Guarding Coops: Predators That Can Dig Under Chicken Houses

If you’ve ever wondered, “Which predators can dig under chicken coops?” you’re asking a crucial question for the safety of your flock.

The main culprits to worry about are foxes, raccoons, and coyotes. Each of these animals has a unique set of skills that allows them to bypass barriers and reach their feathery targets.

But the question to ponder is, “Are your chickens safe from these digging predators?” Many chicken owners underestimate the cunning and determination of these predators, which can lead to tragic losses in the coop.

In this article, we aim to arm you with knowledge to enhance the safety of your chickens. We will:

  • Identify the characteristics of each predator, focusing on their digging capabilities.
  • Discuss signs of their attempts to breach your coop.
  • Offer specific prevention strategies for each predator.
  • Guide you in creating a predator-proof chicken haven.

By the end of this article, you will be well-prepared to protect your chickens from these digging threats. Let’s start by looking at each of these predators in detail in our Common Chicken Coop Predators section.

Key Takeaways

  • Detect the Diggers: Learn to identify the digging signs of different predators.

  • Outfox the Fox: Understand the stealthy digging behavior of foxes to protect your coop.

  • Rebuff the Raccoons: Fortify your coop against the skilled digging tactics of raccoons.

  • Curb the Coyotes: Learn measures to deter these persistent diggers from your chicken coop.

  • Design Against Digging: Use landscape and coop design as your first line of defense against digging predators.

The Common Culprits: Foxes, Raccoons, and Coyotes

To protect your chickens effectively, it’s essential to know your enemy. Our primary suspects: foxes, raccoons, and coyotes.

Each of these predators is notorious for their exceptional digging skills and unique tactics.

Let’s delve into the details:

  • Foxes: These cunning creatures are known for their agility and digging prowess. Foxes can excavate an extensive network of underground tunnels to reach their prey unnoticed. Their small size and swift movements make them excellent at bypassing security measures.

  • Raccoons: Raccoons are clever and dexterous. They are capable diggers and climbers, often able to unlatch simple coop locks. Their digging is usually concentrated around coop doors or weak coop points, intending to create a large enough hole to sneak through.

  • Coyotes: These determined predators use their strength and persistence to their advantage. Coyotes can dig under fences and walls, and won’t easily be deterred once they’ve set their sights on a coop.
PredatorDescriptionDigging Ability
FoxCunning and agileModerate to High
RaccoonDextrous and nocturnalModerate
CoyotePersistent and strongHigh

The question to consider now is, “What signs should you look for to identify which predator is targeting your coop?”

The following points will give you some clues:

  • Foxes: Look for small, clean tunnels leading to or from your chicken coop. Foxes are stealthy and will often leave little evidence of their intrusion aside from missing chickens.

  • Raccoons: If you find large holes near the coop door or any weak points, you might be dealing with raccoons. They are also known to leave behind distinct hand-shaped prints.

  • Coyotes: Coyotes typically leave larger, rougher holes compared to foxes and raccoons. If you notice extensive damage to the surrounding area of your coop, suspect a coyote intrusion.

For more information on how to build a Predator Resistant Chicken Coop, follow the link to learn how to fortify your defenses effectively.

Absolutely, let’s delve deeper into understanding the characteristics of foxes:

Foxes: Masters of Stealth and Digging

Among the animal kingdom, foxes hold an infamous reputation for their slyness and digging prowess.

Their slender body and long, bushy tail aid their stealth, while their sharp claws and strong forelimbs make them adept diggers.

These characteristics are crucial in understanding why foxes pose such a threat to chicken coops.

Foxes often hunt at dawn and dusk when chickens are most vulnerable. They can dig rapidly and quietly, accessing a chicken coop before a threat is even realized.

Their strategy often involves creating an elaborate system of tunnels and burrows leading directly to their prey, making them masters of stealth and digging.

The question to ponder now is, “How can you differentiate fox digging signs from other predators?” The following bullet points outline the distinctive signs indicating a fox has been digging:

  • Clean and Neat: Unlike other predators, a fox’s digging is usually clean and precise. Look for neat, circular holes.

  • System of Tunnels: If you notice a network of small tunnels leading to your chicken coop, you are likely dealing with a fox.

