What Killed Your Chicken? 10 Predators of Your Flock
Protecting chickens from predators is among the most arduous tasks that come with chicken keeping. If you raise chickens, you are likely aware of how challenging it can be to keep your birds safe from predators, considering they attack when you least expect these creatures to attack.
After all, predators are intelligent and consistent, and they roam everywhere, preying on chickens. Whether you are keeping chickens in the countryside or raising them in the city, they will always be predators preying on your birds.
Chicken keepers should be proactive about protecting their chickens from predators.
Predators that Could Be Killing Your Chickens
Here are the top ten predators that target chickens and which chicken keepers should be looking for while rearing chickens.
1. Birds of Prey
Owls, eagles, and falcons are some of the top birds of prey that kill chickens. Birds of prey will usually attack your birds from the sky. Most of these birds hunt chickens in the daytime, especially hawks and eagles.
Owls, on the other hand, hunt chickens at night. Hawks are among the most common chicken predators. In rural areas, hawks usually soar the skies looking for chickens. They typically sit on lamp posts in urban areas waiting for an opportune moment to attack chickens.
You can tell when birds of prey are killing your chickens. These birds will usually kill one or two birds in your flock and save the rest of the birds for later. Birds of prey will take off the head of your chickens and then feast on their innards and breast meats.
Most birds of prey will hunt the smaller birds in your flock, especially baby chicks. If you lose some chickens and then notice blood and feathers on the ground, it is almost certain some birds of prey have been hunting your chickens.
Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to keep birds of prey at bay, especially if you keep free-range chickens. Moreover, birds enjoy protection since they are endangered species, and thus it isn’t a wise idea to shoot these birds.
Coyotes are prevalent in all areas. It isn’t uncommon to see some coyotes in your city or countryside. They live under decks and porches, and you will hear them yowling and yipping at night because they are usually active at night.
Coyotes carry off chickens after attacking the birds. They are excellent jumpers and diggers, and they can jump more than six meters high. Chickens keepers can tell when a coyote is responsible for the loss of their birds.
Signs of coyotes’ attacks include paw prints in the chicken coop, blood, and feathers.
Foxes are notorious for hunting chickens and other poultry birds, including Guinea fowls and ducks. They are common predators among backyard flocks. Unfortunately, it is pretty tough to protect your chickens from fox attacks.
If a fox knows you have some chickens in your backyard, the canine will keep hunting your chickens until you lose all your chickens.
Foxes are pretty clever, and they have several ways of finding their way into chicken coops. For instance, a fox can get into your coop by squeezing through the tiny holes, digging under the fences, and squeezing through the chicken wire mesh.
Foxes are very determined canines, and they are some of the lethal predators to be around your chickens. Foxes kill chickens and carry them off to their dens. They will eat the chicken’s body and bury the remaining parts to eat later.
Signs of the presence of a fox on your property are pretty similar to those of a coyote. When some of your chickens miss from the flock, and you notice scattered feathers and blood, a fox is to blame for your chickens’ loss.
Foxes are pretty unpredictable because they hunt both at night and during the day. Foxes mainly target free-ranging chickens. The other reason foxes are some of the chickens’ deadliest predators is that they are pretty sly. You might not see even the slightest form of evidence that a fox has been attacking your birds.
4. Minks and Weasels
Minks and weasels are notorious chicken killers who kill birds for fun. They kill by wrapping a chicken and then cutting off its neck. They can wipe out a whole chicken flock in a single night. If they fail in wiping out your flock once, they will surely return to accomplish their mission later.
You can notice the presence of these creatures in your chicken coop. If they attack your birds, you will see dead chickens all over the coop. They usually target the chicken heads and their entrails. They are brilliant and agile.
You will never get them even when using a live trap. Minks and weasels can easily fit through extremely tiny spaces in a chicken coop and kill adult chickens and baby chicks.
Raccoons are avid chicken predators. They can hunt chickens single handedly or as a team. These wily creatures will scare your birds, forcing them to congregate on one side of your coop. They will then start scooping up the chickens.
Raccoons also pull out staples, unlatch doors, and open windows to get to the chickens. They can either kill and consume the chickens inside their coop or run away with the chickens to eat them later.
Signs of a raccoon attack include partially-consumed dead chicken bodies and punctured marks on the heads of the dead chickens.
6. Stray Dogs
Stray dogs and neighborhood dogs are also among the most dangerous predators that prey on chickens. They are also pretty tough to deal with. They usually attack free-ranging flocks, although they can steal chickens from the coop.
A single stray dog can kill several chickens within the shortest time possible. A stray dog attack signs include dead chicken bodies, partially eaten chicken bodies, blood, and feathers. Stray dogs also target adult chickens and baby chicks.
Possums are excellent scavengers and excellent climbers. These animals don’t like working hard to get food, and therefore, they tend to go for chickens and their eggs. You can tell when these scavengers are preying on your birds.
For instance, you will notice eggshells, blood, feathers, and partially eaten chickens. Although they usually target free-ranging flocks, they are also notorious for stealing chickens from their coops.
