When Prey Becomes a Temptation: House Cats vs. Chickens in Your Backyard

Chickens are a great addition to any backyard, but it’s not all sunshine and roses if you have a house cat. Domestic felines are hunters by nature, and chickens often become easy targets for these predators. So, do house cats go after chickens? In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why cats hunt chickens, how to spot the signs, and most importantly, how you can keep your chickens safe from your cat. Keep reading to find out more!

cats patrol featured image

The Instincts That Drive House Cats to Chase Chickens

House cats can become a temptation for poultry owners, especially if they live in a rural area. As felines, they have an innate hunting instinct that attracts them to small, moving objects, including birds like chickens. Domestic animals can be just as likely to exhibit predatory behaviors as their wild counterparts. Even pet cats that have never been outside might attack birds, as they can simulate the chase instinct just by watching birds.

There are various reasons why house cats go after chickens. For some cats, hunting migraines develop early, and they construct a strong connection to the act of catching prey. Other cats are directed more by curiosity than by their desire to eat the poultry. Nonetheless, the catch-and-release cycles can repeatedly harm birds, as cats are known for having a “playful” demeanor while they hunt.

Here are some signs that indicate that your cat may be interested in hunting chickens:

  • Increased time spent staring at the chicken run
  • Pouncing on anything that moves, including household items
  • Declining interest in playing with toys
  • Lingering outside longer than usual

It is essential to recognize the changes in your cat’s behavior to determine if the cat is becoming a risk to the other animals in the household. Fortunately, there are several methods for mitigating the cat’s hunting impulses.

One method is to make the chicken run more difficult to access, raising the coop’s height, or covering the area with a secured net. Chickens also have a natural instinct to seek shelter at night, so placing your birds in a secure coop will help protect them from cat attacks.

Cats can also be trained to coexist with the chickens. This technique takes some effort but can be provided in a positive way. One method essential in this training is positive reinforcement. Conversely, discipline should be gentle so that the cat learns to associate good behaviors with rewards. Gradually introducing the cat to the poultry, by creating a designated space for the fowl, presents an opportunity for the cat to become more familiar with them.

Despite these training techniques, it’s risky for chickens to wander outside the coop to free-range, but if you’re set on it, one solution is to make the chickens in a larger space, so they’re less exposed. This environment enables both the chickens and the cats to coexist and facilitates a friendlier relationship between the two animals.

Overall, knowing the signs of a cat’s hunting impulses is crucial in protecting farm animals, while proper training and reinforcement can help cats coexist with poultry.

white chicken on gray concrete floor

Signs Your Cat Might Be Interested in Hunting

Many house cats have natural instincts to hunt and catch prey. Domestic animals still possess hunting instincts, which often manifests itself in their behavior towards smaller animals, like birds, rodents, or, in some cases, chickens. As pet owners, it’s important to understand when our cats start to show interest in hunting and take appropriate measures to prevent any harm that might occur to our feathered friends.

The main reason your cat might be interested in hunting is their innate predatory instincts. Cats, as felines, are natural hunters and require little instruction to hunt. If you’re keeping chickens in the backyard and have a cat that shows interest in them, chances are they’re picking up on the chicken’s movements and finding their behavior appealing.

Here are some signs that your cat might be interested in hunting your chickens:

  1. Stalking behavior: If your cat spends too much time crouching low to the ground and watching your chickens’ every move, it might be preparing to pounce.

  2. Darting movements: Sudden darting movements and quick jerky motions mean that your cat is looking for any opportunity to catch a bird unaware.

  3. Dilated pupils: Cats’ pupils dilate in low light conditions, such as when they’re waiting for prey.

  4. Scratching and pawing behavior: Cats are skilled hunters and will use their paws and claws to knock prey off guard, so if your cat is pawing or scratching at the chicken coop, it’s a telltale sign that it wants to hunt.

  5. Chasing: Cats have a natural instinct to chase, and the thrill of the hunt is often what motivates them. Observe your cat’s body language while it’s chasing the chickens, and you’ll see that it’s focused and determined.

If your house cat is exhibiting any of these signs, it’s best to take precautions to make sure he doesn’t kill or seriously injure your chickens. It’s a good idea to keep your cat indoors or in a separate outdoor enclosure. The enclosure should have high fences that prevent your cat from jumping over it and a top to keep him from climbing out.

To prevent any attacks, you can also set up a chicken run that surrounds your coop with a wire fence. This way, your chickens have ample space to roam around, and your cat won’t be able to get to them. You can also try to create a positive association in your cat’s mind when it comes to chickens, by feeding it near the coop or giving it treats while you’re in the coop with the chickens.

