So, you need to protect your chickens from coyotes. Maybe you’ve seen one too many chickens disappear.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn:
- How to identify coyotes to make sure that’s what’s eating your chickens
- How to naturally get rid of coyotes
- Ways to repel coyotes from your chicken coop
- How to protect your free-range chickens from coyotes
- Tips to secure your coop and range from most predators
- And more!
By the end of the tutorial, you should have a good foundation of what you need to know to repel, prevent, and manage coyotes for good.
Then you’ll be able to harvest those organic, farm-raised eggs and relish in all the fruits of your hard labor!
Sound good? Let’s save your chickens!
What’s a coyote?
Coyotes are canines that are often confused with foxes. They’re sly, cunning, and smart. Most chicken owners don’t have any coyote problems because they tend to avoid human contact.
But in some rural or isolated areas, coyotes may be native to the area and pose a problem for chicken owners. They’re very vocal and tend to travel in packs. They howl, yip, whine and growl. Some coyotes may work together to catch prey.
After owning a (very) small flock of chickens, I’ve seen some of the common predators that prey on them. This guide has my thoughts and findings that I’ve picked up over time from a few friends and forum posts online.
Coyote attacks are rare and don’t really do much damage due to their small size. But you should still practice caution and exercise common sense.
What do coyotes look like?
Coyotes have gray fur on their dorsal (top) side and whitish fur on their ventral (bottom) parts. They have tall, pointed ears that are large in comparison to the rest of its body.
The ears are triangular and they have a long, narrow muzzle. Their noses are always black and they have bushy tails.
Where do they live?
Coyotes are found all throughout the US and some nearby countries like Mexico and Central America. Canada also has a lot of coyote territory. Every US state has coyote sightings except Hawaii.
But again, they stay in places where humans aren’t present. Since many chicken owners happen to have their coop in isolated or rural areas, coyotes may be present.
Coyote life cycle
Coyote mating happens between February and April.
Adult females will give live birth after two months and up to 19 pups may be born. Each litter varies depending on the species, environment, and temperature. Most litters are just between 4-6 pups. Pups have down ears and are completely blind until about 10 days later.
The pups will exit the den after 30 days and start to explore. They’ll begin weaning and feed off food from the parents. Males pups leave the pack. Female pups stay with the pack.
Coyote vs. wolf vs. dog
The easiest way to tell a coyote from a wolf or stray dog is to simply watch how it struts:
- Coyotes run with their tails down.
- Wolves run with their tails straight.
- Dogs run with their tails up.
Other than that, you can usually tell by the body features such as hair color, ear length, and nose color. You can learn more about them and see pictures here.
Do chickens attract coyotes?
Chickens can definitely attract coyotes, as coyotes aren’t specific to any food source.
This widely depends on a variety of factors. Available food, ease of access, shelter, and competition amongst species all affect how many coyotes are present.
For example, if you live in an area where wild prey happens to be sparse, then coyotes may attack chickens when given the chance.
- If you live in an area where food is plentiful and your chickens are secured, then coyotes will go for the easier to attack prey rather than your chickens.
- Or if you live somewhere other predators are present and eating up all the available food, then coyotes may have to resort to attacking your chickens.
Coyotes will eat chickens
There are many variables and no exact answer. But the general consensus is that coyotes will be attracted to chickens if they’re easily accessible.
However, if your chickens are secured in a coyote-proof fence or coop, then they’ll have a tough time trying to break into attacking them. Other predators should also be kept out of the pen as a result of this.
Over time, the generations of chicken predators in the area will learn that your chicken farm isn’t a source of food because they’re not accessible.
Thus, the coyotes will leave your chickens alone. There’s no exact data for this, as again, there are many variables that come into play.
Why do coyotes kill chickens and not eat them?
Coyotes may be selective in what chicken they eat- some people reported that they only attacked all the hens. Some users have seen them only attack the roosters. Coyotes may also kill more than one chicken, drag them around, but only take one away to eat.
