…because they are out there and their hungry!
I’m not kidding, you do need to think carefully about how to manage the predator population because predators are probably the biggest reason for chicken loss in backyard flocks. Lots of animals prey on chickens and once they have your address they will lurk and lurk, just waiting for their chance to get a good meal.
Our coop is heavily fortified by design.
We have a chicken wire enclosure over the top of the run that keeps most critters out quite effectively. I’ve often heard that raccoons can tear right through chicken wire but we haven’t had that happen yet.
Several inches of the wooden boards at the bottom of the run are buried in soil. Michael says that he’d bury the wire on the sides twelve inches deep if he were to do it again.
We lock the door to their house with a clasp at night and the small chicken door is locked most nights as well.
We have a fenced in open area that’s accessible to the chickens from the covered run but we reserve that, along with yard and garden ranging, for days when we’re outside keeping watch and serving as deterrents.
We’ve seen a bobcat, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, skunks, hawks and even fisher cats here at the edge of the woods. All of these creatures love to eat chicken for dinner. We’ve lost a few hens to hawks and on one occasion a raccoon squeezed through a small gap in the screening of the run and killed one chicken while literally scaring another to death. To this day we’re not sure what saved the rest. I’ve spent many hours watching hawks circle overhead or sit on top of the run just waiting for their chance…
If you were a chicken, wouldn’t you be scared if this hawk was watching over you?
Here’s a fisher cat that we trapped before the chicken days. We had no idea of what it was when Michael and the kids found it in the trap but it’s hiss was vicious!
So, we don’t let our chickens range much without supervision. We also keep a pretty close eye on the edge of the woods, we have a lot (a LOT) of foot traffic in our yard which prevents some predator presence and we design our chickens’ space to be as safe as is reasonably possible. I think that’s why we loose more chickens to old age than to predators.
Or that could be because of the oatmeal… but that’s another post…