These 17 tips will help keep your ducks and chickens safe from predators in your back yard.
Coyotes, bobcats, stray dogs, cats, hawks, snakes, skunks, raccoons, possums, ferrets… there is a long list of potential predators that would happily make a meal of your backyard ducks or chickens — or their eggs.
“But I live in the city, so I don’t have predators.” Wrong. If anything, you probably have MORE raccoons and possums in your urban neighborhood than someone living in a rural setting.
So how can you keep your ducks or chickens safe from potential predators while still making sure your poultry have a happy, high quality, outdoor life?
Healthy eggs require healthy ducks
Our girls are egg producers. We know that getting healthy eggs for us, means we have to provide conditions necessary for healthy ducks. That’s not just our opinion, that’s based on research data.
But a healthy duck can still easily become a victim of a hungry predator. That’s one reason why wild ducks have an average lifespan of 3-5 years, whereas domesticated ducks cared for by humans can live well into their teens.
How do you raise healthy ducks or chickens?
- high quality food,
- plenty of greens,
- water/pond to swim & clean in (for ducks, not chickens, since chickens take dust baths), and
- full days outdoors foraging and basking in the sun.
We’ve got those bases covered, but how do we keep our healthy ducks safe from predators?
Healthy ducks require the ducks to be kept alive
You could have the healthiest outdoor chickens or ducks in the word, but if a fox kills them, that doesn’t do you or your previously healthy poultry much good.
Conversely, you could keep your poultry 100% safe from predators by keeping them caged up all day, but that reduces their happiness and healthiness.
As their human caregiver, your job is to wisely balance between these two sets of poultry needs…
17 ways to keep your ducks and chickens safe from predators
We’ve been duck parents since 2013. Our ducks are outside from morning to night. Nevertheless, we’ve never lost a single flock member to a predator despite having swarms of predators around our property. (We often even have families of skunks living under our front porch.)
Over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two (or seventeen) about how to keep backyard poultry safe while still providing them a great life. What’s the secret? Unfortunately, there’s no single, silver bullet solution.
Instead, think of our 17 recommended poultry safety measures as a checklist of precautions you can take. With each recommendation you check off the list, you further reduce the statistical likelihood that a predator will injure or kill your backyard ducks or chickens. If you don’t think you can take the steps mentioned below, you may want to strongly consider building a large protected duck run for your flock where they can spend the day since that’s the only guaranteed way to keep them from being killed by predators.
In no particular order, here are 17 ways to keep your ducks and chickens safe from predators in your back yard:
1. Install 6′ tall perimeter fencing.
We have 6′ tall perimeter fencing around our backyard where our duck spends their day. Two sides are wood fencing with the back side protected by chainlink. A large dog or coyote could potentially jump over a shorter fence, but 6′ keeps any daytime-hunting mammalian predators out of our yard.
In the evening, we let our ducks out with us to forage while we do yard chores and harvest food for dinner. Since the rest of our yard is unfenced, one of us is always with our ducks just in case a neighborhood dog or coyote is on the loose.
If for some reason you can’t install 6′ perimeter fencing, you’ll instead want to make sure your flock has a large, secure run to spend their days in.
2. Bury 1-2′ of hardware cloth on the outside of your fence.
If you’re gone all day at work, that leaves plenty of time for a canine to dig under your 6′ tall fence. What to do?
Dogs will try to dig directly next to a fence that they’re trying to dig under. To prevent predators from either pushing underneath or digging under your fence:
- make sure the bottom of your fence is either buried or strongly secured to the ground so an animal can’t push underneath it.
- bury 1-2′ feet of hardware cloth immediately next to your fence on the OUTSIDE of your fence. When an animal tries to dig under, they’ll soon hit the hardware cloth and won’t be able to dig further. Yes, you can grow grass on top to hide the wire.
3. Block gaps and holes in your fence.
Even though we have a 6′ tall fence, apparently the contractor who installed it before we moved into our house wasn’t great at the job. There’s an 8″ gap where the wood fence meets the chainlink fence – plenty of room for a small predator to sneak in.
