Do you worry about losing your chickens to predators?
Well, I didn’t until recently. We have been very fortunate to have very few predators around our area. But suddenly they are coming in from every angle.
So I’d like to give you a list of chicken predators and how you can identify them from the evidence you have left if one finds your flock.
As well as give you a few tips on how to protect your chickens from predators.
Here are the predators you should be concerned about around your flock:
Your sweet little puppy dog could be a mean little huntress in disguise. I say this because as I type this, I have a tiny 12-pound dog that is diabetic and blind prancing around in a sweater that says, “Cutie” on the back.
However, I know that if given the opportunity, in her prime she probably would’ve tried to keep up with her mother and hunt with the best of them.
So keep a watchful eye on your dogs. You will know that your chickens might have been preyed upon by a dog if a whole chicken is missing. Most dogs are big enough to kill and carry off their prey.
Plus, if you have a dog that isn’t friendly with the chickens then you’ll know to keep a watchful eye. My little dog is actually very friendly with our chickens and will even go in their coop when I’m feeding.
But her mom tries to chase them constantly so I have to keep her out of the coop for security reasons.
I do not like coyotes one bit. We have never had them around our home until recently. We were outside skinning a deer one night and all of a sudden we heard nothing but loud howls. It was quite scary.
Actually, we were hoping it was just dogs but the other night we were coming home from church and passed a coyote crossing the road near our home.
So that solidified it for us. I’ve been on high alert ever since. You will know you have a coyote preying on your flock if you start noticing chickens are going missing. Coyotes are like dogs so they have the ability to carry off a whole grown chicken.
Also, if you see prints it is important to research and try to figure out which type of print was left behind.
I never really thought of a cat as a predator until my husband and I were trying to buy some chickens from a guy. We were haggling with him and told him we would by all of his laying hens for $30.
Well, he wanted $75. So we passed on the deal.
Then we get a phone call the next morning, and he told us that a cat had attacked some of his chickens and he didn’t want to go through that again.
So he sold us all of his laying hens for $30. It was a great deal, and they were great birds. Let this remind you that if you see a stray cat hanging around your flock it needs to go.
Cats are great hunters and will easily kill a chicken. However, because they aren’t very big, they usually try to attack chicks.
But if they attack a chick or a full grown bird they usually leave feathers or wings behind because they can’t get these parts down their throats.
However, you will usually see no other signs of disturbance.
I’m sure you have heard the term, ‘there’s a fox in the hen house.’ That is because at some point there could be considering how much they love chickens.
So you’ll recognize that a fox has been in your coop if your chicken is missing. They might leave feathers behind because often foxes kill more food than they can eat in one setting.
Then they store the rest of the food in a buried storage space in the ground.
However, foxes also eat their food whole. They don’t even chew the bones. This explains why you’ll see feathers lying around as well because they are harder to swallow.
Raccoons are particularly wasteful creatures. For that reason, I don’t much care for them. In my mind, I don’t want you to eat any of my livestock.
But if you are going to eat them, at least don’t waste them!
Well, you will know a raccoon has been in your flock for this exact reason. If you find your birds dead with no head but not eaten, then it was probably a raccoon.
A lot of times raccoons will grab a chicken and try to drag it through the wire. Because chickens have small heads but big bodies, often all they can get is the head so they’ll eat that and leave.
Also, raccoons like to go after chicks because they are an easy target.
I really don’t like weasels either. There is a reason that when you call someone a weasel that there is a negative connotation to it. They are very sly creatures that can fit into tight spaces to get into a coop.
However, what I really dislike about them is that they often kill chickens just for the fun of it. In my mind, that is simply a waste and an annoyance.
So if your bird has been killed but is still intact then it might very well be a weasel. Or if your chickens intestines have been pulled out, then there is a high probability that a weasel has attacked your flock as well.
I didn’t realize until recently that skunks stalk chickens. I went outside the other day and could smell a skunk and thought, “Well, that’s odd.” Because I usually only smell them during February when its mating season.
I know now that it was probably because they were stalking my chickens. I’m not happy about that. When skunks kill a chicken (it is a rarity) but they really attack them. It is a full blown attack.
However, skunks are most likely to rob the nests of eggs.
