The Ultimate Guide for Protecting Chickens from Predators
There are many different predators that can harm your pet chickens. Not only can predators kill your flock, they can also contaminate their food or water, carry parasites, transmit disease or scare them (which can result in lowered egg production).
You can never completely remove the danger of predators but you can reduce the risks significantly with Somerzby’s below tips:
The first step in protecting your backyard chickens from predators is to work out which predators are a threat. Once you know, you can then choose the most appropriate measures to protect your girls. It is most affective to use multiple methods to protect your flock, not just one.
A good way to find out about predators in your area is to ask neighbours or your local council.
Foxes can be found in all parts of Australia, including urban areas. They are nocturnal although can also attack in the daytime. Signs that foxes are around your chicken coop include marks from scratching or digging. They will eat chickens and baby chicks. Click here for specific advice on foxes.
Mice and rats will mostly be attracted to your coop because of any chicken food and scraps left behind. However, once inside they can take eggs and hurt baby chicks. They can also spread disease. If you see rats in the daytime, it means you have a more severe problem.
Snakes can be attracted to mice or rats hanging around your chicken coop. Once inside, they can injure both chicken and people. This is especially bad for young children who may run and startle a snake hiding. Click here for specific advice on snakes.
Whilst some domestic dogs (either your own or roaming neighbourhood dogs) are fine around chickens, others will instinctively chase them and can injure them even when playing.
Domestic cats generally won’t harm fully grown chickens, but can harm baby chicks. Feral cats will hunt any sized chicken.
Birds of prey can also be a concern. Eagles and hawks can attack smaller chickens if desperate for food.
The most affective way to protect against all types of predators is by having a secure and predator proof chicken coop. Ensure your coop is fully enclosed and you shut the door overnight. Regularly inspect the coop for damage or holes.
Always ensure your nesting box is locked. Using a carabiner can be a great extra layer of protection, as you need opposable thumbs to open them.
Also consider letting your chickens roam around in a chicken run, rather than free range in the yard. This still gives them plenty of room to peck around without leaving them exposed.
Burying wire around your chicken coop can stop predators such as foxes, dogs or rats digging their way in. Dig a trench 15-30cm deep and 7cm wide around the coop. Then bury galvanised hardware cloth. You can also use paving slabs. This will create underground protection for your girls.
You can add a wire apron around your coop to discourage predators from digging in. This includes foxes and rats. Use a strong but small wire mesh, such as hardware cloth. Add it around the perimeter of your coop as far out as you can, like a ‘skirt’.
It is important to peg it into the ground so that it can’t be easily pushed up. This is much easier to install than digging wire into the ground, especially if your soil is quite hard or rocky. If you have grass, the grass will grow over the wire so it is hardly noticeable.
Secure Your Yard
Whilst it is vital to secure your chicken coop, it is also important to secure your yard. A good fence will prevent foxes and dogs from gaining access. Your perimeter should be fenced off completely.
Regularly check your fence for holes or damage. Fencing must be at least 1.8 metres high with an outward-curving top to prevent foxes from jumping over. It is also wise to use steel fence posts as these are harder to climb than wooden posts.
Keep Your Yard Tidy
Keep the area surrounding your coop clear and tidy. This way, there are less places for predators to hide and lurk without you knowing. Predators are also less likely to approach the coop if they are out in the open and vulnerable.
Make sure the grass is mowed regularly and leaves are swept away. Any items that could allow a predator to hide should be cleared, including rubbish and large branches.
Remove Food and Compost
Excess chook food left in and around your coop can attract other animals, including mice and rats. Always clean up any leftover food at the end of the day.
The Somerzby automatic chicken feeder prevents other animals from accessing your chickens’ food. The automatic treadle system allows only chickens to open it up and reach the food inside.
Store all food away from the coop in an airtight container.
Keep your compost pile away from your coop as this can also attract unwanted animals.
Remove Eggs Daily
Some predators are after the eggs, not your chickens. This can include rats and snakes. Ensure you collect the eggs daily, to avoid attracting the predators. Check not only the nesting box but also the rest of the coop. Every now and again hens will lay in odd places!
Having motion-senor lights or a motion-activated sprinkler system can help to scare away a predator who is sneaking up on your coop. Motion-sensor lights work particularly well for nocturnal animals at night time, such as foxes, that associate bright lights with people. Motion-activated sprinkler systems work best with cats.
If your chickens are let out to roam in the yard daily, it can be helpful to provide them with safety shelters. These allow chickens somewhere they can run into and hide from day-time predators, particularly birds of prey.
They can easily and cheaply be made from old pallets or plastic drums. Get creative! As long as your chickens can run inside and be covered while they are outside roaming, safety shelters can help.
Setting up humane traps can help to catch predators. However, this will only catch one at a time so should always be used along with other methods. Traps work best for foxes and cats.
Using humane traps is a safe way to catch a predator that won’t hurt any pets or native wildlife that accidentally wander in.
Raw chicken or tinned tuna are effective baits to use. Place small amounts of the bait trailing up to the trap, to lure in your predator.
We sell humane traps here at Somerzby. Please contact us on 02 4340 4200 for details.