While it might be challenging to protect your hens from everything, there are a few things you can do when it comes to predators. The most effective and efficient way of protecting your birds is to keep your birds in a safe run and coop. Chickens are practically defenseless against majority of predators. And not because they are not intelligent (in reality it is quite the opposite, chickens are very smart), but because they are truly unable to hide, outrun or defend themselves. Your chickens therefore have to rely on you to protect them, day and night. Here are a few precautions you can take to keep your flock secure.
#1 Move your Chickens
With their eyes closed and still, chickens become easy prey after the light of day fades. Nighttime is also when most of the predators are active, which makes this the best time to relocate your chickens to a more secure location. To catch your bird and move her, quickly lift her with one hand gripping her two feet together firmly yet gently and have one hand holding her breast.
#2 Use Dogs as Guards
Livestock guardian dogs are arguably the most commonly utilized and well-known animal for chicken protection. Dogs are clever, trainable, and excellent friends. But to some species of predators, they are terrifying - and that's of course a good thing. Just keep in mind that you may also need to train your dog to avoid the possibility, however small, of your guardian dog turning into a predator. Some of the most well-known dog breeds known to offer good company and protection to chickens would be Akbash, Kuvasz and Great Pyrenees.
A rooster is a traditional chicken protector, and many free-range farmers maintain one for this purpose! Their natural function is to guard hens against predators, and many will risk their lives to do so. It may be prudent to select a large breed rooster, such as a Brahma, or even a more belligerent rooster, such as a game cock.
However, roosters may be hostile against humans and other animals, including domestic cats, dogs, and even other livestock. They can also exhaust the hens if their wants outweigh those of the hens, which is why it's critical to choose one that is kind and respectful toward your flock.
Additionally, you will need to replace the rooster if killed, as some roosters opt to self-save. Even if a rooster gets killed, a predator may pursue the hens. While getting inexpensive or even free roosters is straightforward, locating one that has all the traits of a strong protector while also being kind to birds, or a rooster of a particular breed, may be more difficult.
#4 Electric Fencing
Electric fence is a viable option for poultry security. It can be built in two main ways. The first one would be to construct a static coop and wrap an electric wire around the bottom of it, preventing even burrowing predators from entering.
Another approach would be to safeguard your hens using a full fledged electric net fence. Painted mild steel, galvanized steel, stainless steel, and aluminum are common materials for electrified palisade fences.
Traps can be very effective against predators, but be sure to investigate the safest type for the animal you're attempting to capture. This is an option to use sparingly if all other efforts fail as it may also end up incurring more damage than benefit. Just imagine some other undeserving animal falls into the trap which was not intended for it.
#6 Predator Lights
Acutely aware of their surroundings, wild animals that hunt or eat at night have heightened senses. To avoid being spotted, they will only feed in a safe environment. Predator lights generate a bright flash of light through twin red LED lights, which animals mistake for the eyes of a larger predator, therefore deterring them from attacking. Wild animals are forced to escape the area due to this inducing the flight reaction in them. It appears to be a straightforward notion, yet it is very effective!
Predators are here to stay, but of course nobody wants them around their chickens. Find out what the most common predators in you area are and decide which of the above options (or some others) would be the most suitable to protect your flock. It is very saddening to lose chickens to predators so putting in place a few of the methods concurrently is really something that you should consider. You also need a peace of mind knowing your hens are safe!