If you thought chickens only lived on farms, think again. The pandemic and other factors spurred poultry ownership to 13% in 2020, up from 8% in 2018. If you are ready to own chickens, companies like Rent the Chicken are ready to help you get started. However, it probably won’t take long for you to learn about the bane many owners face, cats.
Of the 527.6 million birds in the United States in 2018, over 25% or 136.7 million were “lost.” Of course, cats can’t take all the blame. Luckily, you can handle several predators with solutions to keep felines at bay.
Top 10 Tips for Keeping Cats Away From Chickens
1. The Big Guns: A Rooster
Getting a rooster is a surefire solution to a cat problem. It will defend your birds like a champ, and it has the spurs and beak to put some muscle behind it. Of course, the one snag is whether you can have one where you live. Surprisingly, many suburbs allow chickens, but a crowing rooster is another story. We recommend checking with your city before going this route.
2. Reducing Access To Trees
Some trees around your chicken coop can provide some welcome shade for your birds. Unfortunately, they can also provide ready access to them if they are too close, allowing a cat to get inside the fence. It’s worth noting a determined feline can jump 6 feet high. The Guinness World Record for the longest jump is 7 feet.
3. Better Fencing
The previous tip has some good info for implementing this one. Aim for 6 feet for your coop’s height if it’s not enclosed. We suggest opting for high-quality materials to keep your chickens safe. Make sure to extend the fencing down into the ground. It’s not that cats will dig, but some other animals may, giving the feline access to your flock.
4. Fake Predator
Setting out a decoy of a predator, such as an owl or coyote, might deter a cat from checking out your chicken coop. Felines are cautious by nature. Something new is sure to put them on guard. However, cats are smart. Birds are the same way—they’ll soon figure out the decoy is fake. We suggest putting it someplace else occasionally or getting one that moves to keep up the ruse.
5. Motion-Sensor Sprinkler
A persistent cat may need a stronger message. That’s certainly what it’ll get with a motion-sensor sprinkler. It probably won’t take more than once for the intruder to avoid your yard on its rounds. The good thing about it is that you’ll keep other nuisance wildlife away, such as raccoons and deer. They’ll get the hint, too, loud and clear.
6. Fence Spikes
If the neighborhood cats are climbing your fences, you can try another type of deterrent, sure to get the point across in no uncertain terms. Homeowners often use fence spikes to deter birds from perching near their yards. They could also keep felines away if it’s the way they’re getting close to your chickens. Once you put them up, it’s best to leave them there.
7. Electric Fence
An electric fence may seem like an extreme solution, but sometimes, you need to go the extra mile to protect your birds. Like other methods we discussed, this one will also keep the other predators away. Just make sure you install it someplace where the chickens won’t get near it.
8. Live Trap
These last three tips are in the last-resort category. Setting out a live trap might be your only option if you’re dealing with a feral cat. It’s worth noting these animals carry toxoplasmosis. If an infected one gets into your yard, it can put your chickens—and you—at risk of getting it. We suggest you contact your local animal shelter about taking the cat before setting out any traps.
9. Nuisance Wildlife Removal
If you don’t want to do the deed, you can always contact your county extension office or state DNR for information about nuisance wildlife removal. A feral cat fits the bill. It’s not wrong to take this step. According to the American Bird Conservancy, outdoor felines kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds annually. You certainly don’t want to add your chickens to the toll.
10. Keeping Chickens Inside
This one is about as extreme as it can get. We were surprised to learn that some people keep their chickens as pets—some even in the house. Some manufacturers even make pet diapers you can put on your birds to control the mess! You won’t have to worry about the neighborhood cat taking any of your chickens, anyway.
More Pro Tips
We talked earlier about getting a rooster. Adult chickens aren’t as vulnerable as chicks. They can fend off a cat pretty well. The little ones need the protection, which you can provide by keeping them in the coop, at least until they can fight off a hungry feline. It’s not as if you’re hiding them from the cats. They have a keen sense of smell. The coop will protect them in the meantime.
Raising chickens is a rewarding experience many have newly discovered because of the pandemic. As with all pets, it’s a responsibility to bring them into your life. It means proper care and protection from predators like cats. Fortunately, you have several options for keeping them safe. You may find implementing more than one will work. The trick is to stay alert and not to let your guard down.
Featured Image Credit: Paul W Thompson, Shutterstock