Winter brings extra challenges to your career in raising backyard chickens. In addition to winterizing your coop and keeping your flock healthy, you need to worry about predators stalking your birds in the cold. Food gets scarce in the winter, which means the local wildlife are more tempted than ever to make off with some of your hens or their eggs. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your chickens safe and secure all season long. Prevent hunters and thieves with this guide on how to keep winter predators out of your coop.
Know Your Winter Predators
The first step to coop security is knowing your suspects. In winter, you’ll see many of the same predators that visit your coop the rest of the year. Keep in mind, however, that some of these animals will become more persistent once the weather turns cold and food becomes less available. When winter comes along, you’ll want to keep an eye out for raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and birds of prey. Neighborhood pets—especially outdoor cats that often hunt for themselves—can also pose a threat to your birds this season.
Shine Some Light
Light can be an effective element of how to keep winter predators out of your coop. When the dark night suddenly floods with bright light, animals are more likely to get spooked and run off before they have a chance to snatch a hen. You can install motion sensor lights to ward off predators that creep too close. However, you should know the pros and cons of coop lighting before you install bulbs in and around your coop. An electric malfunction can lead to fires. Plus, too much artificial light will stress out your hens.
Leave No Invitations
Keep an eye on your coop throughout the winter to make sure it’s not tempting any local predators. Cracks and holes in the coop create the perfect opening for smaller predators, so take the time to inspect for damage, especially after heavy winter storms. Take care when placing or repairing your fencing. Be sure to bury the fence several inches into the ground to deter burrowing predators. Finally, the smells of outdoor food containers attract predators. Be sure to seal all food tightly and store it indoors. Clean up spills in the coop, too, to eliminate many of the temptations that bring predators to your yard.
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