How to keep Bears out of the chicken coop

As far as chicken predators go, bears are the worst of all! Not only will bears break a chicken coop to pieces looking for the feed, but they will also eat any chickens or eggs that they find inside. They are huge in size, much stronger than us and can effectively destroy almost any coop we have built. Because of that, this post isn't about keeping bears out of the chicken coop, it's about deterring them from even knowing there's something good inside!

bears eat chickens, here's how to keep them away

I know people like to say that bears don't eat meat but I promise you that is not true. I saw it myself. Two years ago in April the bear in the picture above ate my silkie rooster. I saw the bear in the woods behind the coop and after he left I went to where he had been to see what he had been eating. All that was left was feathers and a head. Poor Rusty Roo. Though I don't doubt that cocky little guy ran right up to the bear like 'hey, get away from my girls' like he did to everybody and everything else. The point is, bears will eat chickens.

I'll say it again for the people in the back....

Bears do eat chickens!

Of course I grabbed my camera a bit late and only got a few pictures...it was sort of a stressful moment. You can see how big he is in this one of him walking away (because he was done eating).

Bear that just ate a pet chicken

Sure, once the berries are growing and summer is in full swing the bears are more likely to eat that stuff instead. However, they will eat chickens if they can catch them easily, or if they're really hungry. Bears are omnivores, they eat everything.

Normally when discussing predators I go down the list of exactly what needs to be done to secure a chicken coop. Not this time. You simply can't. Bears have been known to tear open cars, a wooden coop is not keeping them out. 

I have a friend who has a farm with 10 foot high chain link fencing around his pens. A bear climbed it one day, ripping right through the barbed wire on top of it. I tell you this to reiterate the point that you just can't keep them out with regular methods! Now imagine what a several hundred pound bear can do to a small coop. It's not gonna end well. 

So, while a predator proof coop is still necessary, the number 1 way to keep bears from messing with your chickens is to not attract them in the first place!

How to keep bears away from your chickens


So, how do you not attract bears to your chicken coop then? Well, I'm glad you asked! lol I've lived with bears in my backyard for over 10 years now and have only ever had one chicken killed. I've never had a bear attempt to enter any of my 5 coops. I've done this one important thing for all this time.

Don't keep feed in the coop! 

If you do keep small amounts of feed in the coop, keep it in sealed containers. Think tupperware style, sealed tightly so no scent can get out! Bears have an excellent sense of smell and they love corn. Feed has corn in it and they can smell it's sweet scent from outside the coop. Blame those necessary ventilation holes, but the bear is gonna smell it if it's in there! 

It makes the most sense to feed the chickens in the run and put the feeders away at night. I move mine to the garage. Bears tend to be bolder at night, coming in closer to homes than they would normally during the day. If the feed is left out, they will find it. Once they find it they may stick around and look for more. They'll definitely remember where they got a meal and be back again.

I seal up the chicken feed, then I lock it up! I keep ours in sealed bins in the garage. The garage is kept closed and locked. I also keep gasoline, fertilizer, motor oil and other garage stuff in there. I mention this because my garage smells like a garage, not like chicken feed. If you have a feed shed with only feed in it, a bear will often try to rip into it because he can smell the feed. Seal the feed smell in and the bear won't think twice about it. 

Remove bird feeders too. It's summer anyway, there's plenty of natural food for birds. If you absolutely have to have feeders, locate them as far away from your chicken coop as possible. Practice good biosecurity. Wild birds can carry mites, lice and certain diseases and we don't want to encourage them to hang out by the chickens. I talk about that more in: How to feed wild birds, but protect your chickens.

Keep bears out of the coop


If you have a bear problem about the only way you can stop them is with an electric fence. Even then, their fur might be thick enough that they can push right through it and barely feel a thing. You can try deterrents like loud sounds or rubber bullets, but since you might not always be aware when the bear is there to use these deterrents, they may not be very effective. 

The game warden suggested I place ammonia filled balloons covered in peanut butter on my garbage can or other places I wanted the bear to stay away from. I didn't want to do that but if you decide it's necessary, make sure your chickens can't get to them!

Other things that may help are motion activated flood lights and loud dogs. A dog can make a lot of noise and scare a bear off, but there is a fine line between barking from a safe distance and actually approaching the bear. This works best if the dog is inside a fence and the bear is outside it, obviously!

Here in Pennsylvania we cannot shoot a bear outside of the specific bear hunting season and with the proper license. It does not matter if it's harassing livestock or not. They take it very seriously and people have been jailed and fined for it. Check your local ordinances before doing anything drastic. 

Bears eat chickens

My bear problem

The bears are frequently in the woods around my house but they have only been in my yard a few times that I know of. Once in winter he stole my suet feeders and bent the heavy metal pole they were hanging on. Incidentally the motion light bulb had burned out 2 days before that. After the new bulb was installed I never saw evidence of him being that close to the house again.

Once when the kids had a grand ole time whipping a basket full of spoiled eggs at the trees behind the driveway. That night the bear stood at the edge of the woods (taunting my dog) licking the trees for over an hour! That prompted a call to Fish & Game commision who provided me with 12 gauge rubber bullets and suggested the peanut butter ammonia balloons I mentioned above.

Once when somebody brought me a literal basket of fruit peels, rinds etc and my kid dumped them in the compost without telling me. They started to rot because I didn't add wood shavings and leaves to get the right mix of browns and greens quick enough. I had just flipped the pile to mix in more browns and it smelled like hot garbage from the house to the street to the middle of the woods and back. The silkie coop is right next to the compost pile. That's the day he got Rusty Roo.

Maybe twice over the years our giant heavy garbage can was knocked down (usually in winter) and several of the neighbors cans were too. This always happened on garbage night and he just walks down the street trying one can after another...he doesn't come down the driveway looking for the can on other nights. 

As you can see these incidents all have 1 thing in common. FOOD. In fact the smell of rotten eggs, garbage and overly rotted fruit can often be detected by us for a good distance, it's no wonder the bear was attracted to them!

Which brings me back to my main point, hide the food and hide it well. That also brings me to the subject of gardens. Several people I have talked to have had a problem with bears being attracted to their gardens and the food growing there. I have not had that problem, but it might be worth locating your garden and your coop to opposite directions on your property if that's an issue for you. 

Luckily, I have not had a problem with a bear on my property for 2 years now. It probably helps that we banned egg throwing! lol I refer to the bear as 'he' because I always see a huge bear and females are quite a bit smaller. I once saw a yearling run into my woods as I was turning out of the driveway, but any trouble we've had has always been the big guy. 

Why am I writing about this now, then? Last night as we were leaving the house a smallish bear with a cub the size of a fat Pug ran across the street in front of us. Not even 1/4 mile away from the house. It was super cute, but I'm not thrilled about the addition of more bears to the area. *sigh* So it seemed like a good time to go over all my bear proofing just in case others are dealing with bears near their chickens too.

Do you have bears where you live? Have they bothered your chickens at all? 

Having problems with other predators around your coop? Click here for my previous posts on chicken predators!

~L

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2 comments:

  1. Wow i thought snakes foxes and wild dogs in Australia was bad enough but bears you poor things

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    Replies
    1. Well, we have snakes and foxes too! Lol Normally they stay away so it's not an everyday issues! Ya'll have those big spider though! *shudders*

      Lisa

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