Bears are frightening, to say the least. Strong, powerful, and tenacious. On the flip side, chickens are the exact opposite; small, harmless, and not particularly adventurous. So, are your chickens a viable food source for a bear? Will a bear actively seek them out?
Do bears eat chickens? Bears do eat chickens if the opportunity presents itself, they are hungry enough, and there are no other sources of food more easily accessible. A bear attack is, therefore, more common in the winter, or when food is particularly scarce. In the summer, however, a bear would typically stick to berries.
Thankfully, bears prefer to live a solitary life. You’re unlikely to see many together, and they are also known for being quite shy. Phew.
They also would much rather be in a secluded area than a busy town or built-up area; so if they do find their way there, it probably was not the intention!
And better yet; they are most active during the day- so this is not the kind of predator that will strike while you sleep – leaving with you little opportunity to respond.
Let us now take a closer look at the possibility of encountering one of these formidable outsiders and exactly how to keep your flock safe if they are frequenting your local area!
Do Chickens Attract Bears?
Keeping chickens can attract bears, but it’s not the chickens themselves that do so. Typically, it’s the food and garbage around them.
You see, bears have an amazing sense of smell. In fact, they’re considered to have the best sense of smell of any animal on earth.
So if you leave your garbage out, have a vegetable garden, a bird feeder, or have not cleared up your flock’s scraps appropriately, and there are bears around, don’t be surprised if they end up in your backyard.
Thankfully, bears are typically shy and reserved – generally keeping their distance from any place that humans reside.
Unless of course, they are starving. They are much bolder when they need to eat.
They will turn to the easiest source of food; looking for convenient options first and foremost.
If all else fails, then you might find a bear willing (and certainly able) to attack the coop!
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Do Bears Attack Chicken Coops?
Bears will not typically attack a chicken coop unless there is no other access to food and they are desperate to eat.
But while it’s uncommon, it isn’t unheard of.
A quick Youtube search will show you a number of videos of bears destroying chicken coops.
Frightening stuff. Especially for us keepers. And not the type of situation you want to find yourself in…
However, there are some ways to prevent this, as discussed in the following sections.
How Do You Keep Bears Away From Chickens?
When it comes to bears, prevention is a must. Especially if you know you have some residing in your area.
Chances are if a bear gets access to your chickens, it could be game over. And pretty quickly.
And due to their sheer strength and size, they can access places they shouldn’t.
And your chicken coop is a possibility, in certain circumstances.
That’s why it’s important to put some measures in place to prevent this from happening.
Let’s take a look at the best ways to do this…
Scare Them Away
If you’re particularly brave and notice a bear near your chicken coop, you can scare it away by making loud noises.
At a safe distance of course!
And, make sure you’ve got your bear spray, like this best seller on Amazon, to hand too.
I recommend grabbing two garbage can lids and smashing them together until the bear runs away.
Doing this from out of your window where you can quickly close and keep yourself safe. From height is even better.
Otherwise, you are really putting yourself in danger.
Furthermore, this method isn’t always going to work, as most of the time, you’re not going to see the bear when it’s trying to destroy your chicken coop.
While bears might be big, strong, and scary, they aren’t immune to an electric fence, making it one of the best ways to deter them from your chicken coop.
A lot of people believe that an electric fence has the possibility to kill or seriously injure a bear or a human.
That’s not the case.
If your electric fence is properly constructed, then it should prevent bears from damaging or climbing the chicken coop, without causing them any harm.
Instead, it serves as a boundary – one that a bear knows it should not cross.
How To Set Up An Electric Fence Correctly
The first thing you want to take into consideration is how much power output your electric fence has.
When it comes to protecting your chicken coop from bears, you want to make sure it has a power output of at least 1 joule and 7000 volts.
This will ensure it’s strong enough to send the bears on their way.
You also want to set the fence up in a way whereby it comes into contact with the bear’s nose and face.
If the electric wire just touches their body, in most cases, their fur will prevent them from experiencing an electric shock.
To stop this from happening, make sure the hot wires are spaced around 8 inches apart.
Maintaining Your Electric Fence
The first step to ensuring your fence stays well maintained is to make sure there aren’t any weeds or grass touching any of the wires.
You could end up draining the power out of your electric fence, resulting in bears getting inside.
Also, you should regularly check the digital voltmeter to make sure your electric fence is providing a substantial amount of power.
If not, you should check to see if any of the electrical wires have broken.
A Standard Fence
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, then maybe a standard fence is a more suitable alternative.
When I standard I do not mean sub-par though.
It must be constructed of sufficiently strong materials and be of sufficient dimensions, including width and height.
However, be warned….