It’s not the most beautiful thing in the world, but that gap is now blocked by hardware cloth.
4. Don’t skimp out on your coop.
It should go without saying, but if you’re going to have backyard poultry, you have a responsibility to build them a strong, sturdy coop. Since most predators hunt at night (when your ducks or chickens are in their coop), your coop is your primary line of defense against predators.
- all sides, bottom, and roof are made impenetrable to predators;
- the structure is extremely heavy and/or attached to the ground so it can’t be tipped by a predator;
- you check off the additional chicken/duck coop safety measures listed below.
Cheap out on your coop up front, and you’ll end up paying for it later.
5. Use 1/2″ or smaller wire mesh on your coop’s exterior.
Raccoons are REALLY good/dangerous with their hands and they’re one of the biggest predators of backyard ducks and chickens. If the wire caging on your duck or chicken coop is too large, raccoons will be able to reach right in and grab your poultry.
To prevent this from happening, use 1/2″ – 1/4″ wire mesh on any open areas of your coop. This also prevents snakes from crawling in as well.
6. Bury 1/2″ – 1/4″ wire mesh underneath your coop.
Critters large and small can dig under and into your duck or chicken coop. In fact, we’ve heard horror stories of rats tunneling into coops and killing poultry.
To prevent anything from digging or burrowing under and into your coop, place the coop on top of a 1/2″ – 1/4″ wire mesh. (Assuming you don’t have a solid-floor coop.) Ideally, you can make sure the wire mesh sticks out about 8″ on all sides of the coop to help discourage larger predators from trying to dig under as well.
*We use pine shavings on top of the wire mesh inside our duck house so their feet aren’t scraped or damaged by rubbing against the wire.
7. Use safety latch eye and hook locks on your coop doors/windows.
Remember what we said about raccoons being good with their hands? Well, they can figure out how to open a simple latch if it’s just a matter of pulling it open.
That’s why you need to use safety latch eye and hook locks (like these) to prevent raccoons from opening your coop’s doors or windows. The spring-lock feature means humans are the only ones that can open the lock.
8. Construct tight openings around coop doors & windows.
Snakes can flatten themselves down to unbelievably small sizes and raccoons can reach their hands into small spaces as well.
When your coop is closed up, there shouldn’t be any gaps larger than 1/2″ anywhere on your coop.
9. Remove eggs in morning and close your coop door during the day.
Get in the routine of removing the eggs from your coop first thing in the morning when you let your flock out. Eggs left in the coop are an invitation to rats, snakes, and other predators.
Also, once your flock is out and the eggs are removed, take out any food bowls AND close the coop back up. Snakes can’t come into a closed coop if it’s properly constructed, and you probably don’t want to have to remove a trapped snake by hand in the evening when you’re trying to put your flock up for the night.
The exception to this rule is if you have a coop attached to a run, and the coop is the only place for your poultry to seek shelter during the day.
10. Don’t put your flock out until an hour after dawn.
Most predators hunt from dusk until dawn, especially in more urban areas. If possible, don’t let your ducks or chickens out of their coop until an hour after dawn.
11. Put your flock up at least 30 minutes before dusk.
Similar to #10, put your ducks or chickens in their coop at least 30 minutes before dark unless you’re with them.
Many nights when we have our ducks outside with us, we’ll enjoy a nice sunset together rather than following this rule.
12. Put obstacles in hawk “runways.”
Birds of prey, primarily larger hawk species, are another top killer of chickens and ducks. Our girls are in a fairly large fenced in back yard all day, and have never been attacked by a hawk.
Why? Our best guess is that when hawks are hunting, they generally like a clear “runway” to their prey, which is one reason they tend to hunt in open fields.
In addition to our tall fencing, our back yard has a giant oak tree, a large persimmon and peach tree, blueberry and other bushes, a cob oven, and several large rocking chairs.
In short, it would be virtually impossible for a hawk to fly in using their preferred hunting approach.
If this step isn’t possible for you, cover your duck or chicken run with hardware cloth.
