Bears are scavengers and true opportunists when it comes to finding food. They typically rummage for scraps and help themselves to whatever they can easily find.
Bears will also kill their own prey when they’re hungry. Bears typically eat rodents, insects, fish, small animals like chickens, and carrion.
If you know there are wild bears in your area, you should take steps to ensure your chickens are safe should a bear approach their living space.
Here is everything you need to know about bears and the dangers they present to chickens:
Do Bears Eat Chickens?
Yes, bears will kill and eat chickens. This includes cubs (baby bears) and adults.
There are three species of bears living across North America; Black bears, Brown bears (this includes Grizzlies), and Polar bears.
Bears are not as aggressive or dangerous as people generally believe.
They pose a very low-risk threat to us and our pets and are much more likely to rummage through our bins for scraps than they are to attack chickens.
The hungrier a bear is, however, the more desperate they get and the bigger risks they’re likely to take.
Bears are omnivores, and small animals like chickens will become prey if there are not any easier food sources available.
For this reason, and due to the various other predators that pose a threat to chickens, it’s advisable you provide a secure parameter for your chickens.
Related - More on the threat raccoons and snakes pose to chickens.
Do Chickens Attract Bears?
According to Bearwise, bears are attracted to anything that smells. It doesn’t need to smell good, or bad, just have a strong smell.
There is no evidence that the smell of chickens attracts or encourages bears to approach them, but the smells that come with chickens could.
What I mean by this is the smell of chicken feed, food scraps you’ve left out, their poop, the bedding in their coop, etc, all have an aroma that may attract a bear.
I’m sure most bears would prefer to find food scraps, and (most) chickens will naturally run away at the sight of a bear (who can blame them!).
But there is always the risk that a bear will get hold of a chicken. Even if they don't, hens can become stressed at the sight of a predator and this can affect their wellbeing.
Do Bears Attack Chicken Coops?
Cases of bears attacking and breaking into chicken coops are rare, but it does happen.
The NewCanaanite published a story just a few months ago detailing how a black bear broke into a chicken coop in New Canaan and sadly none of the chickens survived.
The owners said the coop was ‘well-fortified’, but it wasn’t enough to stop the hungry bear from getting inside.
When you take into account that the average female adult bear weighs somewhere in the region of 300 to 800 lbs, and a male bear weighs 400 to 1,200 lbs - there isn’t a coop that can keep a determined adult bear out.
On the plus side, bears are much more active in the day than they are at night. This doesn’t mean your chickens are 100% safe overnight, but it’s less likely they’ll be attacked while you sleep.
I’d recommend having a powerful security light at the very least if you think or know there are bears in your area.
How Do I Keep Bears Out of My Chicken Coop?
With bears being large enough, heavy enough, and strong enough to break into just about any coop or structure made from wood, you probably can’t fortify a coop enough to stop them.
What you can do, however, is take steps to deter bears from coming into your yard and approaching your coop.
The most important thing is to reduce the smells coming from your chickens as we know this is the main thing that attracts bears.
Don’t leave food scraps out on the floor, and lock your chicken’s feeders overnight. This is also the best practice to keep rodents away, too.
If you have bird feeders in your yard, I’d remove them. Same for trash bins or composters, move them as far away from your coop as possible.
I’m sure you already keep your chicken’s coop as clean as possible, but if you can step up the cleaning or use a deodorizer, that’s worth doing as well.
Will a Black Bear Break Into a Chicken Coop?
The most commonly found species of bear in North America is the black bear. They’re distributed across most of the forested areas of the US and can be found in 32 states.
It was a black bear featured in the article about a bear breaking into a coop, so they’re capable of breaking into chicken coops.
If you know - or even suspect - that you have black bears in your area, you should put some protective measures in place as it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Unfortunately, chicken wire, mesh, and other fences made from wire are not going to be enough to stop a bear.
Neither is putting a strong lock on the door of your coop!
Your best defense is to deter bears from coming into your yard. This means reducing or removing anything that gives off a strong smell and never leaving anything edible out.
Security lights are pretty good at deterring bears. It might also wake you up too if the light is outside your window.
Outside of bright lights, there isn’t a lot that deters bears, unfortunately.
Bears do eat chickens, yes. It’s not that common, but it’s certainly a possibility and something you should be aware of.
If you have bears in your area, there are things you can do to deter bears and reduce the chance of them breaking into your chicken’s coop and run area.
Bear weight chart - NPS.Gov