Many chicken owners have reported that they’ve seen coyotes come into their yard and kill the chicken, sometimes many at a time, but not eat them.
This isn’t always the case. If a coyote breaks into the chicken coop, chances are that it’ll kill the chicken and drag it away to eat it somewhere safe.
Other times, coyotes will break into the coop and kill chicken after chicken, but only take one chicken away. If you notice that your chickens are being killed but not eaten, then it’s not a coyote. It’s another predator entirely- such as a dog, wolf, weasel, raccoon, or hawk.
Other times, they may not take any. There are different reasons for this. Factors like other predators in the area may have scared off the coyote before it could attack any chickens.
Some coyotes will also kill chickens and eat them on the spot, leaving no remains. This is usually the case if they’re hungry enough.
What eats backyard chickens?
There are many natural predators of chickens since they’re so easy to kill.
Depending on where you live and the native species, the list will vary. Coyotes are just one of the many.
Here are some of the most common chicken predators:
What killed or attacked my chicken?
There are a few things to check for when you notice missing, wounded, or dead chickens. You’ll want to close off the area and do a thorough investigation.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Are there any footprints in the area?
- Was it the work of a single predator or multiple?
- Did the predator leave behind any droppings?
- Are the chickens completely missing? Wounded? Or left dead?
- Did the chickens have any visible damage?
- What kind of attacks were they (bites, scratches, etc.)?
- Where did the predator attack (hocks, feet, head)?
- What are the native predators in your area?
- How do you think the predator entered the coop?
How to find out what killed your chicken
Finding out the exact predator that killed your chicken can be difficult.
According to online reports, the most common ones are easy to tell just by their footprints.
Are you sure it’s a coyote? Because many predators kill chickens in the same manner (missing chickens, flesh wounds, attacking specific parts of the chicken body), it can be hard to tell.
Here are some other tips to determine what predator attacked your chickens:
- Wolves and coyotes typically eat what they kill
- Dogs will usually kill but not eat
- Coyotes may eat the chicken on the spot
- Coyotes can attack in groups
- Killed chickens that are dragged but not eaten can be raccoons or dogs
- Coyotes will usually kill the chicken and take it far away to a safe place to eat it
- If many chickens are taken at once, this could be foxes
- If multiple adult chickens are missing completely, the predator is likely a coyote, fox, bobcats, hawk, or other predatory bird
- If smaller chicks are missing, it could be a snake, rat, raccoon, or cat
- Chickens with the head missing could be a raccoon, owl, or hawk. Raccoons may work cooperatively with each other to sever the head.
- Chickens that are only wounded severely could be any of the above. Sometimes dogs kill for sport. Sometimes birds will attempt to kill but fail. Possums will bite but may not end up killing. Rats will usually attack at the hocks.
- If eggs are missing, this is usually a snake, rat, opossum, raccoon, crow, skunk, blue jay, or dog.
Will coyotes attack chickens during the day?
Yes, coyotes will attack chickens no matter if it’s day or not. Because chickens are such easy targets, they’ve quickly become one of their favorite prey.
Backyard chickens allow coyotes to have easy access to food that they would otherwise have to hunt down. Coyotes and wolves usually prefer to hunt during the night.
But if they’re hungry enough, they have no problem heading out and hunting chickens during the daytime. Even though this isn’t that common, it’s still possible and has been observed.
Coyotes often drag the chickens off far away and bury the body. So if your chickens disappear, it may be a coyote. You can tell plenty just by how the chickens are slaughtered.
Can coyotes break into a chicken coop?
Every chicken owner has heard the quote “no coop is 100% secure.” And this goes true for coyotes. There are definitely ways you can coyote-proof a chicken coop. But even then, coyotes are sly and may break into the coop if it’s not secure.
There are some things you should know about securing your coop from them.
Chicken wire does NOT protect chickens from coyotes. They can easily tear down the chicken wire like a hot knife through butter. Chicken Wires only should be used for chickens- not for keeping predators out.