13. Get more poultry.
Ever watch nature documentaries? Notice that the prey animals that tend to get picked off by the large predators are isolated and/or separated from the herd.
Don’t ever just have a single duck or chicken. For one, these are highly social flock organisms that thrive when they’re around others of their species. Second, a bird of prey is much more likely to attack if you only have 1-2 chickens or ducks.
Attacking a larger flock = higher risk in a hawk brain. Better to go hunt mice or rabbits in a nearby field.
14. Consider guard cats and guard dogs
Bob the cat is a voracious hunter of rodents. He used to be a voracious hunter of songbirds until we figured out how to put a stop to that.
However, through exposure and training during his early years, Bob knows that ducks are NOT to be messed with. In fact, our adult ducks will occasionally beat Bob up, and he won’t even raise a paw in defense. He simply runs away instead, which we reward with treats and petting.
As a predator, Bob (and his scent) help to keep other predators out of our yard. You can also train cats and dogs not to harm your poultry while providing your flock with additional protection.
Keep in mind that this is a potentially risky measure since an untrained cat or dog can just as easily be a predator for your ducks or chickens. Use extreme caution if you have or plan to use a guard animal for your backyard poultry.
15. Don’t leave poultry food out at night.
Another good habit to establish: take the food out of your coop in the day and put it back in the coop at night. Don’t leave duck or chicken food laying out in your yard at night.
Leaving food out attracts skunks, raccoons, vermin, and other pests that will start thinking of your yard as a great place to get free food and raise their young.
16. Regularly mark your territory.
As a male human, this is by far my favorite item on the checklist. Among many beneficial features of our organs is the ease with which we can use them to mark our territory and let other predators know that “this spot is taken.”
Mark well and mark often, fellas.
You now have a legitimate reason you can use to tell your wives/partners that you in fact have to pee outside. You have a duty and a responsibility to do so. Women, you’re welcome to join in on the territory-marking activities as well. You’ll just need to proceed with more caution.
Added benefit: your urine is a great fertilizer for those back yard fruit trees/bushes that also help protect your poultry from hawks (#12).
17. Always check your coop before putting poultry up at night.
You know those scary movies where you’re screaming “don’t go inside” at the screen because you know the monster-zombie-thing is in there waiting? We’ve heard of similar stories with raccoons hiding inside coops that didn’t have a happy ending either.
One summer night as I was preparing our Quacker Box for the evening, I looked in the back and noticed a large black snake inside. Yep, I’d neglected to close the coop door (tip #9).
Every night since, I always take a look inside the coop to make sure other unwanted critters aren’t in the coop before our ducks are put up. One way I make sure to do this is by topping up the pine shaving bedding at night, rather than in the morning.
Don’t think you can follow these precautions to keep your backyard ducks or chickens safe from predators? Then we’d strongly encourage you not to get ducks or chickens.
We’re not trying to be mean or snotty, we’re just trying to prevent unnecessarily terrible outcomes for you and your potential flock members.
If you don’t take steps necessary to keep your backyard poultry safe, you’re much more likely to end up with dead or severely injured birds, expensive vet bills, or animals that have to be euthanized. To us, it seems like a better idea to either do things right or not do them at all.
If you currently have (or decide to get) backyard chickens or ducks, we hope these 17 tips to keep your poultry safe from predators were helpful!
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Duck1432January 10, 2023 at 10:52 pm
Amazing and extremely helpful. Wanna keep out little duckies safe!
Aaron von FrankJanuary 11, 2023 at 4:18 pm
Thanks! Glad the information on duck safety was helpful.
KellySeptember 20, 2022 at 12:16 am
What a wonderful article, thank you so much for sharing. I loved reading all the comments as well. Unfortunately we have had 2 ducks disappear the last 2 nights, and we are devastated. I wish I could bring mine in to be safe, when a predator is obviously on the prowl. How in the world do you manage having yours inside? They are such pooping machines. What is the trick to manage that and not have poo everywhere? I would love the option of letting mine in sometimes.
