ree range hens are always at risk from various animals, wild and otherwise, that want to kill them or steal their eggs. Some of these predators can be very skilled and intelligent, and can be very difficult to keep away from your hens. Here is a list of the Top 10 Predators for North America, although many of these are also active in Europe and other parts of the world. I have tried, where possible, to suggest ways of preventing them getting at your poultry or at least ways of reducing the risk. The main way to keep your hens safe is to restrict their activities within a chicken run that is protected by a strong wire fence. They can still forage in true free range style if you make the run big enough, but you need to check the fence regularly to make sure that it is always secure.
These predators are related to wild dogs and are common across the whole North American continent. They have become used to human settlements, unfortunately, and are active both day and night - even more so in cold weather conditions. Also unfortunately they love feeding on all kinds of poultry. For many communities coyotes are the primary threat to their livestock. Often people will try to shoot them on sight or try to trap them. The only really effective protection against these persistent pests is a strong wire fence surrounding the chicken run, sunk to a depth of at least 15 inches.
There are various members of this family such as stoats, ferrets, mink, wolverines, fisher cats, badgers, otters and many others. They are all carnivorous and love to kill and eat chickens as well as going after their eggs. Mostly they hunt at night, which is why the best protection against them is to make sure your hens are safely tucked up in their chicken coop.
These animals are becoming more and more aggressive around human communities. They used to hunt only at night but now they can be spotted at any time of the day. Foxes are clever and very skilled at finding and killing hens, usually taking their kill far away from the hen run. Shooting them is quite effective but the best way is to enclose your hens in a strong wire fence and make sure they are housed in a well-made chicken coop at night.
These pests will not be a threat to an adult hen but they will take chicks and, of course, eggs. Unfortunately they are extremely common, particularly in country areas. It has been said that you are never more than 10 feet from a rat! Make sure that the chicken coop floor is well off the ground, that all joints are properly sealed, and that the wire fence is checked regularly to prevent holes being dug under it. One good thing – hens will usually attack rats if they invade the coop.
Do not let dogs, pets or otherwise, near your hens. They will chase them and kill them if they can, unless you train them. On the other hand a good farmyard dog will help protect your chickens by chasing off foxes and other wild animals.
Hawks are the most common birds of prey but many places also have eagles, buzzards, harriers and kites. All of these can pose a serious threat to your hens and chicks in daylight hours. If necessary you might need to cover the chicken run – old fishing nets are quite effective.
These are very common in North America, and will prey on chickens and their eggs. Raccoons are very clever and can unlatch doors and open covers very easily. Make sure that the chicken coop and hen run access doors are fitted with raccoon-proof locks.
These animals will seldom attack adult birds but will take chicks and eggs. Usually operating at night, skunks can be kept at bay by geese or dogs.
Reptiles will go after eggs and sometimes baby chicks. There is not much that can prevent them doing this if they are a problem in your area, but often hens will attack any snakes that venture into the coop.
Even pet cats will stalk and kill baby chicks so keep an eye on yours if you have any.
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Knowing about the common predators in your area will go a long way towards keeping your precious hens (and their eggs) safe. Check with neighbors and other poultry farmers to learn about their experiences and remedies. Your local vet will also be helpful.
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