How to Predator Proof a Chicken Coop - 4 Easy Ways

From hawks that fly above to raccoons and foxes, to snakes, cats and digging predators, like rodents, there is nary a critter that will not find your chickens tasty. Even the neighbors dogs can be your flock's worst nightmare. Did you know that in New England they even have more chicken predators called fishers?

There is no shortage of animals that can harm a chicken. Hawks you did not even know about can swoop down from above. They quickly destroy their prey, your free-ranging chickens, right in your yard.

Another category of harmful animals can be burrowing critters use their underground tunnels to attack from below via the chicken run. Raccoons, come in at night and create a scene from the scariest horror movie. 

Obviously preventing the destruction, or truly any harm coming to your backyard chicken pets is of the utmost importance. In order to do that, first realize that free-ranging chickens involves risk. There is always a chance that a predator could be lurking or soaring.

One method that is not detailed here is the use of trained dogs. They have been known to protect free-range chickens, so that is an option. If you do not have a trained dog, perhaps try a few of these methods.

Several images showing predator proofing methods using a customer chicken coop set-up as an example. Pressure treated four by fours are placed around the bottom of the coop about 12

Predator Proofing Chicken Coops - Keeping Chickens Safe Inside the Coop and Run

Coop Safety

Ensure there is nothing worn or anything that needs to be replaced or fixed on the coop that would enable entry by a predator. Take a look under the coop to assess the condition of the floor. 

Securing Windows & Other Openings

It is essential for chickens to have good ventilation and that means there will be openings on your chicken coop. Openings do not have to be insecure. Use a heavy duty galvanized welded wire on areas such as windows that open with screens. Raccoons push inward so wire should be attached from the outside of the coop to make sure it does not come loose.

Tip 1: We recommend welded wire over hardware cloth.

Tip 2: Schedule a once-over safety review of your coop and surrounding area monthly.

Look for holes in the ground near the coop. Check for damage to the structure or roof. And finally, check that all the wire is securely fastened and completely in-tact. Of course, then take care of issues found during the safety review.

Chicken Door Security

Chicken doors give access in and out of the coop for chickens. What is to stop most predators from walking right in? If your run is not attached to your coop, or if it is and it is not predator proofed, you will need to take a good look around inside the coop before allowing chickens to go into the coop at night. If not, any number of harmful animals could be waiting for your innocent little hens.

Your habits can help to keep your hens safe too. You may want to close the chicken door right after you let the chickens out, in the morning. 

Another tool in the quest for chicken safety is the auto chicken door. It isn't going to slam shut on a predator or anything cool like that, but it will open and close at times you specify. If you will be away from your chickens, even for an evening, an automatic chicken door may prove life-saving for your flock. 

Protecting Chicken Runs

Chickens need to be protected especially well when they are outdoors. The risk of loosing unprotected chickens to any number of critters is high. The traditional method to keep chickens safe inside the run is seriously hard work to implement. We recommend consideration of one of the newer, much easier methods.

First, the traditional method. Traditional Chicken Run Protection involves trenching. That means digging a vertical trench 18" - 24" deep (or at the very least 12") around the exact perimeter where your run will be placed. The even older version of this involved burying the hardware cloth. Now, welded wire mesh is then placed into the trench.

If you are getting a large coop with an attached run, you probably want to make sure the digging is done in advance. Once the coop is placed, attach the top of the wire to the coop to ensure that burrowing pests cannot enter the run. 

Two easier methods exist for chicken run protection. One is wire under the run and the other is wire around the run. They sound similar but the first offers more peace-of-mind while the second offers a lot let preparation and set-up.

To use the wire under the run method the builder, or you will attach galvanized wire to the bottom of the run and secure all four sides to the footer. Dirt, pond stones, or our favorite, course construction sand, is used to cover the wire. Pond stones with course construction sand on top is another customer favorite. Raking messes off the sand is super easy and creates a nice neat run area.

The second newer chicken pen protection method is wire around the run. This involves simply using 18" to 24" of wire wrapped completely around the run or run and coop if they are together. The wire attaches to the footers on the run and extends over the ground for the 18" to 24". Over time, grass will grow right through the wire and it will become invisible.

The wire around the run (and coop if one is attached) method works for vigilant chicken keepers. Watch for holes made from burrowing animals and fill them in to be sure pesky critters stay out of the coop. The logic behind this method is that burrowing predators have to start digging at least a foot and a half away from the run. They grow weary and think they will never get to the coop over that much distance, and they just give up.