Chicken predators are one of the toughest aspects of raising chickens, but they don’t have to be! Find out what wants to eat your chickens, and how to prevent them.
It was a beautiful summer morning, but I didn’t notice as I donned my boots and headed to the coop. I had lost half my twenty bantam hens the day before even though I had my coop built like Fort Knox.
I hadn’t slept well and rushed to see how the rest of my hens were faring this morning. The door was still securely locked with two concrete blocks in front of it, so I breathed a sigh of relief that was very short-lived. Inside, I found carcasses all over the floor, and the Plexiglass window on the North wall was broken out.
They were all gone!
Even my sweet Mama Hen, Trudie was among the carnage on the floor.
What could have gotten into my coop and done so much damage?
If you’ve had a similar situation or would like to prevent something like this happening in your coop, then read on as we give you the Top Ten Chicken Predators and how to avoid them from dining on your feathered beauties.
The Top Ten Chicken Predators
1. Birds of Prey
Including hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls eye your chickens from the sky. Some of them hunt only in the daytime, like the hawk and some in nighttime like the owl.
These birds will kill only one or two of your flock at a time, saving the rest for later. They usually take the head off and eat the breast meat and innards of the chicken. Other signs are talon marks on the bird, loss of feathers on the ground from the bird of prey or wing impressions during the winter months in the snow by the chicken.
Coyotes carry off the birds and are both avid diggers and jumpers. A coyote can jump over six feet high. Signs of a coyote attack in your coop are scattered feathers, blood, and a possible paw print.
Foxes carry off the birds to their den and will even bury some of them to eat later. The signs of a fox in the henhouse are much the same as the coyote: scattered feathers, blood, and there may be a smell lingering also.
These terrors kill for sport, wrapping around the chickens and biting the back of the neck. They will wipe out an entire flock in one night. The head and entrails of the bird are eaten if a weasel or mink is in the coop.
Raccoons are wily creatures and will tag team with one of the raccoons scaring the birds to one side of the coop or run where another coon is waiting to scoop them up. They also can pull out staples, open windows, and unlatch doors. Raccoons kill and eat the birds right in the coop or run. Signs of raccoons include puncture marks by the head and partially consumed birds.
6. Stray Dogs
These creatures have a pack mentality and are especially dangerous to your flock. They will kill the birds in the coop and then carry them off to eat them. Signs of an attack are scattered feathers and blood around the area.
Possums are scavengers and avid climbers. They don’t like to work hard for their food so they will go for the eggs before the chickens. You will find shells and parts of the egg around your coop. When they do attack the chickens, they target the young birds.
8. Wild cats such as Cougars and Bobcats
Wild cats also carry off the birds, but they cover them with sticks, leaves, and dirt just like they would cover them with litter. You will see signs of scratch marks around the area where they killed the bird if one of these cats got in your coop.
Skunks have the same killing style as a raccoon, but it is not hard to tell if they are your culprit by the smell they leave behind. It is harder for them to catch and kill a chicken so they will consume the entire chicken in the coop.
Bears are very messy eaters and leave parts of the chicken all around the coop and run. They also use the site as a bathroom leaving their droppings as a sure sign.
That’s the bad news but here is the good news. Predators can be prevented and you can keep your flock safe.
How to prevent predators in the chicken coop
Prepare the coop
First, prepare your coop and run with a regular check for any holes over a half inch and cover them with 1/4 inch hardware cloth. Place all latches high on the doors making it harder to reach and put netting over the top of the run so nothing can get in from the top.
Make sure your coop is close to human activity and lock your hens in at dusk, making sure all windows and doors are locked down tight.
Make some noise
Many animals have an aversion to humans, so playing a radio all night by the coop is a good deterrent.
Get a rooster
Another deterrent is a rooster who will fight a predator to protect the hens. Outside of the pen, a guard dog or Guinea fowl are also suitable protectors.
Get a dog
A well trained dog will respect your chickens and help to keep them safe. Most predators are afraid of dogs and will avoid your property entirely if they sense you have a dog.
Limit Free Range Time
It’s no secret that most predator attacks happen while chickens are out of the coop. If you’re having trouble with predators, you can keep your chickens in their safe run, or stay with them while they free range.
Hopefully, this list will make you more aware of what predators are out there and how to protect your flock.
Can you guess what wiped out my bantam hens?
If you have other tips on how to protect chickens from predators, please share below.
We are all in this together!