  • Chicken Missing, Not Killed: Foxes tend to carry away their prey to consume later, unlike other predators who might leave evidence of a kill.

Being aware of these signs is key to protecting your flock. For strategies on how to position your chicken coop effectively to deter foxes, check out our guide on Chicken Coop Design and Location.

Absolutely, let’s get into the specifics of raccoons and their digging habits:

Raccoons: Dextrous Diggers

Clever, nocturnal, and highly adaptable, raccoons pose a significant risk to unprotected chicken coops.

They are known for their distinct ‘masked’ facial appearance and dexterous front paws.

These nimble hands are not just good at opening latches and doors, but are also highly effective when it comes to digging.

Raccoons typically do their mischief at night. Their digging pattern is unique; they excavate dirt in a scattered, messy fashion, unlike the precise digging of a fox.

They don’t always dig to get under fences or walls. Sometimes, they excavate to find food in the form of insects and grubs, but given an opportunity, they would not think twice about making a chicken dinner.

Now that you know their habits, let’s ask, “What special precautions can you take to protect your coop from raccoon invasions?”

Here’s a step-by-step guide on raccoon-proofing your chicken coop:

  1. Secure the Door: Raccoons are excellent at opening latches. Use a complex lock that requires multiple steps to open.

  2. Strengthen Your Fence: Use hardware cloth instead of chicken wire for fencing. It’s more robust and prevents raccoons from reaching in or digging under.

  3. Regular Maintenance: Regularly inspect for signs of digging and fill in any holes promptly.

  4. Use Deterrents: Natural deterrents like cayenne pepper or commercial deterrents can discourage raccoons.

In our article about Pest Proofing Your Chicken Coop, we delve deeper into methods that can keep your flock safe from raccoons and other pests.

Alright, let’s move on to another fierce predator, the coyote:

Coyotes: Determined Diggers

Coyotes are well known for their tenacity, agility, and remarkable digging capabilities. They are indeed the embodiment of the phrase “if there’s a will, there’s a way”.

Unlike foxes and raccoons, coyotes are more aggressive and are known to clear substantial barriers when motivated.

One characteristic of a coyote’s digging pattern is their determination. If they start digging, they commit to it, sometimes digging a tunnel rather than a simple hole.

This, unfortunately, makes them a considerable threat to chicken coops.

So the crucial question to ask here is, “How can you fortify your chicken coop specifically against coyotes?”

Below are some tried and tested coyote deterrents:

  1. Trench Defense: Dig a trench about a foot deep around your coop and bury an extension of your fence into it. This prevents coyotes from digging under.

  2. Electric Fencing: A low electric fence can be an effective deterrent.

  3. Guard Animals: Larger dogs or even llamas can help deter coyotes.

  4. Scent Deterrents: Certain human or large predator scents can ward off coyotes.

For more details on enhancing the security of your coop against these persistent predators, check out our article on Safety Precautions for Chicken Coop DIY.

Digging Prevention: Effective Strategies to Protect the Coop

Prevention is better than cure, as the old saying goes. If you know the potential threats, why not take proactive measures to ensure your chicken coop is secured from all kinds of predator attacks, especially those that can dig their way in?

The question to ponder here is, “How can you adapt your predator prevention methods to address each predator’s unique digging behaviors?”

Here is a guide on the most effective strategy against digging predators: installing a hardware cloth apron:

  1. Measure the Perimeter: First, measure the perimeter of your chicken coop. This will determine the length of the hardware cloth you need.

  2. Cut the Hardware Cloth: Cut a hardware cloth strip that’s about 3 feet wide and corresponds to the measured perimeter.

  3. Secure One End to the Coop: One end of the hardware cloth should be securely attached to the lower edge of the coop’s fence. You can use heavy-duty staples for this.

  4. Extend and Secure the Cloth: The cloth should be extended outward from the coop, creating an “apron.” This extension should be secured to the ground using landscape staples or a layer of dirt.

  5. Extra Step for High-Risk Areas: If your area is known for persistent diggers like coyotes, consider burying the cloth about 1 foot into the ground.