While coyotes aren’t a common predator of chickens, there still have been enough incidences. Sometimes a homeowner’s entire hen flock goes missing. Other times, some people actually catch them in the act.
For those who do have a coyote problem, you’re likely living in an isolated area. Coyotes prefer to live throughout areas where humans aren’t present. And they hunt at night. So protecting your chicken coop from them shouldn’t be too difficult.
The main reason why coyotes break into chicken coops is the demand for food. Food shortages in the area will drive them mad and on the hunt for food.
Because backyard chickens are readily present, this makes them an easy meal.
And in such large quantities, they’ll be happy to do what they can to break through your coop and eat them up. This is especially true when you see coyotes out during the day. This means that food is short and they need to hunt for something to eat.
So you should double-up your chicken security to protect your flock.
How to protect your chicken coop from coyotes
Here are tips to keep coyotes out of your chicken coop:
- Coyotes can’t “grab” your chickens through the gaps around your coop fencing. They’re not known to do this, so you don’t need to worry about the fence gaps.
- Coyotes WILL stick their head into the coop through the fencing if the gap’s big enough. They’ll grab a chicken and run away to eat it. So you need to make sure that the gaps aren’t big enough for them to stick their heads through.
- Use a strong and tall chain link fence or wire. This can add extra security to prevent them from sticking their heads into the chicken coop.
- For smaller predators like possums, weasels, and raccoons, you can use fine hardware cloth that’s ¼”. This will stop coyotes from grabbing a chicken through the fence and all smaller predators from getting into the coop.
- Make sure the wire is always securely attached to the stake or frame. Coyotes have strong “pushing power” and can knock over fencing, stakes, or frames. They can break through any weak wiring or fencing weak points.
- Add extra stakes to fencing areas that are away from corners. The corners are the most secure. But areas between corners are usually easier for coyotes to break through.
- Coyotes can jump up to 4 feet, so you’ll need to make sure that your fence is at least 5 feet tall.
- Coyotes can climb, but rarely will do so unless they’re threatened and need to escape. But this doesn’t mean they won’t climb to explore or hunt.
- Coyotes will dig, so make sure the fence goes at least 14” below the dirt. Smaller coops can be enclosed on the bottom also for extra security.
Can coyotes get through chicken wire?
Yes. Coyotes can easily muscle their way right through chicken wire.
You can’t use chicken wire to fence off coyotes. You’ll need to use actual wire fencing, hardware cloth, or chain-link fencing. Chicken wire is exclusively for chickens, not for coyotes.
Don’t depend on chicken wire to keep coyotes out, because they can tear through it like nothing. You’ve been warned.
What will keep coyotes away?
There are quite a few things you can do to naturally repel coyotes from your chickens.
Here are a few of the most popular and effective ways to keep coyotes away and protect your chickens from them. Use a few of them and see which one works best for you.
Remove all excess food
This is probably the most effective technique to keep them away. The hard part is that your chickens are a source of food, so this may or may not be an approach you can take.
For chicken owners, you’ll want to make sure there’s no source of accessible food for the coyote outside of the coop. This means feed or other prey that they can eat.
For example, yards with lots of other small animals may become prey for coyotes. They’ll hang around your yard because of them. So even though your chickens are protected from coyotes using a coyote-proof coop, you’ll still have them roaming around.
Other animals and competition directly affect coyote behavior. Get rid of those animals and you just may get rid of the coyotes also. Natural food sources for coyotes include dirty barbeques, bird feeders, fruit trees, pet food, trash cans, and small prey.
Clean up and secure all these sources of food and the coyotes will be less attracted to your chickens.
Secure all sources of water
Just like the food sources, you’ll also want to prevent the coyotes from accessing any water. They need both to be able to survive, and they’ll go hang around your yard.
This means blocking access to birdbaths, ponds, foundation, or other water features.
Make sure the coyote won’t be able to access these and take a sip.
You can buy commercial urine scents of other predators that coyotes are naturally afraid of. When they smell the urine of a larger predator, they’ll either scurry away or stay out of the area.
