Having chickens is one of the most rewarding hobbies. They are absolutely hilarious to watch and provide endless entertainment, they are great at weeding your garden if you let them in it, they eat up all of your kitchen scraps and act like little composters, and of course, they provide you with healthy, farm fresh eggs and fertilizer.
It is easy to fall in love with your flock. Especially once you name them and know their own individual, little personalities. At one point, I could tell which of our roosters was crowing by the sound of their voice! It's true, it was my favorite party trick lol.
Keep Chickens Safe From Predators
There is absolutely nothing worse than waking up one morning to find that a predator has gotten into your chicken house the night before. There are many predators and hungry wildlife out there to watch out for, including:
The last predator listed is particularly bad, there is really nothing worse than a determined bear. The owls and hawks can't get into your chicken house at night, rather, they hunt from above. Snakes, rats and ferrets will find their way in, so it is a matter of making sure your windows, doors and any holes are secure so they can't get in.
Raccoons, well they are up there in threat level. They are clever and can open handles and think their way in. A fox and a coyote will try and dig their way into a chicken house.
There are also wild birds out there that could pick on your chickens and steal their eggs (wild birds such as magpies are particularly bad). These predator proofing ideas will help with that as well.
Luckily, this article will also help keep raccoons, coyotes and foxes as well as other critters out as well. But bears will use their strength to destroy a coop.
They will rip a door off, tear a window out and just use their brute force to get into the building, and this is why bears are able to cause so much property damage.
We have had plenty of experience with bears over the years. We have a few coops on our property (we have ha pre-built coops as well as diy chicken coops) as well as honey bees, and have found the best ways to keep bears (and other predators) out.
Let's talk about it.
How To Bear Proof A Chicken Coop
There are many things to consider when thinking of how to make a bear proof chicken coop, but first, let's talk about why a bear wants to get in.
Why Do Coops Attract Bears?
A chicken house is a very attractive building to a bear. They can smell the chickens, their eggs, the warm scent of the chicken house itself, the chicken's feed and any other lingering scents that a chicken may carry with them into their house.
A Bear's Sense Of Smell
Bears have an extremely sensitive olfactory system. This is what the National Park Service website has to say about a bear's sense of smell: "The area inside a black bear's nose, called the nasal mucosa, is 100 times greater than ours. This large nose results in an excellent sense of smell! Even bloodhounds, dogs so famous for their sense of smell that they're used to track missing people, don't smell as well a black bear. It is estimated that black bears' sense of smell is about seven times greater than a bloodhound's".
This smelling superpower brings them to places like coops, especially if food is becoming scarce or they are getting ready for hibernation and winter. During this time, bears need to consume copious amounts of calories that your chickens could provide for them. Yes, bears will eat chickens, and all of them in a sitting.
So that is what attracts a bear to your chickens in the first place.
Now that the bear has determined it wants in your delicious smelling coop, what is there to stop them? A bear is extremely strong, heavy and has very sharp claws that are able to rip a small building apart.
About Black Bears
According to Baylor University, here are some facts about black bears alone:
- There are 750,000 bears total in North America
- A bear is 4-6 feet tall when standing
- A male bear weighs 250lbs on average, 125lbs - 600lb (range) 880lbs (heaviest)
So, now that we know more about bears, how can we protect our chicken coop from a bear?
How To Protect Your Coop From Bears
1. Keep Feed Away From Your Coop
Because the chicken feed is one factor attracting a bear, you should consider keeping your feed in a separate building or in a sealed container. Of course, you will have some food on hand in the coop for your flock, but it is not necessary to keep all of their food in there.
We keep our chicken feed in a small building close to the coop and in big Rubbermaid containers that are sealed shut. There are many bear resistant containers for keeping feed and treats in. This is just a small start to keeping a bear out.
2. Dig Your Chicken Wire Down In The Ground
This is a common practice for us when we add to our chicken run or dig a new one. Use a shovel and dig a trench 1 foot down into the ground, and feed your chicken wire fencing into it, then back bury it.
This is just another obstacle that a bear will have to get through to get to the coop. It may not entirely stop them, but it is one more thing in their way.
By digging your fencing into the ground, it will help prevent other digging animals like foxes or coyotes from getting another step closer to your chicken house. Once they dig down and realize there is fencing in the ground as well, their energy is much better spent working on an easier meal.
3. Install An Automatic Chicken Coop Door
Adding a good quality, automatic door to our coop has really made a HUGE difference for us. We did a ton of research and went with the RUN-CHICKEN door which is a heavy metal door that would be very difficult for a bear to get into.
It also automatically closes when the sun goes down and opens when the sun comes up, so if you are out or away from the house, you can rest easy knowing our chickens will be put away before a nocturnal predator or a bear can get to them.
