Raccoon Proof Chicken Coop

Homegrown Neighbor here again:

Things aren’t always idyllic in the world of urban farming. Actually, they rarely are. There is literally a lot of blood, sweat and tears put into what we do.

I’m still recovering from a scare we had a few days ago. After two years of trying, the other night at 2:30 a.m. a raccoon managed to break into my chicken coop. My housemate and I were up there in our pajamas shrieking while the hens flapped and clucked wildly. The raccoon was racing about in the coop and as I ran up I could see feathers flying everywhere. I opened the coop and shouted at the raccoon to get out. Somehow, we got up there in time, because there was no visible carnage. One chicken lost a lot of feathers trying to escape, so it did look like quite a horrific mess. While my housemate held a flashlight, I picked up the frightened hens two by two and put them inside the house in my bathroom. But I couldn’t find Joan, one of my silkie bantams. It was dark and she was nowhere to be found.
I spent the rest of the wee hours drinking beer and reading, since the adrenaline rush and worry over the missing Joan wouldn’t let me get back to sleep.
Joan the silkie woke me up with a frantic clucking at sunrise. She had spent the night outside alone and was upset that the rest of her flock wasn’t there when she woke up. Bleary eyed, I put all the chickens back together outside and they had a joyous reunion. I was filled with joy as well. I feel very lucky that I had no casualties in this event. I know many others who haven’t been as fortunate with raccoons. I did loose two chicks to raccoons last year, but that’s another story.
Since Mr. Homegrown regularly rises at dawn anyway, I called the neighbors as soon as I made a cup of coffee. Have I mentioned how much I love my neighbors? Mr. Homegrown came over and helped me try to figure out how the ‘coon had gotten in. He suspected the roof. I had to go to work for a while so we regrouped again in the afternoon to do some shopping and alter the coop to make it more raccoon proof.
The coop now has a new roof, several new layers of hardware cloth where there had previously only been chicken wire, and lots of new nails. The previous roof was corrugated plastic with chicken wire beneath. Now there is chicken wire, plywood and corrugated plastic on top.
When we first built the coop, we used a staple gun and heavy duty staples. Mr. Homegrown explained to me that this metal is rather flimsy and can rust and fall apart. So we picked up some u shaped nails that I spent the afternoon hammering in. According to Mr. Homegrown, u nails (galvanized poultry staples) are the way to go. So now you know.
The hens have been sleeping safely and soundly for a few days now and thankfully so have I.

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  1. Nasty surprise and your poor Silkie! They’re too gentle and mild for such shocks! Yes U-nails are the answer to many things, just like baler twine and corrugated iron are for us over here.No raccons but foxes,birds of prey mainly to deal with.
    It looks very sound and safe now,good luck!

  2. Raccoons make me crazy,Once our hens were attacked and it was not nice at all.The worst part was the bandit just killed one of our hens not even taking the time to eat her.A life wasted is never good.
    In our neighborhood we have a phone tree for when the local hawk is circling or we spy the raccoons.

  3. coincidence… Just today I blogged about a raccoon attack in my coop that occurred a week ago. I do have a raccoon proof coop however, when the door was shut it was not latched correctly. I spent the past week adding some fail safes to the coop. including an additional fenced in chicken/dog run. we were unaware of the attack until the morning and we lost all our birds but one; the rooster. 11 chickens and 3 ducks are no longer with us. Pomona Massacre of 12-11-09

  4. Oh I’m glad everyone made it through ok! I had thought I could get away with staples too when making my rabbit cages. But after realizing I made them a little too large to fit through the door I was easily able to pull the hardware cloth right off with staples flying everywhere. Those U poultry nails were the only thing that fit the bill. Now I’m surprised no one mentioned them to me during all the time I was planning the hutches and going on about using staples!

  5. This is the second time I’ve seen a raccoon come in from a gap in a roof. Seems to be one of their methods–I’m guessing they press down with their body weight and then pry up a loose bit of roofing. Like rats, they can squeeze into things, so use lots of nails and screws and make sure not to leave anything that can be pried up. And remember, those damn raccoons have opposable thumbs!

  6. Oh, can I empathize. Somehow the coop was not locked one night a few months ago (two mischievious, forgetful, and chicken-loving little boys are the prime suspects) and a cat got in. No casualties, though – I think the cat ended up just as scared as the girls. Very little sleep for me that night.

  7. Somewhere I read that chicken wire is a bit misleading because it’s only designed to keep chickens in. It is not designed to keep predators out- for that you need hardware cloth. I’m glad I read this though, because when I finally get around to building a coop, I’ll pay extra attention to the roof, and maybe put a really strong spring on the door so that I have to struggle to get it open. Which should keep out a raccoon. Which we have. Lots.

  8. My husband’s grandparents have a farm in Arkansas to keep the ‘coons away they have a radio set on a talk radio station that plays all night – of course, this might annoy your Silver Lake neighbors but it will keep racoons away.

  9. I’m having a hard time visualizing today. Can you post a picture of your roof? I’m thinking about building a coop next year and we’ve got quite a few raccoons in our ‘hood. It would be nice to see what’s working for you!