Coyotes are usually afraid of wolves and mountain lions. You can buy these products at specialty shops or online.
Note that most mountain lion urine only works at the beginning. Over time, coyotes will learn that there’s no threat and this method may fall apart.
You’ll want to buy a high-quality scent with plenty of reviews. Opt for an all-natural spray if possible. You can buy urine freeze-dried and sprinkle it around the coop.
Mountain lion fur
This is another way to scare off coyotes.
You can sprinkle fur around your chickens to show predators that there’s a threat. They’ll detect the fur and may not enter the area because they’re afraid.
Coyotes may learn over time that no actual predator lion exists. This also doesn’t work against animals that aren’t afraid of mountain lions.
So don’t expect it to work against everything. You’ll have to be sure of the animal you’re dealing with. Check to be sure that it’s something that’s considered prey before using lion fur.
Secure the perimeter
Just like securing your chicken coop, you’ll also want to secure the actual yard or area where you see coyote activity.
This means adding additional wire mesh fencing with gaps no larger than a coyote’s head. Be sure that the fencing measures at least 5’ tall as they can jump. And you should secure the fence with additional stakes at weak points.
Also, dig below the earth at least 14” to prevent digging. This will help add another layer of protection to your chickens. If they get over the first fence, they’ll likely be very cautious about jumping over the second one into your coop. It also makes trapping them much easier since they’ll have a tough time escaping in time.
Add coyote rollers
Since coyotes can jump and climb fences, you can use coyote rollers to the top of your fencing.
This is literally just a tube that rolls when a coyote tries to grip the tube. You can buy PVC pipe and make your own coyote roller for cheap. No need to buy expensive rollers.
Here’s a video demonstrating a homemade coyote roller:
Use motion sensor lights
Coyotes are nocturnal creatures and bright lights will scare them off.
You can use motion sensor lights that are extremely bright to detect them and scare them.
Don’t use lights that are constantly on as they’ll eventually learn that the lights aren’t threat and ignore them. You want the element of surprise to scare and startle them, so use motion-activated security lights.
You can set up as many as you can around your yard so when a coyote walks into the area, they’ll go off.
Use motion-sensor sprinklers
You can also buy sprinkles that activate when motion is detected.
These are made just for keeping animals out of your yard. Set them up around your chicken coop and point the sprinkler away from the chickens.
When a coyote walks into the detection range, the sprinkler goes off and sprays the coyote. This will frighten them and may keep them out of your yard.
Keep your backyard maintained
This is an overlooked solution that works. Out of all the DIY home remedies to keep coyotes out of your garden, my first choice is this.
By keeping your yard clean and well-maintained, you reduce the chance of a coyote becoming attracted. They like to hide, stalk, and pounce on prey. They need a lot of hiding areas with overgrown foliage to do so.
So if you just keep your yard free of hiding spaces, they’ll be less included to enter.
Here are some tips on basic yard maintenance:
- Prune your trees, bushes, and plants
- Cut down unnecessary trees or branches (hire a professional if you’re unsure how to do safely)
- Dispose of all the clutter in your yard
- Secure woodpiles
- Remove any excess foliage
- Clean up leaf lifter
- Clean up grass clippings
- Dispose of overripe fruits
- Secure your fruit trees
- Lock trash and compost bins
- Secure access to food (pet food, bird feeders, chicken feed, etc.)
- Secure your water features (birdbaths, fountains, pools, etc.)
- Mow your lawn weekly
- Clean up rubbish piles
- Trim and prune bushes
- Remove thin brushes or plants you don’t need
This should help your yard appear less attractive to coyotes and many other animals.
Use natural coyote predators
There are many natural predators of coyotes that you can attract to your yard.
The problem is that they may also pose a problem to your chickens (and yourself). There are only a handful of animals you can own that may scare off coyotes. The two that come to mind are Anatolian Shepherd and Akbash Shepherds.