Aaron von FrankSeptember 20, 2022 at 7:46 am
Thanks, Kelly! And so sorry to hear that predators got two of your ducks. We have duck diapers ready for use when/if we bring ducks inside (read about that here: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/how-to-diaper-a-duck-with-instructional-video/). However, with a duck-obsessed toddler on the prowl in our home, we rarely bring our ducks in now.
Your immediate and primary focus should be on getting your ducks’ coop (or whatever structure you keep them in at night) as secure as possible, e.g. predator-proof. Hope you’re able to do that asap – please let us know if you need to run any security plans or ideas by us.
EVOctober 20, 2021 at 10:12 pm
Can you pleeeeeeeease share instructions for building the quackerbox? Even if you charge for a PDF or something!?!?!?! I bought a coop, but it doesn’t have a run. So the ducks are in there all night with no water. I worry about winter when days are shorter and them being without water for that long. If there was a setup like you have, they could leave the sleeping area to get a drink until we let them out….PLEEEEEEASE?
Aaron von FrankOctober 21, 2021 at 4:06 pm
Hi! Wish we could draw up our original duck coop/Quacker box plans into a PDF to make them publicly available, but we no longer have our original notes/plans (it was almost 10 years ago). We also ended up doing a lot of improvisations once we started the buildout. We’re going to making an entirely new duck coop/run setup soon to accommodate a larger flock for the years ahead. When we do, we’ll be sure to do a lot better job of documenting the process and making the everything publicly available.
In the meantime, good news for you:
1) You don’t have to build anything super fancy. A sheltered box on the back with an attached screened area with 1/4″ – 1/2″ mesh wire is all you need. Just be sure to take abundant safety precautions to make sure no predators can reach in and/or dig under your coop/run.
2) Ducks will be perfectly fine without water for 12 hours during the cold months IF you also make sure to take away their food, oyster shell, etc. If there’s no water around, just make sure there’s also nothing that they are going to try to eat and potentially get lodged in their throats and not be able to wash down (or not have adequate water:food ratio to pass through their digestive system).
Hope this helps and best of luck!
HillaryJuly 26, 2021 at 1:42 pm
Is your coop inside the 6′ high fenced in area? Our ducks spend day and night in our garden which is fenced in at about 7′ high and is about 50×25′ of an area. Their house and pond is inside, and I put them in their house at night. I do not have a door on the house though, thinking the fencing (and guard dog) will be enough to keep predators out. We just moved to the country and we spend all day every day out there (so yes lots of male pee too :p). Do you advise adding a door to the duck house inside the garden or is this mainly just for coops outside of fenced in areas? Im new to raising ducks and love my white crested so very much. Thanks for the helpful post!
Aaron von FrankJuly 27, 2021 at 10:51 am
Hi Hillary! Yes, we absolutely recommend you put a secure door on your duck coop. Snakes, raccoons, possums, foxes and other predators will inevitably discover your duck + unsecured duck coop, regardless of the presence of a guard dog. All it takes is one time for your dog not to be present or to be asleep for a predator to get lucky. As for our setup: we have a secured duck coop inside a 6′ tall fenced area. Our ducks are put into their coop every evening before sundown and let out in the morning after sunup. Hope this helps – and please get a door on your duck coop asap!
BraydenApril 2, 2021 at 9:44 am
I am thinking about getting ducks and i’m wondering if build one of those 3-D duck coops if that will work for the ducks and also I don’t know how to get my dog to not bark at the ducks if I get them because my dog is a hound and he loves to bark at random animals.
Aaron von FrankApril 2, 2021 at 12:15 pm
Hi Brayden! Not sure which 3-D duck coop you’re referring to, so can’t really weigh in there. However, regarding your dog: with repeat exposure, wouldn’t he stop barking at them once he got used to them being around?
GeorgeFebruary 15, 2021 at 8:36 pm
I would like to add a little to the – “Don’t think you can follow these precautions to keep your backyard ducks or chickens safe from predators? Then we’d strongly encourage you not to get ducks or chickens.” – part.
