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Keep Your Chickens Safe from Predators

How to keep your chickens safe from predators.

Winter is on its way, with an increase in hungry varmints who'd like nothing better than chicken for dinner.

Now is the time to make your chicken coop as predator-proof as possible, while it's still warm enough to work outside. It's the same premise as hanging your Christmas lights on a nice weekend in November instead of waiting until the snow flies in December, right?

The three most important areas to secure are the chicken yard, the windows, and the latches that keep everything closed.

Fence the chicken run

When we rebuilt our chicken yard hubby said poultry wire would be adequate (and cheaper) because they're just chickens and it would keep them in just fine. I said that our goal isn't to keep chickens in, but to keep predators out.

Use strong wire fencing on your coop's run.

So we used 2x4" welded wire fencing instead of poultry wire. Welded wire doesn't work well as goat fencing, but it will be sufficient in the chicken yard. Chicks could escape through the 2x4" holes, but we don't have hen-raised chicks so that wasn't a concern.

An even better option might be hardware cloth, but that was way out of our budget for the amount of fencing we needed. It's expensive!

Along the ground

To keep predators from digging underneath the fence and into the chicken yard, run a foot or two of fencing just under the ground all the way around the run. In other words, dig out a trench along the outside of the fence, about 6-12 inches deep and about two feet wide, and lay the bottom of your fencing in this trench, then backfill the dirt. The fencing will form an "L" with the shorter leg of the fencing underground and the longer part upright, forming the run fence.

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Cover the yard

To thwart hawks, owls and predators that can climb the fence, cover the top of your run. Remember that raccoons are heavy, so use appropriate fencing that will hold the critters' weight. Even better would be a roof over the run to provide shade in summer and protect your hens from the weather so they can roam outside even in winter.

How to keep your chickens safe from predators.

If your run is too large or too wide to make covering it possible, you might add a flight net instead to keep out birds of prey.


All doors in the coop and yard should be fastened with critter-resistant latches. Raccoons in particular are pretty savvy at opening latches such as hook-and-eye hardware, slide-bolts, or the simple wooden slat that turns to hold a door shut.

Put secure latches on gates, doors and windows.

The best latch is one that snaps closed with a hook of some sort.


Windows should latch securely from the inside. Hook-and-eye or similar hardware is sufficient because the varmints are outside and the latch is inside.

Cover windows with hardware cloth, not screen, to keep critters out. Screen is too easy to rip apart. (You should see what our cats have done to the screen on our front storm door.)

A heat register cover is a good way to cover a ventilation opening.

All ventilation openings should also be covered with hardware cloth or other varmint-proof covering. Using a register cover is a great way to add a ventilation opening: cut a hole to the appropriate size and screw in the cover, which can be opened or closed according to the weather, just like you'd open or shut a heating vent in your home. (We're going to replace this one and use the old one in the coop.)

Check for weak spots

Ready-made coops sold at farm stores usually have a compartment for egg-laying with a lift-up top to make egg-gathering easy. Some of these have a fatal flaw: the often-flimsy wooden floor in the nesting area is simply laid inside. A predator can push upwards and gain access to the coop easily. Check your coop to make sure the floor is secure and safe. Replace with a thicker floor if needed, and screw it to the coop securely.

Another way to make this area safer is to include the area underneath the nest-boxes inside the fenced run area so critters don't have access to the floor.

Look for weak spots, such as the bottom of this pop door to the coop.

When I built the sliding door from my coop to the poultry yard, I added a board at the bottom that the closed door sits behind; a varmint can't stick its paws underneath the door to lift it up.

Each year before winter do a security check of your chicken coop and run, fix any weak spots and replace anything that needs to be more secure. By mid- to late-winter, predators have a harder time finding food and begin venturing closer to homesteads in search of a meal. Don't let your hens become their dinner.

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How to keep your chickens safe from predators this winter.

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