How To Keep Your Chickens Safe, Part 1

In our recent survey the number one voiced concern was “How do I keep my chickens safe?” Here are a few ideas to do just that:

Your chickens are vulnerable at all hours of the day and night. The biggest problems we hear of are neighborhood dogs and birds of prey that attack during the day. At night the most problematic predators seem to be raccoons, skunks, opossums, and owls.

At sunset, your birds will “come home to roost”. Use this to your advantage and securely lock them into their coop. This is not to keep the chickens in but to keep the predators out. You can accomplish this by manually shutting and locking the coop door yourself or by assigning the task to others. But you must do it every night, for it only takes once for a raccoon to get in and destroy your flock. Another option is an automatic coop door. It will automatically close the coop door, so if you arrive home late, your birds will be safely locked up in the coop.

We have developed Murray’s Best Chicken Coop Controller to be more than just a door opener. It will open the coop door a few minutes before sunrise and close the door a few minutes after sunset with the use of an electronic light sensor, but it does so much more! The controller is also equipped with a temperature sensor that will not allow the door to open until outside temperatures are above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This feature protects your birds from freezing temperatures outdoors and also helps keep your coop warmer.

It has been known for many years that chickens lay more eggs if they receive 16 hours of light a day. We have built into Murray’s Best Chicken Coop Controller a light timer that turns on an LED light panel eight hours after sunset.This allows the chickens to receive their supplemental light just before sunrise when the door opens. This early morning artificial light will stimulate the hens, and it encourages them to lay their eggs prior to the door opening, so that the eggs will be easier to gather.

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38 Responses to How To Keep Your Chickens Safe, Part 1

  1. Deb says:

    When are the chicks old enough to let out to free range? My chicks are 8 weeks old now.

  2. charles ellis says:

    I built my chicken pen out of two 10 x 10 dog pens and two extra 10 foot panels. Our hen house is in the center with poles running from the house to outside fence topped with chicken wire that was laced together with electric wire and tied to the poles and panels. It looks kinda like a gazebo in front but square in back. So far no problems with predators. We live in western Oklahoma.

  3. Robert says:

    Predator problem?
    Get you an Anatolian puppy to put with your chickens. Leave this little guy with your chickens when he is grown….end of predator problem…..unless you do like I did. I decided to bring my Daisy Mae in to the garage one night recently when we were having a serious rain storm, the next morning one of my best hens was laying in the doorway of the chicken-coop… poor thing was missing her head….it only takes a few seconds to loose several chickens….

  4. Nancy Merry says:

    Thank you for all your warnings. I would be brokenhearted if something happened to my new chicks. They are 8 weeks old and truly a delight. It is now time to put them outside in a coop, and I am saddened as we have enjoyed them so much, but believe me it is necessary. We are currently having a snow storm in the a.m. so they are inside another day, but we have many raccoons and a fox that is used to stealing our neighbors chickens. I feel like I am throwing my babies to the wolves, so these articles are a great help to a first time chicken owner. I have a total of 20 chicks and have just ordered 28 more!!! Safety has been my concern from day one. Thank you.
    p.s. I have a Yorkshire Terrier that has grown fond of the chickens. He protects them and lets us know if one got out or if they are low on water. LOL. Some have sheep dogs but we have a chicken dog. LOL

  5. Bud Mayberry says:

    If you have trouble with snakes getting your eggs, build a wire cage out of 1×2 galvanized wire. Place some straw or any nesting material in the cage. Get yourself some plastic easter eggs, or if you get plenty eggs use real eggs. The snake will go through the wire cage and swallow the eggs and can’t get back out. I have used both kinds of eggs and had good luck with them. I hate snakes. If i get one in the cage, I kill it. If you don’t it will come back. Snakes will also swallow baby chickens. I set some duck eggs under a chicken hen and hatched 12 babies, set her off in the pen with babies and went back and one was gone. I looked under a piece of tin that I used to keep rain from blowing in coop at night when I needed to, and, there he was, a big black chicken snake, he didn’t get any more.
    Yes, duck eggs are delicious. I was raised during the great depression, and my mother raised chickens, ducks, geese, guineas, and turkeys. We ate all kinds of eggs, and sold the chicken eggs. Sometimes people would ask for other eggs. We had one man buy a dozen goose eggs to eat. They are pretty good.