Let me second this very strongly. It’s not the price of the animal that will impact you upon loss. It’s the hole it leaves in your heart if you were bonding with it. The grief can be as painful as losing a human being you were attached to.
I developed a strong bond with a little black duck called Tiny, whom we saved from a rat’s mauling, when our once fixer-upper house was still infested. (Not anymore.) Tiny was tattering, covered with blood, alone, the other ducks apparently had written it off, they kept away. After cleaning and first aid, it recovered, but it required hand feeding 3x a day, which I did for a year. It slept in a box, where I had to put it by hand, and remove it the next day, it was too weak and too balance-deficient long after the attack. It went through a series of illnesses which I learned to cure with Corid after reading vet articles online, We became a known sight, the quiet neighbor who carries his little “drunk” black duck in his arms so it can see his duck family and the yard every day. After a year it was at the point when it was finally able to walk alone again without falling over and “air bicycling”, when a stray fighting rooster flew into our yard and beat Tiny bloody in my brief absence. Tiny was back to laying motionless in a box, barely able to eat. It started to recover again, but after a week, it started to breath heavily, and coughed up white phlegm. We were set to go to the vet Wednesday. But Tuesday evening, Tiny died. In my hands. Its big open eyes still looking at me, full of trust, as I stroked its little head. “Tiny, don’t go now, please, we have the vet tomorrow…” It jittered wildly, it bit into my palm (which it never did before) and it became rigid. And there was nothing in the whole world I could do, except stroke its little head and cry. The little duck whom everyone else, even the other ducks would only beat upon, with not one friend in the whole world except me. Almost like me in a duck. Perhaps this is why we bonded so closely. This time I could not save it, and I feel guilty. Every time I think of Tiny, every time I see a picture of a duck which looks like Tiny, every time I walk by the plant we buried Tiny under, I must fight back tears and my throat chokes from swallowed crying. If you tightly bond with a pet and you lose it, it’s like losing a comrade-in-arms to whom you didn’t run to rescue fast enough in the war. (Yes, I was in a war. Won’t elaborate.) The loss leaves a gaping hole in the heart. If you can’t properly help another living being that you bond with closely, don’t get into that situation from the outset, it can mess a strong adult person badly up.
Aaron von FrankFebruary 16, 2021 at 9:48 pm
So sorry, George. Tiny sounds like she was a special duck, and we’re grateful you loved her and gave her a good life. We’ve connected with lots of people who’ve shared similarly deep bonds with their ducks only to lose them. We include ourselves in that list, having lost a beloved pet duck that we fought daily to keep alive for two years. You’re not alone. If it would be of any help in navigating your experience, here’s what we wrote about our loss after we had a few months of healing under our belts and time to process: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/svetlana-the-duck-memorial-our-baby-girl/. This information may also prove helpful for you: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/book-review-michael-pollans-how-to-change-your-mind-psychedelics/.
NancyJuly 13, 2021 at 4:47 pm
One thing you didn’t mention was installing a double electric wire on top of the 6 foot fence. Haven’t had a cat problem since. 6000 pulsating volts – problem solved.
Aaron von FrankJuly 16, 2021 at 12:46 pm
That will certainly help! We’ve got grapevines, kiwis, and blackberry canes trellised over our fences so we can’t run electric lines there.
Wendy ShaddonFebruary 13, 2021 at 2:45 pm
I absolutely ADORE that picture of Jackson underneath the chair!! Absolutely precious. I would love to bring Oregon and P. Charming, my beloved Cayuga ducks (inseparable brothers) in some nights to snuggle like we used to…but even though they’ve been trained to stay on the towels I put down, my roommate won’t allow it because he can still see poo despite it being on a towel. (Which makes no sense if you ask me, cause his cat has a regularly used open litter box). So today I ordered duck diapers! Fingers crossed I’ll be cuddling with my baby boys again soon.
Aaron von FrankFebruary 13, 2021 at 9:47 pm
Jackon the duck is quite a unique and funny little character. Fingers crossed for the indoor reunification of you, Oregon, and P. Charming!
