Chicken Predators – Make sure you can protect your Chickens

If your chickens are free roaming they will be at risk of predators and once predators in your area become aware that there are chickens about they you will likely see more of them. You can try to get rid of predators by lethal means, but it is unlikely you can get them all and a better option may as effective, or in some cases more effective. First lets talk about what types of critters you will need to keep your eye out for. Here where we live there are a number of predators we need to watch for and include:

Opossums generally hunt alone at night. They are nocturnal and around here opossums get pretty large. They have been known to steal eggs, eat chicks, and even attack and bite sleeping chickens.

opossum on fence

Raccoons are also nocturnal, so will usually attack at night. They can hunt alone, or in family groups. I’ve seen up to 5 or 6 raccoons on the prowl at night. They can be brazen and are often not frightened easily. They can decimate a flock if they get into your coop. I have a friend who lost nearly an entire flock when a raccoon attacked her chickens in winter during the day! They will steal eggs and have been know to reach in and pull the head or leg off of a chicken, so if you ever find something like this in your coop, keep an eye out for raccoons.

raccoon on tree

Fox and Coyotes both can carry away whole birds. Coyotes hunt at dusk and dawn, you may hear them howling at night, if they live in your area. While foxes are less likely to break into a coop, coyotes will try to break into a coop. Coyotes often hunt in packs, though I’ve seen pairs and even a single coyote in the prowl in our neighborhood.

Skunks will often just steal eggs. You may know they’ve been around due to the smell, which is difficult to miss. They will often kill chickens an only eat their entrails, leaving the rest for you to find.

skunk

Snakes will eat both chicks and eggs if given the chance. We have black snakes, rattlesnakes, and copperheads in our area. Black snakes are generally good and will eat a lot of unwanted critters around your property, so I would rather move a black snake than kill it. Similarly, while I don’t want copperheads, or rattlesnakes around the property they too have a place in the food chain and often take care of other critters, so I generally call animal control to have them removed from the property.

Bobcats will eat your chickens if they have an opportunity. If they leave any evidence you will often find chickens with bite marks on their necks, backs, and sides.

bobcat

Weasels include ferrets, martens, and minks. They hunt alone or in family groups. They can slip into the smallest holes to gain access to your coop or fenced yard. If you small something odd in your coop and find your chickens without their heads, or piled up your first suspect should be a weasel.

Rats steal eggs and will sometimes take chicks. They have also been known to chew on feathers, beaks, and your chickens legs. As you clean your cage keep your eye out for rat droppings, especially around feeders.

rat in trash

Raptors include eagles, hawks, owls. They can swoop down and pickoff a chicken in the yard and have even been know to fly into coops through an open window. If you find a pile of feathers, indicates that a raptor may have gotten your chicken.

hawk

Cats and Dogs are also potential predators and can attack your chickens. Cats may mostly prey on smaller birds, but have been known to attack and eat a larger chicken.

dog

Protecting your Chickens

Feed storage

One of the best ways to protect your chickens is to try to reduce the chance that these predators will come around. You can do this by keeping the coop close to the house, keeping any feed that might attract critters in rodent proof metal containers. If feed gets spilled, clean it up immediately, so it doesn’t attract critters. Don’t leave food out at night, and if it can’t be brought in, make sure it can me capped, closed, or otherwise made inaccessible.

Fencing

Ironically the worst type of fencing to use is chicken wire. Mesh or welded wire is the best. To prevent the predators from digging under the fence place it 6-12 inches below the ground and also place a piece of fencing perpendicular – angled out at least 6 inches. If you have a coop/run combo you will not need to worry as much about raptors, but if your chickens are ranging, depending on how large the area is, you may opt to place netting over it. This can keep raptors out and your birds in. If the area is fairly large and birds of prey are a problem you can criss-cross wire over the area. You can also hang shiny objects such as old CDs, DVDs, or any other reflective spinning object, which can deter them. Keep in mind that in most states it is illegal to shoot most types of raptors, make sure that any bird you decide to hunt is not protected.