  6. Jeannie says:

    This summer my husband, son and a friend built my dream chicken house and run. Since we have every imaginable predator in our area including bear, hawks and coyotes safety for our 7 girls was a priority. We purchased an Amish 4’x6′ coop kit and placed it on a concrete slab. We then continued the roof another 8’x16′ and built a run out of 4″x4″s and attached 1″x2″ welded wire fencing. My husband dug out the soil to a depth of 1′ inside the run and completely fenced in that area so no predator can dig under it. He then placed the soil back on top the wire so the girls have plenty of space for scratching. Our friend, an electrician, completely wired the coop and run for electricity (on a timer) and added an electric heater so our pullets can stay warm in our MN winters where it can get as low as -35 F. My husband is now insulating the coop with foiled-faced nitrogen cell insulation which will be covered with luan board to keep the girls from pecking at it. Another friend made a sign for the coop that reads: “Coop de’Grace” and it truly is (LOL)! Time consuming? Yes. Costly? Yes. Peace of mind? Priceless. Our girls also get to free-range when I’m outside in the garden along with our dog and 2 cats. So far, the hawks haven’t taken an interest preferring the field mice and voles.

  7. Kathy - in the Sierra Foothills, CA says:

    I have a 10 ft wire fence with 10 ft wood posts. The bobcat climbs the post and has wiped out my flock of 25 chickens and ducks. They have a closed pen and coop but when I’m home they love being free to range. The cat even came in the yard when my 85 lb. border collie/golden retriever was alive. This bobcat appears to like chicken over rabbit, of which there are many.
    I have a new flock started, and a new kitten that I adore. Something must be done. I’m thinking of a 4ft electric chicken fence around the exterior yard fence (2,000 linear feet), or at least the corner the cat enters the yard. Ideas are welcome.

    • Mark Moberly says:

      Check your laws to determine if you are permitted to shoot predators if they are attacking your stock. If so, shoot the bobcat. I have to use a top net on my pen due to the large amount of hawks and owls in my town. My pen size is 25ft x 100 ft. 1″ poles set every ten feet with a cap on them to hold netting up. In the winter I have to shake the netting to keep the snow from tearing it down. Be sure to choose your netting based on weight needs. A lighter net is OK if you don’t get snow.

    • kmflack says:

      I have heard that hardware cloth is the way to go – wrapping the coop on all sides, and some that have digging beasts even wrap it underneath the coop. My “chicken teacher” lives out in the country and has threaded an electrified wire through the bottom of the hardware cloth just below the coop’s floor level where predators usually attempt to dig or tear at the cloth – He says it is very effective!! I haven’t had to try electricity yet!

    • kmflack says:

      I just saw this from below: ” Then one morning Mr. Brown Bear stopped by, and in seconds destroyed the yard and got two of our White leghorns. From that time forward, I secured the coop and yard with Electric cattle fencing. We have had many bears since then, but the fence has always (knock on wood) stopped them. I run mine on 120v AC, but you can also get the solar units that work just as well.”

  8. Bob Berentz says:

    I think my chicken house cost the same per square foot as my house .. even though I went to the “Restore” run by Habitat for Humanity. There, I got two used windows for $15 and $25 each, roof vents for the gable ends $4 each and I used posts and boards from a near by lumber mill to cut costs. The roof boards came about seven feet too long, they had them laying around, so I made a four foot porch with the extra overhang to keep me dry when it is snowing or raining. The Restore had metal valley material really cheap so I flattened that and under laid it with tar paper to make my roof. With Buff Orpington’s I wish I had doubled the run and coop square footage quoted elsewhere. They need room.

    When my chicks were very small the bigger Buff’s started pecking on the smaller black Speckled Sussex .. so I gave them to a pastor in Nevada. He raves about those six hens every time I see him. Birds do not tolerate different species.