It’s certainly not the best way to protect your chicken coop from bears.
Hardware cloth and welded wire are just not really capable of stopping them. They’re too powerful.
In fact, a standard fence is more of a temporary solution that will potentially bind your time. It shouldn’t be counted on to prevent bears from entering your chicken coop.
Consider it an extra layer of protection though and a means of keeping out other, pervasive predators.
What To Do If A Bear Becomes Aggressive
Considering we’ve been talking about hungry bears, it good to know what to do if one becomes aggressive.
Of course, keeping yourself safe is the priority.
You should not actively look to take on a bear.
However, there may be some situations or circumstances that you get up close and personal with a bear unintentionally, or if you caught them in the act.
Here are some potential responses:
Make Noise And Appear Big
A common tactic used to scare bears away is putting your hands in the air, making loud noises, and slowly backing away.
The reason this works is because it makes you appear larger and more threatening to bears.
If you’ve got a bear charging at you, then chucking your hands in the air isn’t going to do much for your safety.
That’s why you need a better alternative.
Also, keep in mind that this tactic only works on black bears as they are more timid.
If you try to look more intimidating towards a brown bear; it may have the opposite effect to what you planned for and become more aggressive.
The best solution is to not get into a confrontation with a bear in the first place.
The second-best solution is bear spray.
Bear spray is similar to pepper spray, except its intended purely for bears.
When used, it deploys a spray that contains capsaicin which temporarily blinds bears; cuts off their sense of smell, and burns their lungs, giving you plenty of time to get the hell out of there!
The good thing is that bear spray isn’t permanent, so you don’t have to worry about harming the bear.
If you have bears around, getting some is probably an essential.
As previously mentioned, this is the one to get on Amazon.
If you’ve covered all angles and nothing seems to be working, a great option is to play dead.
Only do this if you’re being attacked by a grizzly bear.
If it’s a black bear, your best bet would be to try to fight back. If this fails, then it’s time to play dead.
The reason why you shouldn’t try to fight a grizzly, is because you have no hope of overpowering it like you would a black bear.
They can weigh up to 270kg and are five times stronger than a human.
Go Inside Your House
Unless your chicken coop is a fair distance from your home, then the most obvious solution to an aggressive bear would be to seek shelter inside as soon as possible.
Once the bear see’s that you’re no longer a threat, it will eventually leave.
Call In The Professionals
It’s also a good idea to call your local authorities and/or animal control to get a better understanding of bear population numbers in the area, along with some tips and advice to keep you, your family, and your flock safe.
What Not To Do If A Bear Becomes Aggressive
We’ve talked about what to do if you encounter a bear, but how about what not to do.
Let’s discuss that below.
Running away from a bear is the easiest way to turn yourself into its next meal.
In most cases, it will think you’re prey and begin chasing you.
And trust me…
You can’t outrun a bear no matter how fast you think you are.
Heck, even Usain Bolt would have a difficult time trying to outrun a bear. considering they can reach speeds of over 50/Kpm.
Don’t Climb Trees
If you’re under attack by a bear, your first instinct might be to climb and tree and get to higher ground.
Not only can bears outrun you, but they can also climb trees.
Climbing a tree is only going to put you in a situation where you have no route of escape.
In the majority of areas, you’re not going to need to consider or set up particular defenses against bears – because you’re not going to have to deal with them.
Chances are, however, that if you are reading this, the threat is a real one.
Thankfully, there are some things you can do. But perhaps the best one is good old simple husbandry.
Be clean, keep food sealed, and do not leave any potential sources out.
If you feed wild birds, for instance, you’ll need a no-waste feeder and you’ll need to position this accordingly – well away from your coop.
Composts, chicken litter, and other waste are also something you are really going to need to consider. Where and how you store it is essential.
The truth is, if a bear is hungry, it will go to extreme lengths to get some food.
That’s why it’s important to follow the steps outlined above and be proactive in your approach.
If a bear finds its way inside your chicken coop, it will likely eat the chickens, eggs, and anything else that lies in its way. If they have gone to the effort of breaking in, then it’s likely they have been unable to source food elsewhere, and have decided to strike as a last resort.
Wondering what other animals and predators pose a threat to your flock? Then my following guides may be of interest:
- Do Crows Eat Chickens?
- Do Hawks Eat Chickens?
- Do Eagles Eat Chickens?
- Do Owls Eat Chickens?
- Do Skunks Eat Chickens?
- Do Minks Eat Chickens?
- Do Badgers Eat Chickens?
- Do Weasels Eat Chickens?
- Do Groundhogs Eat Chickens?
- Do Coyotes Eat Chickens?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.