If you have chickens, then there are predators keeping a close eye on your coop. No matter where you live - be it an urban, suburban or rural setting - there is something lurking that wants to eat your chickens, and whatever it is, it's just waiting for the chance. Coop and run security should be first and foremost on every chicken keeper's mind.
Daytime predators predominantly include hawks and other aerial predators - and dogs. In fact, sadly dogs are the #1 killer of backyard flocks. Free ranging your flock should only be done if you either have a specially trained guard dog or other animals who will chase predators away (llamas, donkeys, goats, geese, etc.) or are prepared for losses. We only free range for a limited time after dinner, just before dusk, and stay outside 'supervising' the whole time. Even a rooster is no match for a fox or dog and an attack only takes a matter of seconds.
An enclosed run is far safer for your flock in which to spend their days. Chicken wire alone is not adequate protection from predators. Read more about chicken wire HERE. A far safer fencing choice is chain link or welded wire. If the gauge is larger than an inch or so, then wrapping the chain link in chicken wire is a good idea to keep smaller predators such as weasels or snakes out also. Another option is to use welded wire fencing along the bottom foot or two and chicken wire above that, but be aware that a dog, raccoon or fox can chew or rip through chicken wire pretty easily.
The fencing should be sunk into the ground at least 8-12" to prevent digging predators and stones or logs around the perimeter can also keep predators out. The run should be covered to deter aerial predators. Poultry netting is generally sufficient to cover the run. We ran wire roping lengthwise across the top of the run and then laid the poultry netting over it and wired it in place.
A run is very hard to completely predator proof. Depending on where you live, raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes, bobcats, bears, fisher cats, and weasels could all possibly be lurking after dark. Under the cover of darkness, predators can manage to break into most runs, so chickens are far safer locked inside a coop at night. All the coop windows and vents should have 1/2" welded wire mesh on them to keep even the smallest snake or rat out and to prevent raccoons or others from reaching in to grab your unsuspecting sleeping chickens.
Deadbolts and simple latches pose no problem for a determined raccoon, so a latch secured with a carabiner or a spring-loaded eyehook is a better choice for a coop door. An automatic chicken door is also an added layer of security, shutting either by solar or battery power before dark, in case you forget to lock the coop door. It only takes one time for you to forget, because you can be pretty sure something is coming around each night to check.
Nite Guard solar predator lights provide another layer of security. Mounted around the perimeter of your run, their blinking red light helps deter nocturnal predators from even trying to breach your run perimeter. I've had them installed around my run for more than 5 years and not once seen any evidence of a predator trying to dig under or get through my run fencing.
Combining several layers of security such as a locked, secure coop, enclosed run and the solar predator lights will keep your flock safe and allow you to sleep better, knowing they are not in harm's way.
For more information on various types of predators, their footprints, hunting methods and trapping tips, click HERE. To purchase Nite Guard solar predator lights, visit Nite Guard.
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