Every chicken farmer needs to worry about predators treating their flock like the drive-through at KFC as chickens are fairly defenceless against teeth, claws, and fangs. Predators come in all shapes and sizes and if you don’t take the necessary precautions, all will consider your birds for their next meal. Read on to learn more about chicken coop predator prevention.
Fortunately for you dedicated chicken keepers, we have a few excellent tips for predator proofing your chicken coop that will leave the carnivores with grumbling tummies and searching for easier prey, while your chickens get to enjoy their night safe and tucked up tight.
Australian Predators who Love a Bit of Chicken
Chicken coops appeal to snakes for two reasons; eggs are an easy score providing tons of nutrition, plus, where there’s a chicken coop there is a good chance the local snakes can put rodents and other vermin on the dinner menu as well.
While chickens are a bit of a mouthful for most snakes, that won’t stop a hungry snake from trying if there’s not much else available, so you’ll need to give them lots of incentive to look elsewhere for their next meal.
Monitor lizards and goannas enjoy a breakfast of eggs just as much as snakes do, and they don’t mind chowing down on the vermin your loose chicken feed will attract as well. The best way to keep your chicken coop goanna free is to ensure the cupboard is always bare of their favourite foods.
Foxes are an increasing threat to chickens in Australia, and they are getting quite brave at trying their luck on suburban coops as well. The fox does not have any native predators to keep the population growth under control, so the species has spread to most areas of mainland Australia.
Circling hawks and falcons can swoop down from on high to snatch an unsuspecting free-range bird for an easy meal.
The happy go lucky animal wagging his tail at you as you pass him on the street can snap into a vicious primal hunting mode at the first sign of a wandering chicken. Domestication hasn’t done much to slow dogs down either, so your best bet is to prevent non-family member dogs from gaining access.
Cats who aren’t part of your menagerie may see your coop as an interesting diversion and playground for hunting vermin. Bantams and baby chicks are also easy to game for a bored neighbourhood feline.
Rats attract snakes, goannas, and monitor lizards, but before they become somebody’s dinner they will happily enjoy a feast of your precious eggs.
Australian quolls and Tasmanian devils are a rare threat to most chicken coops but if you happen to have them living close by then your eggs and baby chicks could become a target as they hunt for vermin surrounding your coop. Both quolls and Tasmanian devils are endangered species, so if you spot them lurking about then you will need to call your local wildlife preservation agency.
Protect Against Burrowing Predators
A mesh floor buried about 30 cm under the ground and spanning at least 30cm out from the coop boundary will keep any burrowing predators from accessing the coop. Further protection against snakes, goannas, foxes, dogs, and cats can also be achieved by installing your coop on a solid foundation of concrete, pavers, timber sleepers, or bricks.
Use Plants to Repel Vermin
Most people know about the insect repelling properties of many plants but there are also a few species that will soon have any curious vermin backtracking in search of easier meals. Create a biological barrier around the coop with plants like mint, catnip, lavender, and lemon balm to keep the rats and mice away, and for extra fortification hang a few bunches along the chicken run roof.
Enlist a Guardian Rooster
Depending on the area you live you may not be able to keep a rooster because of the noise, but roosters will make a great addition to flock security. Roosters will keep an ever watchful eye out for predators, and at the first sign of danger will let out a warning sign that will have all the ladies running for cover.
Elevate the Chicken Coop
Coops resting directly on the ground provide easy access to rodents and small predators. A coop raised off the ground by at least 30cm will provide an extra challenge for the smaller predators to traverse.
Raised coops also allow the family cat access so they can ferret out any vermin who dare to take a chance at scoring a meal. With the family cat an ever-present threat you are not very likely to have rats or mice building nests in or around the raised coop.
There are other advantages to a raised coop; you prevent wood rot setting in, which burrowing predators can easily break through. Air circulation is also greatly improved in a coop that is off the ground.
Elevated coops also provide protection from the predators who occupy the skies above. When a chicken hawk or falcon is in the area, your birds will be able to gather underneath the coop and protect themselves from aerial bombardment.
A high fencing surrounding the entirety of your property will protect your chooks from stray dogs sniffing about, but cats will need the addition of spiked tops or rolling bars.
Secure Your Chicken Feed
Lots of loose chicken feed spread over a wide area is an invitation to a buffet for the average vermin, which will also attract the local reptile population. Use a secure drum to store your feed and remove any scraps from around the chicken coop every night. Also, see (Chicken Feed – Step by Step Australian Beginners Guide)
A Large Chicken Run
A large meshed chicken run provides a safe foraging ground that protects your flock from all manner of predators, including threats from above. Use a galvanised strong gauge wire mesh that is at least 10mm x 10mm for maximum protection. With the addition of a mesh flooring and a solid foundation as described above, you will have created the Fort Knox of chicken coops.
When you train the pet dog to be accepting of chickens, your flock will be seen by the dog as members of the pack and so will require their protection just like any other family member. There’s nothing much more intimidating to a prowling fox than an alert family dog keeping with a watchful eye on the chicken coop.
Electric fencing is also one of the most secure forms of coop protection if budget allows. Predators will not appreciate the painful shock as their noses come into contact with the electrified wire, so electric fencing is an excellent deterrent for foxes, dogs, neighbourhood and feral cats.
Electric poultry fencing isn’t complicated to set up and if you have been experiencing losses in your feed and flock then the costs may be offset somewhat.
Sensor lights will startle nocturnal predators into legging it, as they prefer to keep to the shadows while hunting. A bright light flooding the area should deter any nocturnal creatures from disturbing your flock at night.