In conclusion, understanding your cat’s behavior and learning how to interpret the signs that he might be keen on hunting your chickens is crucial in taking steps to prevent them from being hurt. By keeping your pet cat indoors or in a secure outdoor enclosure and by building a chicken run, you can minimize the risks of an attack while still letting your cat explore its natural instincts.

How to Protect Your Chickens from Cat Attacks

With the increasing popularity of backyard chicken coops, many pet owners are considering the pros and cons of keeping both domestic cats and poultry in the same area. However, it is important to understand the predatory instincts of felines, which may lead them to chase and attack chickens. Here are some ways to protect your feathered friends from your mischievous feline.

  1. Restrict Access to the Chicken Coop: Keep the coop in a fenced area with a mesh wire enclosure that is difficult for cats to climb. Alternatively, you can use welded wire to build a cat-proof chicken run, with an overhanging top to prevent cats from jumping in.

  2. Provide a Safe Haven for Chickens: Chickens are vulnerable when they’re foraging or sunbathing, so provide safe refuge for them to protect from all kinds of predation. A spacious, well-protected coop can also serve as their retreat. Strong fences, coop doors, and wire mesh on windows and doors should be deployed to prevent feline attacks.

  3. Eliminate Feeding Grounds: Try to keep the area around the chicken coop free of prey animals, like mice, rats, and rabbits. This will deter cats from venturing too close and keeping them at bay. These predators will be attracted to food left around the coop, so eliminate all potential feeding grounds.

  4. Provide Distracting Toys: Cat owners can also provide distracting toys, such as feather toys or bird-shaped catnip toys, that can fulfill their cat’s instincts to stalk and hunt birds. By providing appropriate toys, this can limit their hunting behavior and reducing attacks on the chickens. This approach is not foolproof, though, as the temptation of real prey may be too much for some cats to resist.

  5. Upkeep of Coop and Chicken Run: Regularly clean the coop and the chicken run to eliminate any potential prey scents that catch a cat’s attention. The coop and chicken run should be kept cleaned and predator-proof to keep cats from attacking the chickens.

By taking these steps, cat owners can coexist with chickens while mitigating the risk of feline predation. As with most things pets, though, a vigilant and proactive strategy is always appropriate.

Ways to Train Your Cat to Coexist with Chickens

Cats are natural predators and their hunting instincts are hardwired into their DNA. However, with the right training and supervision, it’s possible for cats to peacefully coexist with backyard chickens. Here are some ways to train your cat to coexist with chickens:

  1. Introduce your cat to the chickens gradually
    Don’t force your cat to interact with the chickens before they are comfortable with each other. Start by allowing your cat to observe the chickens from a distance and gradually bring them closer to each other.

  2. Use positive reinforcement
    Make the interaction between your cat and the chickens positive by rewarding your cat with treats or praise when they behave positively around the chickens. This positive reinforcement will help to reinforce good behaviors and discourage bad ones.

  3. Use a leash or harness
    A leash or harness can help you control your cat when introducing them to backyard chickens. This will prevent your cat from chasing or attacking the chickens and help them become accustomed to being around them.

  4. Provide your cat with plenty of attention and playtime
    If your cat is well-exercised and mentally stimulated, they are less likely to view the chickens as prey. Spend time playing with your cat and providing them with plenty of toys and activities to keep them entertained.

  5. Involve your cat in your chicken care routine
    By involving your cat in your chicken care routine, you can help them develop a positive association with the chickens. For example, let your cat watch as you feed and care for the chickens, or allow them to accompany you while you collect eggs.

  6. Provide separate areas for your cat and chickens
    If your cat and chickens are unable to coexist peacefully, consider providing separate areas for them. This can be done by creating a secure chicken run or by keeping your cat indoors.

Training your cat to coexist with backyard chickens may take time and patience. However, by following these tips and providing proper training and supervision, it’s possible to create a peaceful and safe environment for both your cat and your chickens.

Star Wars BB-8 toy, cat, and chicken on tiled-floor

The Pros and Cons of Free-Range Chickens with Cats

When it comes to keeping both chickens and cats in your backyard, there are pros and cons to letting them coexist in a free-range environment. Here are some of the factors to consider:


  1. Natural Pest Control: Cats are known for their hunting instincts and can help keep rodents and other pests away from your chickens’ food and living areas.

  2. Entertainment for Your Cat: Having chickens around can provide hours of entertainment for your feline friend. Many cats enjoy bird watching and chasing, so having chickens around can help keep them entertained and mentally stimulated.

  3. Enhanced Relationship: If your cat is trained to coexist with chickens, they may build a positive relationship over time. This can help them become more comfortable around each other and may even encourage them to cuddle up together.