Possums usually attack young chickens, but they rarely attack adult chickens, primarily adult roosters.
8. Wild Cats
Wild cats like bobcats, mountain lions, and cougars rarely attack chickens. Chicken keepers barely worry about these predators. However, they are common in places where feral cats are plentiful, especially in the countryside.
Wild cats kill and carry off the dead chickens. They cover the dead bodies with leaves, sticks, and dirt. Signs of a feral cat attacking your chickens include scratch marks, specifically around where they have been killing your chickens.
If you notice feathers and blood near the coop, it is an indication a wild cat has been attacking your birds.
Skunks will rarely target adult chickens like other larger predators, although they can still attack adult birds. They usually target baby chicks and chicken eggs. Skunks will undoubtedly kill your birds by cutting their necks with their sharp teeth when desperate enough.
Skunks hide underneath sheds, chicken coops, and barns. If you see some dead chicken bodies with missing heads and partially eaten parts, either in the coop or in your backyard, a skunk has been around your birds.
Skunks will concentrate more on killing baby chicks than killing adult chickens, although they can also target younger hens in the flock.
Bears are some of the largest chicken predators chicken keepers are likely to encounter. However, cases of bears attacking chickens are pretty rare. If you live in any part of the nation where bears are prevalent, your chickens will likely become an easy target for these giant carnivores.
Bears are pretty strong and will open your chicken coop, kill many chickens, and start eating their best parts. Signs of a bear attack on your chickens include scattered feathers all over the coop, blood, and partially eaten chicken bodies.
How to Protect Your Flock from Predators?
Chickens have many predators that can frustrate your chicken-keeping efforts. Fortunately, you can successfully protect your birds from potential predators that pose a threat to your birds.
Below is what you should do to protect your chickens from predators.
- Prepare your coop– Check the chicken coop for holes exceeding a half-inch since predators use such holes as entry points to the coop and later kill your birds. Cover any holes with a hardware cloth. Please don’t rely on the chicken wire since it isn’t sturdy enough to keep predators away from your flock. Smaller predators such as minks can squeeze themselves through the wire. Mountain lions, bobby cats, and other larger predators can burst through old and faulty chicken wires. Your coop should also have robust hardware on the coop. Intelligent predators such as raccoons can easily open flimsy latches. If you have a chicken run, put a roof or poultry netting on the top to protect your chickens from predatory birds.
- Have a video monitor in your home– Some predators, especially foxes, wild dogs, and wild cats, are challenging to detect. Establishing how such predators get to your chickens can be tricky. Even worse, these predators can keep coming back, killing up to the last chicken in your flock. Having a video monitor in your home will be instrumental in helping you understand how these predators are getting to your birds. Eventually, you will establish what to do to seal any loopholes the predators take advantage of to kill your flock.
- Get a livestock guardian dog– A well-trained livestock guardian dog can help scare away predators. Predators are afraid of trained dogs, and they will run away from your home if they detect the presence of a dog. Even if you necessarily don’t have to own a guardian dog, any dog will help scare away predators from your home. Besides keeping potential predators away, a dog will alert you when your chickens are under predator attack, especially at night.
- Limit free-ranging time– No doubt that predators attack chickens when they are outdoors. If you have been getting problems with predators each time you allow your chickens to free-range, it will help to limit free-ranging time. You can also monitor your birds while they free-range.
- Having a fence around your home-A good fence can be the best defense against predators such as dogs and foxes. A tall fence will ensure predators can’t get under the fence or climb over the fence. Repair your fence if it has holes because predators will get to the chicken coop through these holes.
- Remove junk from your property– Some tiny predators like skunks can hide beneath old items such as couches. Please get rid of any junk that gives predators a hideout they can use to conceal their presence but later kill your birds at night or when you aren’t close to your property.
- Collect eggs– Some predators can break into the coop to steal eggs from your hens. Ensure you collect eggs regularly throughout the day to deter such predators, especially snakes and rats.
- Have some safety shelters in your yard– Birds of prey can be very aggressive, and they will continue attacking your chickens whatever effort you make to scare them away. Have some safety shelters for your chickens to run into when they are under attack by birds of prey.
- Have roosters– Roosters can be noisy birds in any neighborhood within city and town limits. But these big boys are excellent at protecting their flocks from predators. Roosters are constantly on the lookout for predators, and thus, having them in your flock will help deter roaming predators from attacking your birds.
- Inspects your property- Keep inspecting your property and check whether there are any entries predators can use to kill your chickens. Fix all issues that could expose your chickens to predators. Being vigilant can help foil unexpected predator attacks.
Apart from chicken diseases, predators are the second most notorious chicken killers. They attack when chicken keepers least expect them to attack. Even worse, predators can wipe out a large flock within hours.
Chickens have so many predators that it’s difficult to tell which predator will attack your birds. Fortunately, you can protect your birds from potential predators if you introduce changes such as fencing your home, keeping a dog, and making your coop predator-proof.