Here are some points about this specific automatic chicken coop door:
- It is a sturdy, aluminum door
- It is battery operated (2 AA batteries; battery life will last 1 year)
- Has a natural light sensor
- Opens and closes automatically
- Has a button set up (if you want to manually change the closing and opening times)
- Time configurator (for more advanced options)
- Easy mounting
- High security
- Robust and elegant
- Works in climate −15 °F to 140 °F
Colors it comes in: USA Hen, Rhode Island Red, Buckeye Brown, California Gray, Camo Brown, Camo Gray.
See your other high quality chicken door options in our research article, Best Automatic Chicken Coop Doors here
4. Get A Good Electric Fence
This is one of the most important points for protecting your backyard chickens safe (and any other livestock) from bears (and other chicken-eating animals).
Find a good, reliable electric fence for livestock protection from bears and put it around your house and run. You can install permanent electric fences for bears or a temporary. Both will do the job if you choose a good quality product.
Here is an electric fence we recommend for bear proof chicken coops (regardless of if your have a wooden coop or a metal one):
This electric fence is a great option for your chickens, as it is 48" tall and 168' long. This is a better option than a single or double electric line system. It will give your predator multiple shock points and should scare them away and keep them away.
This electric fencing for livestock needs to be purchased with an energizer in order for it to work, as most electrified fences do.
For this specific electric fencing, you will need an energizer with low or wide impedance and one that give .25 joules of energy output.
This is the energizer we recommend purchasing with this fencing (you would need one energizer for each 164' roll you purchase)
You can also get solar powered energizers for your electric fencing, just make sure to get one that has .25 joules of stored energy.
See solar powered .25 joule energizers here (just make sure to read that it is low or wide impedance and is .25 joules of energy output):
If you want an all-in-one package for an easy install, check out this electric fencing kit complete with energizer and a grounding rod:
5. Install A Chicken Coop Camera
Think of this option like a baby camera for your birds. It will alert you if there is something trying to get into your coop or near your livestock. Just simply look at the camera in real time.
Of course, we do NOT recommend going outside and scaring a bear off, but you can certainly yell into your camera or blow a loud whistle out your window to deter a stunned bear.
It is hard to find a smart camera for protecting your flock and surveillance that can be used for a coop and alert you in real time of a threat, as many of these cameras identify "people only alerts" or cars, and they are made this way on purpose. The two that we recommend for chicken coops which will alert you to animals around your hen house are from the same company, Ring.
1. The Ring Spotlight Camera (battery powered)
The Ring camera sensitivity can be adjusted to catch wildlife motion alerts in the yard in the day or night and can alert you of a threat in real time. Something really great about getting a Ring camera, is that you can hook it up to your Alexa Echo screen display and say "Alexa, show me the chicken coop" and it will bring the display up for you to see instantly. The camera can actually show you live video on any smart device instantly.
Of course, you can set this chicken wifi camera to your backyard, your side yard or even your front door or driveway. You can purchase more than one to have a look at several places in your yard or house at once.
You also have the option of setting up a solar charging option. But because it is battery operated, it is as simple as set up and go.
2. The Ring Floodlight Camera (hardwired)
The difference between the floodlight cam and the previously mentioned spotlight camera is that this option is hardwired to your house, and it also adds on a 110 dB security siren and 2000 lumen LED floodlights to really light up the night when there is unusual activity. So this will scare any bear that is trying to get at your birds.
6. Clean Your Coop Often
This specific point is something I am sure you hear all the time. Keep the chicken house clean. It's true. Just the simple act of shoveling out chicken poop will help keep the smells down, plus you have less chance of experiencing things like fly strike, bumble foot and more.
A clean house is a happy (and in this case, safer) chicken house.
Read about the chicken coop cleaning mask I am wearing here and why
7. Keep Your Compost And Garbage Far Away
A compost pile or your garbage are more scent-attractive feeding area for bears. If they are close to where your chickens are sleeping or your other livestock, it is creating a double whammy of scents that is almost irresistible to any bear. They will be attracted to all the decomposing food. and will look at it as their own personal feed piles.
Well, we hope we gave you some good options and ideas for keeping your chickens safe in bear country! Bears are really all over North America so whether you live in bear country, they are always going to be around, as well as other hungry animals. It is important to find ways to keep your livestock safe, and following our advice will help you in that quest.
From using a bear resistant container for your chicken food and treats, to keeping your hen house clean, there are ways to deter bears from devastating your flock.
You can further keep trouble away with a good dog or pet that will scare a curious bear. Just be ahead of the game: install defensive mechanisms, not reactive ones. Don't wait until something happens to your flock to put in preventative measures.
You can also get a countertop composter which decomposes your food scraps over a few hours, and keep your compost scent free this way.
Here are some other chicken-related articles you may be interested in:
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