Opossums are mainly known as nest robbers. They like to suck the eggs. If they decide to eat a chicken, it will usually be baby chicks because they are smaller and easier to get.
So you will know that they have attacked your chickens because you will find remaining small, wet feathers in the place of your once precious baby bird.
However, you will know that you’ve had an opossum in your eggs because they leave a big mushy mess behind in the nesting space.
I’m not a huge snake fan. The main reason is because they eat your eggs and it is really hard to tell if they’ve been there.
The reason is because they eat the eggs whole. So where a skunk will at least leave an egg shell behind to let you know they took it, a snake doesn’t give you that.
So you have to look for snake skins to figure out if they were present. Or you could take our approach which is buy guineas and let them take care of any potential snake threat.
I have been so put out with chicken hawks this year. We have never had much of a problem in previous years.
However, this year they have come after our flock with a vengeance. I was sitting outside reading the other morning when suddenly a hawk swooped down in my fenced yard and almost slammed into the fence.
Then it flew back up and roosted in a tree trying to plot how it could get my chickens. I realized it was a hawk and pointed it out to my dogs so they’d begin to bark and scare it away. It worked thankfully.
So it is hard to determine if a hawk has preyed upon your chickens. They don’t leave much of a trace because they are able to carry your chickens off with out much disturbance.
However, they are most likely to attack your flock during daylight hours. So keep a close eye out for hawks to give you a better clue if they are a threat to your birds.
Owls are very similar to hawks. They are big enough to be able to haul off your chickens without leaving much of a sign.
But they make it even harder because they usually strike at night. It is actually quite terrifying that if they get in your coop, they’ll sneak right up to a sleeping chicken on the roosting bar.
Then they’ll attack them and carry the bird off.
I had an interesting encounter last night. We were outside skinning a deer again. (It’s deer season, and we are taking full advantage of it.)
Well, my husband went down to the barn to pull out his tractor because we use it with a boom pole to hang the deer on it while we are working on it.
So my husband comes back from the barn, heads in the house, and comes back out with a handgun and a shotgun.
Naturally, I was wondering what was up. That is when he told me he heard a bear in the woods. I was thinking, “When did I move to Alaska?” (This is not a negative remark. We hope to retire to Alaska one day.)
But it through me because there were a lot of problems with bears around our area in the spring, but in November? We were able to carry on with the deer with no other issues, but I was really worried about my chickens and goats overnight.
However, bears are not neat eaters. They leave carcasses, intestines, and whatever else they don’t eat behind.
Plus, they have a tendency to use the bathroom all over the place that they eat. So if you have a bear, you’ll know it.
Bobcats are another threat to poultry. They go straight for the jugular or the head to kill them.
However, you will know that you have a bobcat because just like a cat scratching in a litter box, these big cats try to cover their prey with litter.
So if you see big scratch marks where the bird was attempted to be covered up, then you’ll know that you have a bobcat on your hands.
How to Protect Your Flock
Now that you know that you have at least 13 types of predators to be aware of when keeping chickens, it is also important to cover how to protect your flock.
Here are my tips:
Give your coops a floor that cannot be dug into or place chicken wire at the base of the coop so it will cut whatever tries to dig under the coop.
- Give your coop a higher latch and one that would be difficult for a toddler to open.
- Chicken wire is your friend. The more places you put it, the safer your flock is.
- Be sure to close your coop up at night, especially.
- Roosters are good to keep around for protection of your flock.
- Guineas are great protectors of your flock.
- The more noise you have outside the safer your flock is as it deters unwanted visitors from coming around.
- Fencing is your friend. Fence around your coop as much as possible.
- Netting is your friend. Place netting over any outdoor space for your flock. This will stop birds of prey.
- Finally, be vigilant in coop maintenance. If you see a hole, fix it ASAP. You are literally leaving an opening for predators.
Well, there it is guys. These are predators that you should keep an eye out for. Plus, you will also know what to look for if your flock is being preyed upon.
Also, I hope these tips will be helpful in protecting your flock too. It is aggravating and heartbreaking when something attacks your livestock.
But I want to hear from you. What are your tips on protecting your flock from predators? Are there other predators or signs for the predators listed that we should be aware of?