Sturdy Coop

Having a sturdy coop can deter predation.  Make sure your coop is set up close to the house and if possible away from trees in which raptors may perch and stalk your chickens. Cover windows and vents that are not used for ports of entry or exit with 1/4-1/2 inch galvanized wire mesh. This will also prevent mice and rats from coming in. If your coop does not set up off the ground then burying hardware cloth 6 inches under the coop and again above the ground can deter digging predators. If you use a chicken tractor moving your chickens on a regular basis can also confuse predators.

Lights

Motion-sensing lights can be very helpful at night to keep predators at bay.

Other Animals

Dogs

Dogs can fall into either the helper of predator category. A well trained dog will chase off potential threats thereby protecting your chickens. However, make sure they are well trained otherwise they me likely to attack your chickens.

Roosters

If you are only interested in eggs and not baby chicks you may decide not to get a rooster. However roosters are very good at protecting the hens, warning them if there is a threat and have even been know to attack animals it sees as a threat.

rooster

How do keep your chickens safe? Let us know. We’d love to hear your advice.

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Just like you pointed out it is best to keep your chicken in a coop or to prevent them being killed buy any kind of predator. But generally speaking I don’t think animals such as foxes and snakes should be anywhere closed too where chickens  are kept Except if it is deep down in the wild.

    1. Hi Zuchil,

      Thanks for the comment. Surprisingly here where we live we have bear, fox, raccoon, opossum, and snakes. I don’t live in the deep wild, but in a neighborhood. We are a bit out of town however in a more rural setting. While I recommend a coop, I do know of someone whose chickens roost in the trees and eaves of their deck at night, refusing to go into the coop, so sometimes even our best intentions of keeping chickens safe can be met with resistance even from them!!

  2. This is very interesting and very helpful to newbie chicken growers out there. My DAD for some reason at his age has huge interest in raising chickens. He and my mom live in a rural area, they have a big front and back yards. They love to raise domestic animals and chickens are/is one of their pets 🙂 THis is very helpful. I will forward them this info. Thank you.

    1. Chickens are really a lot of fun, so it does not surprise me that your dad would want to raise them. They are also pretty easy to raise. They are also nice to raise because they don’t take up much space and you can get eggs and even meat, though many people I know just keep chickens for the eggs and refuse to eat them, because they like them so much. 

      We would love to hear from your parents about their experiences with chickens! 

  3. This is great information. I’d be more worried about dogs and cats in my area, but I live in the desert and it’s not unusual to encounter mountain lions as well. Everyone around here has dogs and for some reason, canines seem to really love chasing birds and chewing them up.

    1. Thanks for visiting the site. In the desert you might also have to worry about coyotes! They can be sneaky and I’m sure they would love some chickens for dinner! If you have a sturdy coop however, and your chickens go  in at night they should be safe. During the day you can keep them in a chicken run as well, so they have some freedom, but are not entirely loose, if you are worried about them getting eaten. Although there are never any guarantees of course. I have a friend whose chickens were eaten be a raccoon one day, he got into the fencing!

  4. Wow, I’ve been entertaining the idea of  having a chicken coop in my yard in order to have organic eggs on demand.  I had no idea that raising chickens would require that I be on the lookout for so many different critters, including my own cat and dog.

    The tips you gave about protecting the chickens are sound. Who knew that roosters would help protect the coop?  And it does make sense that keeping the feed in rodent proof metal containers will keep critters away.  I learned something new.  

    Thanks for such an informative post.

    1. The eggs really are delicious and so much more nutritious than your average grocery store eggs, which can sit on the shelf for some time, and if they come from caged chickens can really lack a lot of the nutrients that range or cage free chicken eggs offer. 

      Chickens are really very quiet, but roosters are not, so if you get a rooster make sure he won’t disturb the neighbors.

  5. So we went to visit my brother-in-law down on Long Island, and he has a whole yard full of chickens, and so my kids were like, “Mom, those eggs are delicious, we should get chickens,” so I’ve been researching it.  They have a huge yard, but at night they do put them into a multi-level coop or it’s like a big house.  They have heat in it for cold nights and I didn’t really give thought to the predator thing, but now I see there are actually a ton of predators out there that could eat or harm the chickens or eggs.  Wow.  So many.  I’m so glad I read this article, and I’m really happy I came upon your site.  Thanks.

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for visiting the site! I would highly recommend chickens if you can have them. The are fun and relatively easy to care for. There are a lot of predators that might try to get your chickens, but with a little caution they should be fine. 

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