  10. Thanks for posting this! I used staples on our coop, and thankfully have had no incidents. (Despite the raccoon tracks which we found after the chickens’ second night outside.) I may take a second look at our coop…

  11. We have a nicely built coop that we spent quite some time working on. The bottom 3 feet of the pen is 1 inch galvanized poultry netting, with two rows of 3 or 4 foot galvanized stronger fence above. We have boards around the bottom, all the way down the sides and front/back. There is nowhere that has a hole bigger than what the fence came with – we made sure everything overlapped and was fastened with the U nails. (The coop is 14×16 and is about 9 feet tall.) We built a second “add on” coop to one side because we have a second rooster, as well as the hen that is the mother of the set in the main coop. We kept them separate for breeding purposes. We used the higher strength galvanized fence for the add on area. Two days ago we went out and there was not much left of our hen in the add-on, and she happened to be our best layer. Part of her spine, both legs, and both feet, along with a pile of feathers was all that was left. Now the blasted coon is trying to get into the main pen (the door is actually a door, a screen door modified with the poultry wire that actually latches and has a second latch on it for backup) and has actually bent part of the door in an attempt to get in. How can I discourage the coon short of sitting out there with the shotgun? (which I am considering… believe me!)

  12. I can tell you that raccoons will go right through hardware cloth. Where we live we must protect our birds from coons, coyote, fox, bear, hawks, weasels and everything in between. I’ll list some of the things we have done and perhaps one or two of the ideas can help you. Our coop is 14 x 24 with full height peaked roof.

    -Wire cages over all screened coop windows. Oven racks work just fine but there are lots of metal sheeting materials you can buy that let light and air in but can’t be chewed through. Be sure to secure them well or a coon will get it real easy.

    -Don’t use any kind of handle, wooden flip knob, slide, etc for the door. I’ve heard about raccoons taking off bungee cords from plastic coolers when people are out camping. We used a regular doorknob with a keyed lock. There is also another way into the coop from the barn so we can deadbolt the outside door and access the coop from the barn. Sounds like overkill but it isn’t.

    -We also use an intercom system sort of like a baby monitor. We lock it on and lower the volume until we go to bed. The birds are all quiet by then but if there is any problem at all in there we can hear it from the hallway outside our bedroom door.

    -Lengths of 1x boards with nails driven through every couple of inches. I put these around the pens, nails side up, at a 45 degree angle and buried under a few inches of soil.

    -Lay out a few layers of barbed wire along the ground around the coop. Also outside the coop…walls…roof…wherever you can.

    -Our outdoor run is a large sectioned are with galvanized chainlink fence 6 foot tall but wi th 2 feet of it buried below ground. The fencing itself is cheap. They try to get you on the hardware and posts, but you don’t need that stuff. We used 4×4 wolmanized posts mortared into the ground and used wire and those horsehoe shaped double pointed nails to secure the fencing. We also laid the fencing on the ground of the run and buried it under a foot of soil. The runs are also covered over by fencing. We were going to use rolls of orange construction/sediment control/snow fence material because it won’t deteriorate and is cheap but we didn’t feel like constantly inspecting the pens for signs of chew marks and it would never withstand a break-in by even a little bear.

    -Leave no openenings larger than an inch for ventilation and cover them with hardware cloth to keep out the small stuff.

    -Keep the area around the coop/pens clear of brush and things that can hide a predator from your view. They aren’t normally bold enough to stroll into an open area except at night. Make sure there are no tree branches that can let raccoons onto your pen roof if it isn’t absolutely tight and secure.

    -No matter what precautions you take, make a habit of inspecting the integrity of the coop/pen/run by doing a perimeter inspection every few days until you are satisfied that all is secure.

    Right now we use a cheap motion detection alarm system by Bunker Hill. We have stakeouts sitting in a vehicle with the window down near our livestock pens and barns. Other times I set out bait in a location where the motion sensor light comes on and where I can safely shoot from an upstairs window. When the sensor sets off the alarm (you can hear it from the window on the porch) I take off the safety and get ready to blast a would-be chicken killer to smithereens. The coop area of the barn is well-secured but we do this to rid the area of predators who wipe out our wild game food. After about 7 years of killing these predators we now have rabbits, grouse, squirrel and deer again roaming the woods.

    Anyway…hope some of this helps somebody.

  13. Love all this info! County made me get rid of my mini flock last year, so I am now regrouping and watching their regulations changes~ and assessing what I can do.
    Anyone know anything about which breeds are okay for the Chicagoland area and also a ‘bit’quieter so as not to disturb fussy neighbors?

    • Hi Karen, I realize this is late but maybe it will help. I live in Chicago and me and my father both have chickens in our residential area homes. He has 5, I have one. He told me that you can have up to 6 legally.
      I have a Red Star chicken. She’s very quiet 🙂

  14. I chuckled about the heavy duty staples. My husband will grab the stapler every time something needs fixing. I, on the other hand, was taught by a master woodworking craftsman and was told countless times “If you’re going to do something (ANY THING) do it correctly, or don’t do it at ALL.” Me Dad! I LOVE reading your’s & Kelly’s blog AND all the comments under. I get just as much from your followers. It’s wonderful to have ‘close’ neighbors, isn’t it?

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