How to stop backyard chicken predators so you can better keep your chickens safe.
It was just another day here on the homestead. I was heading out to feed and water the chickens and I immediately noticed something was wrong. My hens were acting off, staying on the roost, and not crowding the door as usual.
As I looked around I saw one of my prized hens laying under the roost. I went over and saw to my horror that she was dead. There really is nothing quite as heartbreaking as finding an animal that you work so hard to take care of killed right there inside the henhouse. A place where our chickens go to be safe and not hunted.
My heart sank.
After 8 years of raising chickens, this was my first predator attack.
How could I tell my beloved hen was killed by a predator? I could see by the condition of her body.
When a predator such as a weasel, raccoon, or hawk kills a chicken they kill just to kill.
They do not eat it…… they just kill it. Usually by biting the head off. (sorry, pretty graphic, I know) If you find a decapitated hen, then you know right then and there you probably have a predator and you need to take action fast.
Once an animal learns how to get into your henhouse, I promise you they will be back. They will be back to take the eggs and to kill the chickens.
The best advice that I can give is to set to work immediately taking steps to better protect your backyard chickens from predators. Remember, your animals depend on you to keep them safe and if you have a predator in your coop, don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, take the necessary precautions so it does not happen again.
With winter in full swing, animals are hungry. They are understandably drawn to food such as eggs, chicken feed, and kitchen scraps.
As you are out doing chores, always watch for suspicious tracks in the snow leading from the coop. If you see any, you may want to take action immediately.
How to Stop Backyard Chicken Predators From Attacking Again.
Step #1 Clean Out the Chicken Coop
To stop a repeat visit from an outside animal you first need to find where how they got in. To do that you will need to clean everything out.
Every corner. Be thorough and complete.
You need to get all the bedding out so you can get a good look at the coop. Scrape, sweep, and shovel. Remove every bit of bedding along with the nesting boxes.
Move everything away from the walls. You would be amazed at the small size of the holes that a predator is able to get through if they are determined.
Step #2 Inspect everything
Once you have the inside of the chicken coop emptied and cleaned out take the time to do a good and thorough inspection.
You will want to look everything over. The walls, the floor, the corners, the door. Everything.
Get down on your knees and get busy. You may not be able to see an opening from a standing position. Use every viewpoint and look up and all around. Don’t make the mistake I did and assume a small opening is too small for an animal to get through.
Once, when I found what I thought was a crack in the way was actually a wide-open door for a dozen birds that would squeeze through every day to gorge on the chicken’s feed.
Let me just say that trying to feed your chickens with a dozen little hungry birds flying around your head really gets this old heart pumping.
Step #3 Seal it Up
As you find a crack, space, or hole that you feel backyard chicken predators can gain access seal it up. You can do this with scrap pieces of wood or other material you have lying around.
This is a great way to use up wood scraps you have stashed away around your home. Secure the board down with a few screws or nails.
You will also want to check any fencing you use as well. Remember, it doesn’t have to look pretty, just be effective!
Step #4 Lock up Any Feed
Want to stop some of your unwanted visitors, then you need to remove the food source. Keep all of your animal’s feed, scratch, and treats inside of totes or metal cans with good tight-fitting lids. You can also go one step further and place a brick on the lid to prevent a chicken predator from gaining access.
Another tip is to do most of your feeding during daylight hours. This will give your animals plenty of time to not only eat but enough to clean up any food they drop during feeding time.
Backyard chicken predators such as skunks, weasels, and raccoons come out mainly at night so make sure any heavy feeding is done early enough so your chickens are able to clean it all up before dusk.
Step #5 Install Sturdy Roosts
Make sure you have your chicken roosts up off the ground for your hens. This will not stop an attack but it will keep your hens safer if a predator is just there to steal eggs.
Step #6 Train Your Hens to Come When Called.
Get into the habit of locking your chickens up safely before dusk or earlier if you already have a predator problem.
Since most backyard chicken predators prowl at night, get a head start and put your hens on lockdown early.
To help you can train your chicken flock to come to you when you call. Training your chickens is easier than you think. Each time you put your hens away give a quick “Chick-Chick” call and reward the flock with a sprinkle of scratch once back inside of the coop.
Each time you do this routine your hens will associate that call and your voice with the treat and come running. This is a great tool to have on evenings that you might be running late and need to get your hens to safety fast.
Step #7 Purchase a Little Extra Help
Get a predator light. Yes, this actually IS a thing.
I just recently read about these small sensor lights and I am happy to say they work great! They work as a deterrent for any small rodents keeping them away from the coop. Once it becomes dark outside the sensor turns the light on and a red flashing light continues until daylight. I was a bit skeptical at first, but since installing one at the front of our chicken coop and the other at the back we have removed almost all of the footprints that I normally see each morning.
Step #8 Eliminate the Problem
If you have already done the tips listed so far and you find yourself still with a problem, you may need to take things one step further.
Once a predator knows where the flock is and they have gotten the “taste” of your chickens and/or their eggs, it may be difficult to stop them. This means you will have to remove the problem instead.
We prefer to use live traps. The reason is when using poison you run the risk of hurting maybe even killing your own animals. Most animals are very curious and there is just no way to ensure they will leave any poison you have out alone.
For this reason, we prefer to use live traps to catch and remove any uninvited animals.
This is the trap that we use here.
We put ours out only from dusk to dawn. This just ensures our pets are protected.
Remember, raising animals comes with a great deal of responsibility.
Our animals rely on us for food, water, shelter, and yes protection. If you lose a chicken to an attack from backyard chicken predators, don’t beat yourself up.
Follow these tips and do what you can to protect your animals and hopefully your girls will be happy and safe.