  1. Risk of Predation: Even if your cat is well-trained and generally coexists peacefully with your chickens, their hunting instincts may kick in at any moment. This can lead to injuries or even fatalities for your feathered friends.

  2. Chicken Stress: Chickens are prey animals, and having a cat around can cause them a lot of stress. The constant presence of a predator can make them feel unsafe and anxious, which can negatively impact their health and egg production.

  3. Potential Health Risks: Outdoor cats may be exposed to parasites and diseases that can be transferred to your chickens. This includes roundworms, coccidiosis, and salmonella.

If you decide to allow your cats and chickens to coexist in a free-range environment, it’s important to take steps to minimize the risks. This includes:

  • Providing safe areas for your chickens to retreat to when they feel threatened, such as a secure chicken run or coop.

  • Training your cat to be calm and respectful around your chickens, using positive reinforcement techniques.

  • Feeding your cats a balanced diet to help reduce their hunting instincts.

In summary, while free-ranging cats and chickens can coexist peacefully, there are risks to consider. Keep in mind the pros and cons and take steps to minimize those risks to ensure the safety and well-being of all your backyard animals.

Helping Your Cat and Chickens Build a Relationship

When it comes to having both chickens and cats in your backyard or homestead area, it can be challenging to manage their interactions. While house cats may have a natural hunting instinct and could view chickens as prey, it’s not necessarily how they will behave. Thankfully, building a relationship between your cat and chickens is possible and can help to reduce the risk of any chicken attacks.

Here are some ways you can help your cat and chickens build a relationship:

  1. Introduce Them Slowly: It’s essential to introduce your cat and chickens slowly and in a controlled environment. Keep your cat on a leash or in a carrier while gradually introducing them to the chickens in their coop or run area. This can help them become familiar with each other’s presence without feeling threatened.

  2. Reward Good Behavior: Reward your cat for good behavior and interacting calmly with the chickens. Positive reinforcement can help to establish good behavior patterns and reduce your cat’s hunting instincts.

  3. Supervise Interactions: It’s crucial to supervise any interactions between your cat and chickens. While you’re supervising, you can redirect your cat’s behavior if they begin to chase or harass the chickens.

  4. Provide Distractions: Keep your cat distracted with toys and other activities to redirect their attention away from the chickens. This can help prevent unwanted interaction between the two animals.

  5. Create Separate Spaces: Consider creating separate spaces for your cat and chickens. This can involve keeping chickens in a coop or run area while cats have access to the rest of the yard. Having separate areas can help reduce any potential conflict and let both animals feel safe in their designated spaces.

Remember, building a relationship between your cat and chickens takes time and patience. It’s essential to monitor their progress and make adjustments as necessary. Working with your cat’s natural instincts instead of against them can be a more effective approach to training and building a healthy relationship between your pets.

Conclusions and Final Tips on Keeping Your Chickens Safe

Predation is a natural behavior for cats, even pet ones. Therefore, it is essential to take the necessary measures to protect your backyard chickens from these carnivorous felines. In this section, we’ll discuss final tips on keeping your chickens safe from cats.

  1. Keep your chickens in a chicken run.

One of the simplest ways to protect your chickens from cat attacks is to keep them in a chicken run. A chicken run is an enclosed area that allows your chickens to move freely while preventing predators like cats from getting in.

  1. Provide shelter for your chickens.

Apart from a chicken run, provide your chickens with a coop where they can rest and lay their eggs. Make sure that the coop is properly secured with a sturdy lock to prevent intrusions. Additionally, ensure that the coop is elevated to prevent cats and other predators from getting in.

  1. Supervise your cat’s interaction with chickens.

If you have a pet cat, supervise their interaction with your chickens. Observe how your cat behaves around the chickens and intervene if necessary. Keep your cat’s natural hunting instincts in check.

  1. Use deterrents.

To scare off cats and other predators, use physical deterrents like motion-activated sprinklers or noise-producing devices. You can also use scent-based deterrents like citrus or lavender, which cats find repulsive. However, these should not be used around the chickens themselves.

  1. Train your cat to coexist with chickens.

You can train your cat to coexist with chickens by using positive reinforcement techniques. Reward your cat for displaying good behavior around the chickens. Over time, your cat will learn to see the chickens as part of the household and not prey.

Keeping backyard chickens with pet cats is a delicate balance. It’s essential to ensure that both animals coexist peacefully. By following these tips, you’ll help your cat and chickens build a harmonious relationship, and also protect your chickens from becoming prey to your pet cats and other predators.

About The Author

Scroll to Top