  9. Anita Ravenscroft says:

    About 3 years ago, my neighbor’s small flock abandoned their coop in favor of my redwood trees, where they’ve roosted safely ever since. They roost halfway out on small limbs about 15′ off the ground. They’re under other limbs, so they’re safe from owls. A cat big enough to threaten them would have a hard time getting out on the limb, thereby allowing them plenty of time to escape to another limb or tree. In the morning, most of them return to their coop to lay their eggs, one “donates” her eggs to a large, multi-trunk tree crotch in my yard and stays to eat bugs and snails in my flower beds. We’ve discussed it, and have no idea how to entice hens to start this practice, but it sure works for these gals.

    • Robbie H. says:

      Geese\Chickens can weed the garden: eat the buggies (bye bye grasshoppers; spiders; scorpions; fleas; mosquitoes; slugs; etc)! Will “scratch”\”till” your ground: eat weeds; grass\grass seeds: alert you to strangers; varmits! Chickens are creatures of “habit”. Broody hens are great for taking eggs other than their own! Some hens will even “share” a nest~ taking turns sitting on the nest; turning eggs, etc! “Bad” eggs will usually be REJECTED; rolled off to the side of the nest! Beware, though- lots of broody hens will turn “protective: nasty tempered”.
      A good pair of leather work glove can protect your hands from “mean mama pecks”! That way you can check for babies, etc. That’s just from experience! As I’ve stated on other posts: to protect yourself from Mr. Alpha (daddy) Rooster: a big wood walking cane; wood “handle”\stick can fend off an angry (sneaky-
      sometimes) rooster\gander. Use it if you need to: 1-1\2- 4 inch SPURS can do a lot of “damage” to people as well as to cats, etc. Be Safe! Enjoy your birds but be smart about it! They will “talk back”; be a baby sitter for kids; play pest control; weeder& provide you with eggs; fertilizer (great gardens when composted);
      feathers (when molted) for pillows; fishing lures; arts& crafts! Goose;Turkey (Buzzard) feathers also make feather pens~hollow them out; attach a “nib” dip into pen\drawing ink~presto-homemade pen! Kiddies can learn how their ancestors made writing pens: arts & crafts; fishing lures; pillows,etc. FYI: ladies your ANTI-Wrinkle Creams, etc. all contain Hyaronic (??) Acid: that comes from ROOSTER COMBS! The slaughter houses sell the rooster\hen combs of beheaded chickens to go into the Anti-Wrinkle Products! H. Acid is the acid– at least another part of the chicken is being used\”recycled” the chickie goes to the big “coop” in the sky! Rob

  10. Melissa says:

    We built a huge run for our chickens – added on to our existing 6 ft fenced hillside – to keep out all the four-legged predators. I also bring the chickens in at night. We have lots of hawks around here, but the roosters (especially the really mean aggressive one) seem to keep them at bay. We have lots of larger nocturnal predators around here so we enclosed the top of our broiler run/house with turkey wire to keep them out. Nothing wants to chew through wire to climb in the top. I was hoping to do that with the chicken run as well, but that would be a huge expense and a logistical nightmare!

  11. We’ve got the range of predators. Foxes, cats, dogs, hawks, owls, coons, you name it. I had one hen get attacked by a dog, but the owner came and apologized can his dog escaped. He offered to pay, but I declined. I nursed her back and she hatched a clutch. I’ve lost pigeons to an owl, but I moved them to a better coop. I’m not sure of the success, but I play a radio at night for my birds, and make sure there is good ambient light to deter any wild predators. Fortunately, my coop isn’t too far from the house, and I can hear any raucous should we get an attack at night, as I did with the owl. That owl came back 5 times that night! Grrr.

  12. Connie says:

    My chickens have been free to roam my yard for a couple of years. Hawks have gotten a few of them. A couple weeks ago, I was outside with them and a hawk tried to get one. I have a large pen for them, which encloses a smaller covered pen and their coop. Now, I leave them in the large pen but I have strung green fishing line (20 lb. test) all across the top of the open pen so the hawks cannot get into the pen without getting caught up in the line. So far, no more missing chickens.

