Recently, I have encountered more predators of my poultry than I care to. One of the main reasons for this is the changing of the seasons. With winter quickly approaching, the food sources for such animals such as coyotes, raccoons, hawks, eagles and even skunks is becoming more scarce. With the drive for food, more predators are getting bolder and bolder in their search for an easy meal.
Yet, there are a number of simple things to consider that will ensure your poultry flock is safe from these marauding predators. Since most predators of poultry are active at night, the simple task of locking your birds in at night before the sun goes down will greatly reduce the likelihood of losing any to coyotes or raccoons; two of the most destructive predators of your flock.
A secure building is also required. Many predator species, such as rats, can make their way into your coop with ease through small openings in the wall or a crack in the window. Other predators like foxes or coyotes are master diggers and will readily tunnel their way under wire to access your flock. Burying wire 2-3 feet below the ground around the outdoor foraging area can help prevent fox and coyote access. A canopy or roof consisting of chicken wire or hardware cloth above the foraging area not only prevents your chickens or other fowl from flying out and escaping but it will prevent against airborne predator attacks from hawks and owls; hawks being the day-time predator and owls being the night-time predator.
Many acreage owners enjoy seeing their flock running around the property fence-free. While this is an enjoyable sight, be reminded that predators are also watching the chickens or ducks along with you. Occasionally, night-time predators like coyotes and foxes may venture out in the day time and snatch one of your hens. Hawks are another key day-time predator, often seizing unsuspecting prey from the air.
Additionally, making sure that there is no cover for the predators to ambush from is a good idea. Brush piles should be removed and having a fair distance between the coop and trees, fields or tall grass prevents the predators from forming and ambush on your flock and gives the birds enough time to spot the predator prior to the attack.
While eliminating all predator threats is not feasible, reducing the likelihood of one is more reasonable. Preventing hiding places and securing your birds in at night are two very important steps to preventing a predatory attack. If you would like more information as more steps to eliminate or prevent predators from attacking your poultry flock, please consult your local extension office.