Greetings, I am gearing up to build coop and run when the ground will unfreeze (Feb. 15), and I have to get a better idea about predators. I am new to the thing but 3 neighbors have chickens. In my neighborhood, virtually all losses have been due to racoons, as seen from the beheaded bodies left behind. But we have also coyotes, foxes, I assume there are rats, and there are numerous hawks now, after the West Nile virus wiped out the crows that kept them away. We have also possums and skunks. I will certainly cover the lower part of the fence in hardware cloth, I already have experience with underground fences, having successfully excluded rabbits and groundhogs from my gardens. I think I should be able to build a strong coop, but of course keeping rats out is difficult as they can squeeze into really tight spaces. I see that some of the coops on this site are on stilts. Is it to keep out the rats? If so, will baffles on the stilts help? Do you recommend that chicks be separated from their mothers and taken into the house? Or can they be left all together in a more secure part of the coop (say, inside a hardware cloth cage for the night)? The second thing I don't quite get are hawks. I have seen them take animals (snakes or squirrels) and I find it hard to believe they can fly off with a full grown chicken, which weighs more than they do. I will only have large breeds and I will let them free range on weekends. The pullets will stay in until they get to a certain size, but given that hawks are the sole frequent day predator around my place, do I really have to look over them or can I go about my business while outside with them.