Are cats a risk?

A cat keeping a respectful distance from my birds.

A cat keeping a respectful distance from my birds. - Credit: Archant

Advice from our expert Julie Moore

Q: I have a flock of six ex-batt hens that are really enjoying their new free-ranging life. I have been offered a rescue cat, but before I commit, is it possible to keep cats and chickens together? Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

A: Cats very rarely attack adult chickens — their preferred prey are small birds and rodents etc. If the cat does show an interest in your hens, normally a few good pecks from the girls will put the cat in its place. From personal experience, when my hens first encountered my neighbour’s four cats, they grouped together and stood their ground. Since then, although the cats keep a respectful distance from my birds, they visit regularly and appear to enjoy the company of my hens. A cat can be advantageous as they will hunt and kill mice and other rodents that are attracted to fallen feed.

Cats do pose a severe threat with chicks and juvenile birds. Chicks running around are a great temptation for a cat. Whilst a broody hen will protect her chicks from predators, if the chicks scatter in different directions, she can’t defend them all against an interested cat. If you have chicks in a brooder, ensure that the brooder is: secure and can’t be over turned, has a tight-fitting lid that cannot be lifted by a cat and that the heat lamp is also secure in case the cat jumps on top of the brooder. The best option would be to keep the brooder in a separate room, away from the cat to avoid any temptation from the cat and stress on the chicks. Juvenile birds should be kept in a secure run until they are large enough to free-range with other birds.