    • Mark Moberly says:

      Excellent idea on the fishing line. If it weren’t for the coons, I could use the fishing line next time.

    • michael warfield says:

      Great idea with the fishing string Connie. I will add that to our run this summer, I already have the line. Our biggest problem during the day are Red Tailed Hawks. We also have a coon hound tied out back which helps. Michael in PA

  13. Laura says:

    The best tip we learned about safely raising baby chicks to adulthood was to shut an extra rooster in with the baby chicks once they are big enough to move outside (about age 2 weeks), until they are big enough to go outside to free-range during the day with the rest of the flock. Unlike hens, which will kill chicks they haven’t hatched themselves, the rooster sees the chicks as his “flock” and will protect them and they will imitate him and learn how to forage. The older, full-grown chickens see the rooster with his flock of little ones and leave the babies alone (no picking on them as they otherwise would do).

    And yes, we do shut the whole flock up at night (2 coops works best when raising babies–one for the youngsters and one for the rest of the flock).

  14. Geanna Whittam says:

    I had kept hens for several years without any problems. Then, two deep snow winters cut down the wild rabbit and hare population and now everyone wants to eat my hens and chicks. I put my hens in at night and do not let them out to free range until well after sun up when my dogs are out and I haven’t lost one yet this Spring. The hawks were coming into my coop and killing my chicks during the day so I had to put a top on my coop for the first time. The ecology should even out soon as the predator population drops to meet the prey population, and perhaps I will have peace on the farm again. Another problem I am having is my young llama loves to chase my hens because he is bored, and I think he has stepped on one. He is a brat!

    • Jennifer Fisk says:

      I lost 4 free ranging hens to a Goshawk last winter. The last time he actually killed the bird just inside the open door of the hen house. I got photos of him. This spring when my McMurray order of 31 assorted chicks was 4 weeks, I put them out in a pen on a glorious April day. In less than 3 hours, the crows had taken 4 including the Polish extra. Over the next week, they got 3 more. As recently as June 4, a raven tried to take a Wyandotte pullet. It only split her neck open which has now healed completely. I think 3 German Shepherds on patrol has kept the fox and racoons away.

  15. pixilated2 says:

    I too range my chickens, but I have a fenced in area around a metal awning and their coop. I use it to keep them in during inclement weather, and it allows me to leave their coop open on really hot nights. If my girls are panting when they go to bed, I leave the coop door open for ventilation.

    For the first time ever I lost a little Polish to a hawk in the spring. My hens are generally pretty safe because of all the tree cover, but this little guy had the biggest bouffant of feathers I have ever seen on such a small bird… I think he never saw it coming… I really liked him.

    I had to laugh because I too ‘sing’ to my girls! When they hear me say: “H-e-r-e chick, chick, chick — CHICKIES, come-on chick-chicks!” It doesn’t matter where they are or what time it is they will come running!

    • Lynn says:

      I love my chickens….lost our favorites this spring which really hurt…..I have 3 black hens named the Pointer Sisters…. They free range in the daylight, and yesterday I chased a coyote away and today I put on music…loudly…they coop at night. I also heard that if you get urine of some sort and put it on the perimeter it will deter predators…. It’s tough for me to leave them cooped in their 16 foot pen when they seem so happy out scratchin! We also have a trolley car that they hide under during the day…. It’s great to find this website…I am a fan!

  16. karen says:

    I just have to hollar “hey chickens!” and mine come running. But a lot of times I don’t have to say anything, they just see me and they come running.

  17. Marlene says:

    The best predator control that works 24/7 is a livestock guardian dog like my Anatolians or Great Pyrenees. These are dogs that have been bred and used for this type of work for thousands of years. I have had chickens for 3 years and I have not lost a single one of them to a predator, we have stray dogs, coyotes, hawks, not sure about any small predators, I haven’t seen any.

