prey
Birds of prey can pose a serious threat to small chickens.
Hawks and falcons are particularly skilled at hunting small birds, and will see chickens as an easy target. Chickens have very little defense against these birds of prey, as they cannot fly and have relatively weak claws.
Hawks and falcons will usually only target baby chicks but may also target adult chickens if they aren’t very big.
They will usually attack chicks during daylight hours.
Most birds of prey species are protected animals in Australia so it is illegal to harm them.
The best way to keep chickens safe is not allowing them to free range. Instead, allow them to roam during the day in a strong chicken run with a wire mesh roof.
Having a good guard dog will help scare away wild birds. If employing your family dog for this task, make sure it is trained to not attack your chickens and to not jump on the wire of your chicken coop.
Loud noises and bright lights can also scare away predatory birds but make sure these aren’t disturbing your backyard chickens.
As any backyard chicken keeper knows, snakes can be a real menace to a chicken coop.
They will try to steal eggs and any vermin that they can find. However, they may also go after baby chicks.
If you are missing eggs or missing chicks from your coop, and there is no other evidence around, chances are you have a snake problem.
Make sure that your coop is snake proof. Snakes can squeeze into surprisingly small spaces, so choose a coop with small wire mesh.
If your coop is on uneven grass, snakes could possibly slither in underneath. You can prevent this by building your coop onto a solid frame (such as pavers) or adding wire mesh onto the base.
Regularly check your coop for cracks and holes.
Remove eggs daily and work to keep vermin out of your yard.
If you see a snake near your coop, remove all eggs and baby chicks immediately. Call a local wildlife organisation or animal control group to come remove the snake safely.
Unlike all the predators so far, rats will not kill chicks. However, they will break into your coop and steal eggs. They will also eat your chicken’s feed and any food scraps laying around.
Rats are cause for alarm because they will attract more serious predators into your yard.
Snakes, foxes, cats and goannas eat rats and, if they enter your coop to catch vermin, may also attack your flock and eat their eggs while they are there.
Rats can also spread disease to chickens, other pets, and humans.
Choose a coop with strong wire mesh that rats will not be able to break through.
Rats can dig their way in underneath your coop. You can prevent this by adding wire mesh onto the base of your coop or building it onto a solid base (such as pavers or a concrete slab).
Empty nesting boxes daily.
Store chicken feed away from the coop in rat-proof, airtight containers.
Feed your chickens using an automatic treadle feeder that rats cannot eat out of. Clear away any scraps on the ground that your chickens don’t eat.
Predator Proof Chicken Coop
As any chicken keeper knows, the coop is a vital part of keeping chickens safe and healthy. Not only does it provide shelter from the elements, but it should also deter predators.
When choosing a secure coop, it is important to select one that is made from high-quality materials and that is built to last.
All Somerzby coops have wire mesh on the sides with holes 11mm x 11mm, to keep out snakes and mice. They also have sliding latches on the doors also prevent cats from being able to knock them open and gain access.
The Somerzby Deluxe Mansion is the ultimate coop for predator prevention. It has strong wire mesh on the sides plus on the base, to prevent predators digging in underneath.
Your chicken feed can attract rats and mice, who want to eat the food. This is a hazard for your chickens.
Not only do they lose their meal but many predators will then be attracted to your coop, wanting to eat the vermin. When they arrive, they may also eat your eggs or baby chicks.
Automatic treadle feeders are only able to be opened by chickens. Rats and mice will not be heavy or large enough to open the lid. This means they are a great way of deterring predators from your coop.