These are dangerous times to be a chicken. While free-range chickens are the self-sustainability, organic-raised ideal, keeping your chickens strictly outside opens them up to many dangers. If you’re careful, though, and provide your flock with a safe place to spend the night, you’ll minimize the chances that your birds will end up on the wrong dinner plate.
A World of Dangers
Chickens have a lot of predators, so it’s important that they have a safe place to live, especially at night. If you wish to keep your birds free range, at least make sure they have a chicken house to retreat to if the need arises. It’s not a bad idea to put the chickens in their coop for the night. Even for free-range birds, it’s possible to train them to return to their coop for the evening hours.
Dogs and cats are both common household pets that can be a nightmare to chickens. Even accidentally, it’s easy for a dog to kill a chicken. Some domestic cats will stalk and kill chickens, especially vulnerable chicks. Mother nature hosts a plethora of threats too. Owls and hawks make a quick meal of chickens. Snakes and opossums are known to steal eggs. Coyotes, raccoons, skunks, bears, foxes, and wild cats prey on chickens when given the opportunity. The list goes on and on. Basically, the world is full of creatures large and small that will happily eat eggs, chicks, and even full-grown birds. Living within city limits doesn’t mean that there are not threats lurking in the darkness; they’re there and they would greatly appreciate a chicken dinner. You need to protect your flock accordingly.
Providing Protection in Perilous Times
The most basic method of protecting your chickens from predators is to build a heavy-duty chicken coop with a strong, locking door that shuts securely at night. If you have a chicken run, cover it or ensure that your birds are indoors for night. Hawk netting is an option to keep out flying predators. To keep your chickens safe from digging predators, bury hardware cloth 12 inches deep all the way around your coop. Electric net fencing helps keep persistent pests out too, as does a line of electric wire along the bottom of the fencing. Also, elevating the coop off the ground can help keep weasels, rats, and mice from penetrating your chickens’ home. Make sure that your floor is solid and can resist rodent-like pests.
Regularly inspect your chicken coop for holes or gaps where predators could gain entry, clean up food the chickens don’t eat before night falls so that it doesn’t attract other animals, and keep the area around the coop neat and tidy. Many predators like brush cover and won’t feel as safe if there is an open field or yard without cover. Motion-detecting lights are also an option. They’ll quickly let you know if anything is lurking around where it’s not wanted.
Preventative Chicken Protection
If predators are a consistent problem, consider getting a chicken-friendly dog. He’ll be aware of predators and likely able to chase them off. Although not quite as effective as a dog, a rooster can also help protect a flock. Roosters are effective at fighting off small predators, but they do need light to see predators at night. If your yard is partially lit or if you have motion-detecting lights, this may be a good option.
Predators are an unfortunate part of raising chickens and it’s likely that you’ll lose a chicken to prey at least once. However, there is a lot that you can do to keep your flock safe and help them live long, productive lives. A bit of diligence and some safety precautions are all you need to get started protecting your chickens today.