Whether you’re in an urban environment or surrounded by acres of land, other critters may want to cash in on the hard work you're putting into raising chickens. Here are some tips for coop construction and care that will help keep predators at bay.
The Top: Create some kind of cover for your chicken run. Use wire fencing, chicken wire or poultry netting to discourage hawks and owls from having one of your chickens for dinner. If your chickens spend the day in an unsecured run, provide cover, such as bushes, picnic tables or garden arbors, for them to use when birds of prey are overhead.
The Sides: Create a secure poultry run around your coop to keep four-legged predators like coyotes and bobcats from gaining access to your chickens. Several options are available for enclosing your run: poultry wire, welded-wire mesh, electrified netting, or other fencing material with sufficiently small openings. Using 1-by-2-inch mesh instead of 2-by-3 inch mesh will discourage raccoons or other animals from reaching in and snagging any chicken within reach.
Down Low: Raising your chicken coop 12 inches off the ground will discourage rats, skunks and snakes from making their home under your chickens' home. Make sure your henhouse is secure by regularly patching any holes that are big enough for snakes and rats to use. If you are concerned about digging predators, dig a trench at least 12 inches deep around your coop and bury hardware cloth.
In general, keep any compost piles away from the coop, and remove any uneaten food scraps the chickens have left before nightfall. Install motion-sensor lights to discourage nocturnal predation. Allow chicken-friendly pets to roam the area around your coop. Most importantly, train your chickens to return to the chicken house each night, and always close it up.