The Pyrenees also may be an effective canine at helping you scare off coyotes from your yard. Of course, you should never actually let your dog engages in a fight. You just want the dog’s urine and scent to be all of your yard to keep the coyotes out.
Scare them off with sound
Coyotes are easily frightened by loud noises. If you spot a coyote in your yard and you’re sure that you’re safe from it, you can use loud noises to discourage it from coming back.
Any of these can help deter and repel coyotes:
- By clanging of pots and pans
- Shaking cans filled with coins
- Air hours
- Motion-activated sound machines
- Loud music
- Or just yelling and screaming at it
- Any of these should be enough to scare it off.
Doing this over and over will teach the coyote to avoid your yard because the same thing happens each time.
They’re smart creatures and if the process is repeated every time, they’ll learn to stay away for good. This is also known as “hazing a coyote” which many homeowners practice. Just be sure that you’re safe from any possible attacks when you do so.
You can also try spraying down the coyote with a powerful hose, turning on the sprinklers, or even tossing noisemakers or tennis balls near the animal. You just want to scare it off and punish it for entering your yard.
How to keep coyotes away from free-range chickens
For those who keep free-range chickens, keeping them safe from predators is a lot more difficult.
The easiest way to think about it is to use fencing for your entire range, rather than just a coop.
This means building up fencing or wire mesh around the perimeter. You’ll have to use a lot of fencing depending on large your range is.
But this is the only secure way to actually allow your chickens to free-range and protect them from coyotes at the same time.
Make sure the barrier is tall, deep, and sturdy
Establishing a chain-link fence around the range will keep coyotes out, as long as it’s tall, deep, and strong enough. You’ll want to go at least 5 feet tall, 14” deep, and have reinforcement stakes at weak points.
Coyotes and other predators and break through the fence if they push against it or attempt to climb it. You’ll also want to use rollers at the top for additional security.
This would be the best way to have free-range chickens and protect them at the same time.
Here are some other ways to keep predators away from your free-range flock:
- Use dogs to help guard the range
- Apple mountain lion urine around your property
- Use lion’s fur as a natural repellent
- Use sirens to scare off coyotes from the property (motion-activated if possible)
- Upgrade your fencing to electric fencing, which gives predators a shock upon contact
- Ensure that all your chickens return to the coop at night and secure it
- For birds, hawks, and owls, set up cameras to catch one in the act, then focus on ways to eliminate just that species
Coyotes that are used to the area where you live are known to be habituated.
They grew up in this area and live here, and your house with the chickens is just one stop along the way. Coyotes that are habituated are harder to get rid of than non-habituated ones. First-timers can easily be scared off or repealed using any of the methods here.
But the ones that are used to your home will be more difficult. You’ll have to up the ante to get rid of the most prevalent and president coyotes. Just be patient. And determined.
One slip up and the coyote learns that the negative reinforcement isn’t there every time. You need to “haze” it every time you possibly can do os.
How to get rid of coyotes for good
Coyotes are very difficult to completely eliminate. They’re like rats or yard moles that constantly come back to the farm.
This is because when coyotes become habitualized, they’ll stay in their territory. Even if you get rid of a specific pack, another pack may enter the area and you have to repeat the process all over again.
Coyotes are native to all states across the US except Hawaii, so they’re everywhere. The most you can do is get rid of the current pack, then focus on the next one.
This makes it nearly impossible to completely get rid of them. But you can still take steps to minimize chicken being killed by them and protect your flock.
There are some amazing resources you can check out online, especially chicken owner forums.
These communities are super helpful. You can post your situation and someone usually chimes in with their own advice.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Your chickens should now be much safer from coyotes!
That’s all I have for you!
You should now have a good foundation to build upon to keep those pesky coyotes away from your chickens.
You can now safely protect your chickens from coyotes, deter and repel them from your yard, and have a bunch of tips to help you along the way to do so!
If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
Or if you just want to say “thanks,” please do so also!
Consider telling a friend about this page who may appreciate it =]!
Thanks for reading.
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.