    • Suzette Martin says:

      You’re right, Marlene. We have 2 Great Pyrenees in with our goats. NOTHING but our cats goes in the fence and comes back out! We see buzzards all the time, and on checking, we routinely find possums, coons, armadillos, foxes, you name it. But the dogs’ temperament toward family and other pets is as gentle as a kitten! I’m forever sold on these beautiful dogs! Only thing is, they’re HUGE, and need plenty of room to run! Make sure you introduce existing dogs to something new so they won’t see it as an intruder. They are smart dogs that seem to really understand what you’re saying!

  18. John Anderson says:

    My wife and I live in Alaska in the woods and have kept chickens for 20 years. Because it’s only the two of us we keep a small flock, I have always had a coop with fenced in yard that was covered due to Marsh Hawks and Eagles. Then one morning Mr. Brown Bear stopped, by and in seconds destroyed the yard and got two of our White leghorns. From that time forward, I secured the coop and yard with Electric cattle fencing. We have had many bears since then, but the fence has always (knock on wood) stopped them. I run mine on 120v AC, but you can also get the solar units that work just as well. JMA

  19. Patricia Flood says:

    Hi,
    I had my first encounter with a fox who got into my pen in spite of a foot of buried fence. She was very determined and just kept digging. I figured that maybe she had kits and was really hungry. I lost my 3 lavender Americaunas, 1 Buff Orpington and a new Hampshire Red. My heart was broken!! I have tons of coyotes, but my dogs seem to keep them away. They used to come through the back yard every night, but once I got my big dog they don’t come as close to the house. That little fox though was a real stinker! Now everybody gets locked up tight in the barn at night. I’ve learned my lesson.

  20. Robin says:

    I have what I consider to be a free range flock, but I lock them up every night. In the day time they are free to roam my property but at night, when they return to the coop, I lock the doors. When I go away for the weekend or for a vacation, I pay the kids across the street to lock them up at night and let them out in the morning. Too many things (racoons, skunks, possums, weasels, coyotes) like a chicken dinner for it to work any other way. We all seem to be very happy with this arrangement!

    Using the kid to lock up chickens has been very successful but I am intrigued by the idea of an automatic door and may consider one in the future.

  21. beth says:

    Be sure to keep them cool during the hot summer days. We live in southwest Louisiana and the heat index has been 105 and higher lately. Be sure your chickens have plenty of water and shade during these hot summer months.

  22. Linda Osborne says:

    You can have both free range and coop chickens!! Start with chicks when you feed them call them….I have a “Chicken Song” that I use…the same words over and over….here chickens, here chickens….put down scratch or feed at the same time and they will associate very quickly that the song/words means food. Do this EVERY time you feed them. Keep them in the coop or pen till large enough to fend for themselves. When you let them out to range call them and feed them in the evening back at the coop….mine always came running. Sometimes calling them with garden scraps and fruits also makes them come when called after being “trained” .

    • Patricia Flood says:

      Hi,

      My chicken song is “Here rick chick, chick, chicks”. MY neighbors think I’m nuts! I’m glad to hear that there are other chicken songstresses out there! Patricia

    • Debra says:

      My chickens are “trained” as well, here chicky, chicky, chicky; they follow me all over the property!

  23. Johnene Wheat says:

    I read your article regarding keeping the flock safe. I wish I had used some of these methods last year when we started out flock. We have gone from 75 chicks to 4—all due to predators. We live in a very wooded rural area and the predators you mentioned as well as coyotes and foxes have hit our flock. We wanted “free range” chickens as we always had when I was growing up on the farm. We have come to the realization that a cooped chicken is better than no chicken. So we are in the process of creating a coop for our chickens and then we will begin again.
    Thanks so much for your informative article.

  24. sharon says:

    I have a wild cat that is beginning to come around. What do I need to do to keep her out?
    Do cats climb up fencing and get into the bird net?

    • Bud Wood says:

      Feral cats can be a real problem; they have to be cunning to survive. I would take the same precaution I would with a raccoon. You will need to make your coop and fencing very tight, no opening, loose wire or boards. If you have netting over the top make sure the edges are attached well and there are no holes. Cats will climb so you might want to run an electric shock wire at the top and bottom of your fence.

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