One of the harsh truths about owning your own backyard flock is that eventually you will probably lose a few birds to predators. Here is a list of the most common predators that are looking for their next chicken dinner, and ways to prevent that from happening:
Hawks and Other Birds of Prey
Hawks, owls, eagles, and other birds of prey can be the deadliest threats to your flock, and are also the most difficult to deter. Birds of prey are fast, efficient, and have the advantage of flight, making your fence useless. Fortunately these birds are pretty rare, but once they figure out that there are free meals nearby they will probably stick around for a while.
Prevention is your best bet here. Feed your flock in a covered area, if possible, and provide shelter for them to hide during the day. If you do notice a hawk or other bird of prey hanging around, it may take several weeks for the bird to move on. Try to be outdoors during the day, especially during the morning, and keep your flock in covered areas for protection.
Some breeds of dogs (an occasionally cats) never quite lose that hunting instinct and may turn to your flock for practice. If you own a dog that you think may have that high kill drive noted in certain breeds, be sure to watch your animals closely when they’re interacting, and correct their behavior quickly if the dog begins to chase or bite at one of your birds. Careful training is usually all you need to create peace between your animals, and once your dog learns to behave himself he can even serve as added protection for your flock!
Raccoons and Possums
These tricky critters will usually go after your flock at night, so you might never see them, but a few piles of feathers and the absence of a few hens the next morning are sure signs that they’re around. Raccoons and possums can be difficult to get rid of, but the trick to protecting your flock from them is to make your birds difficult to reach. Keep your birds in an enclosed area at night, and be sure to check fencing for any holes that might serve as a backdoor. Additionally, be sure to keep your trash cans tightly closed and clean up any garbage, as this will attract hungry visitors.
Chicks and smaller chicken breeds are especially vulnerable against snakes. Keep any broody hens in a safe, enclosed area, and consider hand-raising newborn chicks until they are large enough to defend themselves.
Coyotes and Foxes
These larger predators can be just as deadly as a dog, but fortunately they will usually only go after your flock if they think it will be an easy target. Keep your fences secure and offer enclosed areas such as a chicken coop for your birds to roost at night. You’ll also want to clean up any garbage lying around that might serve as a tempting snack, which in turn would encourage a predator to stick around for more.
Here are a few more tricks that may help prevent or deter anything from preying on your flock:
- Keeping a rooster or a tom (male turkey) is a great and easy way to give your hens protection from smaller predators. Our roosters tend to spread out across the yard and serve as an early warning system if a hawk is nearby, and you should have seen the dog’s face when we brought the 30lb turkey home for the first time! Just be prepared for a few chicks, and watch out for the occasional spat if you have more than one rooster.
- Many outdoor supply stores offer large plastic owls that are designed to prevent smaller birds from nesting in certain areas, but most predatory birds are territorial and might stay away if they think the area has already been claimed by a large (albeit stationary) owl.
- Once dogs are trained to behave themselves around your flock, they can serve as protection during the day.
- Consider building or invest in a covered chicken run, which will allow your flock to roam the yard while still being enclosed. Some chicken runs are even movable, so you can decide where they go next! Check out Efowl’s selection of coops with built-in chicken runs.