Tips For Predator Proofing Your Chicken Coop


I've written many articles about the joy of backyard chicken-keeping.  We have been blessed with ongoing flocks of funny and beautiful chickens for the past 14 years.  One thing not everyone thinks about when they decide to venture into chicken-keeping, is protecting the flock from predators.  I'll be honest, while it certainly did cross our minds, we did not keep this at the forefront of our minds when building our coop.

If you have chickens, predators know where they are.  It's a matter of becoming familiar with what types of predators may be in your area and then creating a plan to protect your flock from them.  Unfortunately, one predator can wipe out your entire flock in one night.  We've had a few friends that this has happened to.  If you are building a coop, predator proofing is an important factor to consider, and if you have an existing coop, many strategies are easy to implement with a little time, materials, and (sometimes) a bit of creativity.

Here are a few things to consider for your own coop:

1.  Hardware Cloth
     A more durable option for a chicken run than chicken wire, hardware cloth is sturdy and can be purchased in smaller gauge than other wires.  Some predators can squeeze through remarkably small holes, so this will not only keep your chickens in but also keep the predators out.  Research the predators common in your area in order to determine what size you should use (1/4" or smaller is ideal).  Also remember to line any windows or vent holes on your coop in order to protect your flock inside their coop.  The downside is the cost.  Hardware cloth is more expensive than chicken wire.
     Another thought on the chicken run is to bury the wire up to a foot below ground.  This is to deter any digging our burrowing predators.

2. Chicken Run Covering
     Rather than having your chicken run open, consider covering it with a roof and/or netting.  While the netting may not keep all predators out, it will prevent hawks, owls, and eagles from entering and taking your chickens.  A solid roof can keep any climbing predators out, as long as there are no gaps between the fencing and the roof.

3. Lock Your Coop Up At Night
     Many times, closing the doors isn't enough.  Having a 2-step latch on each of the doors is ideal.  On our doors we use 2 different latches that open in different ways.  The thought process is that if a predator, say a raccoon, is able to open one type of latch, it (hopefully) won't be able to open the other.  

4. Add An Automatic Door
**updated 11/23**
This is a splurge and certainly not a necessity but can save the day when you either forget to close up the coop or can't get out to the coop because of the snow or ice. We've been in both situations and have so far been lucky, but we know it's only time.  The key is in finding the right door for your coop. 

I previously wrote about an automatic chicken coop door we received from Chick Cozy in exchange for a write-up about their product and I can no longer recommend this door.  After we'd had it up (and using it very successfully) for a month and a half, the door began getting stuck.  The problem was that the track the doors slide on was on the bottom and stuff from the chicken's feet kept getting lodged into the track which would halt the door.  So, we began inspecting the track every evening, which wouldn't work if we were using the automatic door while we were away from home.  By November the door stopped working from time-to-time despite the fact that the battery was at 90% charge, and nothing was lodged in the track.  My husband has removed it and reinstalled it a few times and it will work like a charm for a few days and then stop working again.  We have now removed it.

5. Close Any Gaps
     Check your coop structure, all doors and windows as well as the chicken run for any gaps.   Your coop should be built of strong, sturdy material and preferably with a solid (not dirt) floor.  Spend the time to look for gaps and close it up tight as it doesn't take much space for many predators to squeeze in.  

6. Coop Train Your Flock
     If your flock will free-range, make sure they understand that their coop is their safe place.  It's also important that they understand that their coop is where they should sleep.  Anytime we add new chickens to the flock, all birds are on flock-down for a few weeks as they settle their pecking order, and the newbies get to understand that the coop is their home.  While they are on flock-down, I also begin training them to the sound of treats being shaken in a plastic bucket.  This way, I can always get them to return to their coop anytime of the day or night.  
     Chickens are quite food-driven, so it doesn't take long to train them.  Shake the bucket and hand out the treats once a day and within a few days they understand that shaking means goodies.  When our girls are free-ranging and I need them to return, I shake the treat bucket and they come running and flying from all directions.  The excitement is impressive!  I've yet to have a rebel who can resist the treat bucket.

7. Keep It Clean
     If you've provided treats in the outdoor run, or have feeders outside for convenience, make sure to clean it all up each evening and put all food away.  Honestly, it's just asking for trouble by attracting predators who can either harm your flock or pass them diseases.  

Predator proofing your coop is peace of mind.  While nothing is 100% effective, you can make your coop as secure as possible.


  1. It's crazy how many predators want to get to chickens. Thankfully, it's been a while since we lost any this way. The automatic door is intriguing. We discussed it several times, but haven't decided yet. I'll be interested to see if it continues to work well for you.

    1. Laurie - yes, we've been lucky thus far. Even when a fox was staking out the coop, he/she didn't manage to get to any of the chickens. We had been discussing the door as well, mostly for when we are able to get out and about again (right now it's not possible because of Oliver's medication schedule). We were concerned about making sure they are locked up before the night-time critters come out. We've had it installed for just over a month now and so far so good but I am happy to post an update in a few months!

  2. Great points, all. One of the things I love about our Omlet coops is that they have a metal run around the coop including a skirt along the sides. We have an automatic door on one of the coops and it works great, although our son goes out to ensure everyone is secure at night.
    We have installed a Sail Shade over the open area of the run to deter the overhead predators. We also have a trellis with loofah growing on it so make it more difficult for hawks to swoop in and grab someone. So far, so good. I have heard that having a black hen deters hawks because they think they could be crows.

  3. (I forgot to sign my name to my comment. Not sure why it doesn't show up. daisy)

    1. Daisy, it sounds like you found a great coop for your flock! I'd never heard that about a black hen. Interesting. Sail shades are fantastic for so many things! Thanks for sharing about your set-up!

  4. Staci, a great post...sometimes we forget the basics and it's good to be reminded. Ours have a roomy run, but so many hawks are always overhead that it's never felt safe to let them free range. I wish I could, and I know they'd love it, but I know it would be a disaster. Good to know about the automatic door...I've always wondered about them! Take care, I know the harvest days are busy for you!

    1. Thanks Mary. Yes, free ranging is tough. It's like every predator seems to know that the coop is open.


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