To better illustrate how you might need to adapt your predator prevention method to each predator, consider the following table:

PredatorAdaptation Needed
FoxExtend the apron to cover more surface area.
RaccoonCombine with locks as raccoons can open latches.
CoyoteConsider a deeper trench due to their strength.

By following these steps, you can create a physical barrier that can prevent most predators from digging under the coop.

For a more comprehensive guide, please check our detailed article on Step-by-step DIY Chicken Coop Project.

Preemptive Measures: Landscape and Coop Design

Let’s turn your coop and landscape into an impenetrable fortress against digging predators! By incorporating these savvy alterations, you’ll dissuade these burrowers right from the get-go:

Landscape Modifications:

  • Gravel Guard: Arrange a layer of gravel or stones around your coop to create a tough barrier for predators.

  • Nature’s Neatness: Regular maintenance of your landscape reduces hiding spots – trim overgrown vegetation!

  • Light Brigades: Startle potential predators by installing motion-sensor lights around your coop.

Coop Design Elements:

  • Elevation Station: A raised coop can deter predators from trying to sneak in from below. Make sure the space beneath is solid or covered with mesh.

  • Solid Foundations: A concrete foundation or an underground wire mesh under the dirt floor makes it incredibly challenging for predators to dig through.

  • Material Mastery: Use hardware cloth instead of chicken wire – it’s much tougher for predators to rip or dig through.

By combining these pointers, your chicken coop and surrounding landscape will become a no-go zone for those persistent diggers.

For a deep dive into coop design and its impact on predator deterrence, have a look at our comprehensive guide on Chicken Coop Design and Location.


What are the Common Signs of Predator Digging?

Observe for disturbed soil, claw marks, or fur near the perimeter of the coop.

Different predators leave different digging patterns. For instance, foxes dig more tunnel-like holes, while raccoons dig more randomly.

Can a Deep Foundation Prevent Predators from Digging Under?

Yes, creating a deep foundation with mesh wire can discourage predators.

However, determined predators like foxes and coyotes can dig deeper than you might expect.

It’s important to consider additional protection methods as well.

How Deep Can Predators Dig?

Predators such as foxes and coyotes can dig several feet down if they’re determined.

Raccoons, though not as proficient diggers as foxes or coyotes, can still manage to dig under simple obstacles.

How Can I Identify Which Predator is Digging Under My Coop?

Different predators have distinctive digging patterns. Foxes often dig a tunnel-like hole under one side of the coop, raccoons dig more haphazardly, and coyotes may dig a larger, wider hole.

Does Gravel Around the Coop Prevent Digging?

Gravel can deter some predators as it’s harder to dig through than soil, but persistent predators might still be able to get through.

Gravel should be used as part of a multi-layered defense strategy rather than as the sole method of protection.


Keeping chickens safe from predators that can dig under the coop is a crucial aspect of chicken keeping.

We’ve tackled the three main culprits – foxes, raccoons, and coyotes – and explored their digging habits.

More importantly, we’ve dived into the unique signs each predator leaves behind, helping you identify potential threats before they become a problem.

We’ve left you with a vital question at the start, “Are your chickens safe from these digging predators?” Now, we hope you feel more confident in answering,

“Yes, they are safer.” By equipping you with knowledge about the potential predators and providing you with an effective digging prevention method, you should now be better equipped to protect your chickens from these digging threats.

To sum up, here’s how this article has equipped you:

  1. Knowledge of Common Digging Predators: Understanding which predators pose a threat is the first step in prevention.

  2. Identifying Digging Signs: Knowing what signs each predator leaves behind can help you take timely action.

  3. Prevention Strategies: Installing a hardware cloth apron around your coop is a proven method to prevent digging predators.

Remember, maintaining a predator-free chicken coop is a continuous task. Consistently monitoring and adapting your strategies based on the signs and potential threats is key.

For a more comprehensive guide on maintaining a backyard chicken coop, check out our Backyard Chicken Coop DIY Guide.

Joe Simpson

JOE SIMPSON - Chicken Care Nerd

Hello, I'm Joe Simpson. You might know me as the guy behind I'm just someone who loves chickens, has learned a thing or two about their care, and enjoys sharing that knowledge with humor and heart. Have questions or thoughts? Feel free to reach out via the 'Contact Us' page. We're all here to learn and laugh together!

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