AnnaNovember 18, 2020 at 8:05 am
What an incredibly helpful article. Thank you!
Aaron von FrankNovember 18, 2020 at 11:17 am
You’re welcome, Anna! Glad the info was helpful.
Carolyn ButlerNovember 6, 2020 at 7:10 pm
We have a 6 foot fence/plus and extender of 2 feet on top of that. Wire dug into the ground and an electric wire around the bottom! After loosing my sweet ducks we fortified Everything! PLEASE HELP…We bring them in at night and let them out at 9 in the morning. As I did this morning! My Sweet POPPY duck is gone! I went out at 11 and no Poppy! His 2 female friends are still here. A bobcat got in before, that is why we did Everything we know to do..I am heartbroken…[email protected]
Aaron von FrankNovember 11, 2020 at 4:52 pm
Oh no! So sorry to hear this Carolyn. Sounds like you’re doing everything you can short of keeping your ducks in an enclosed run all day, which may be your only option if you have a particularly adept predator on the prowl during the day. I’m wondering if a bird of prey got a hold of Poppy? If it had been a mammalian predator, there likely would not be any ducks left alive. Sooo sorry for your loss. We know how bad it hurts.
MilesNovember 3, 2020 at 7:21 am
We have a pond (dam) in Australia where ducks have had ducklings. We saw two ducklings (3 to 4 inches long balls of fluff) in the morning and then a Hawk attack the single duckling in the afternoon. A hawk attacked and we shooed it away. But the next day, just the two adults remained.
I want to build a protective canopy. What are your thoughts please
Aaron von FrankNovember 4, 2020 at 7:35 am
Thanks for your concern, Miles. Young ducklings are frequently predator food in the wild, which is sad for the human observer to behold. The problem you’d likely have if you build a protective canopy is getting the wild duck parents and ducklings to stay underneath it. If these were domesticated ducks, we’d advise you to provide protection. Since these are wild birds, you may just want to let nature take its course and hope that duck momma finds a safer place to reproduce in future years.
Honorata Di PietroOctober 21, 2020 at 2:44 pm
I also LOOOOVE your backyard, it is truly one of my dream backyards! Also, your ducks are so beautiful!
Aaron von FrankOctober 22, 2020 at 7:27 am
Thanks so much! With an almost one year old baby at home, our yard has been relatively neglected of late but our ducks still get lots of love. We’re pretty sure “duck” or “quack” will be among baby’s first words. 😛
Honorata Di PietroOctober 21, 2020 at 2:44 pm
I also LOOOOVE your backyard, it is truly one of my dream backyards! Also, your ducks are so beautiful!
MicheleDardenSeptember 6, 2020 at 1:38 pm
First, your ducks and yard are absolutely beautiful, you really have created a little paradise there.
Second, I wanted to take a moment to echo your warning about the size of openings in the material used on the deck enclosure. We have a fully enclosed 10×10 pen for our ducks which sits on concrete that we cover in pine shavings (our son is allergic to hay). The gate is secured with two stage locking mechanism, the opening from the pen to their house is secured with an overlapping flange to the entry. The enclosure itself is a kennel with walls made of welded wire, the spacing of the wire is roughly 3/4×1.5 inch. This morning I found one of our guys had been pulled far enough through the wire walls that something, my best guess is racoon, was able to consume a good portion of my sweet little duck. Today, we will be wrapping the pen in wire mesh, I truly regret not taking this step earlier. I imagined that if the racoons were not able to enter the enclosure, my guys would be safe. Thank you for taking the time to post your advice and experience, I am hopeful that many folks who are considering bringing home ducks will benefit from your guidance….as will their ducks.
Aaron von FrankSeptember 7, 2020 at 11:34 am
Oh, no! So sorry for you and your duck, Michele. Yes, this particular duck coop predator-proofing tip is one that we — thankfully — did not have to learn about from perssonal experience. We’ve heard quite a few horror stories similar to yours. Raccoons are very adept at reaching through small openings and pulling with their hands. Snakes are able to squeeze through small holes as well. Best of luck to you and your ducks!