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Have you joined the trending chicken movement yet? If so, you might be interested in how to protect against chicken predators. After spending your time and your hard-earned money investing in your chickens, it can be heartbreaking to lose them. But how do you protect them from predators?
This is something that I recently have had to deal with. In the whole 3 years that I’ve had my chickens, we haven’t had many issues with predators. That has all of a sudden changed.
I free-range my chickens, but they have a coop and run. In the last 2 weeks, I have noticed that some of my chickens are missing. No feathers, no body, no evidence. Just gone.
The disappearances have seemed to be overnight, as we notice the next day that we are missing some. That’s when I realized we made a big mistake. I haven’t been good at locking up the coop at night, since I’ve never really had predator issues. So sad – this mistake cost my chickens their lives!
I want to help others avoid this costly mistake, so I am sharing what I have found about chicken predators.
Common chicken predators
Unfortunately, more than just humans like to eat chickens. There are aerial chicken predators, but it is more common to have a terrestrial predator attacking your chickens. Let’s talk about a few of the most common predators.
Daytime chicken predators
Attacks on chickens happen much less often during the day, but there are still dangers to be aware of.
Hawks are daytime predators. Again, there are a few hawks that can carry off a chicken. Others will just kill and eat it there. Cover your chicken run if you have hawks nearby!
Eagles will definitely find your chicken flock a tasty meal. They will easily carry off a chicken and not leave a trace, except maybe a few random feathers. Make sure that run is covered.
Foxes are a big issue in plains areas. Although typically nocturnal, they will sometimes hunt during the day. They will typically enter the chicken coop, and kill and eat the chickens right there. When they have eaten their fill, they will take the chicken to an area they can bury it for later. You will likely see lots of blood and feathers in the area of a fox attack. Check the ground for smaller dog-like prints.
Bobcats typically live in wooded areas, and hunt at dusk and at dawn. They go straight for the jugular and head, eat what they can, then try to bury what they can’t eat. You will notice claw marks in the dirt, with partially buried bodies if you have had a bobcat attack.
Raccoons are predators that tend to be very wasteful. While usually out at night, they can sometimes strike during the day. They can’t eat a whole chicken, and they don’t usually take them away, so you will likely find a dead chicken with no head or innards. Raccoons are also known to grab a chicken and try to pull it through the wire, which usually beheads the chicken.
We have lots of cats around, but they don’t bother my chickens. While cats are excellent hunters, it’s pretty rare that a cat will take on a chicken. They will kill any chicks that aren’t protected, but not often a full-grown chicken.
Yes, even your beloved Fido might even be responsible for killing your chickens. Dogs are statistically the biggest daytime killer of chickens. Keep a close eye on your dog when he is around chickens. And definitely pay attention to stray dogs that may wander near your coop. They will easily kill and carry off any chicken.
Nighttime chicken predators
Most chicken attacks happen at night, when there are more predators out hunting.
Owls are nocturnal, so they strike at night. There are several types of owl that are large enough to carry a full-grown chicken away. Smaller owls will typically kill the chicken and take off the head. If you have owls in your area, you should definitely consider covering your chicken run with netting or a solid top.
Weasels are nighttime predators and actually kill for sport. They can get through very small holes in the chicken coop, and will cause a complete massacre. Weasels often won’t even eat their kills. If they do eat the chicken, it will be just part of them, like the innards.
Opossums are nocturnal, but don’t often attack full-grown chickens. They will usually rob the nests, eating both eggs and chicks. If you have something eating your eggs at night, chances are, it may be an opossum.
Skunks, also nocturnal, don’t typically eat chickens either. They will definitely eat your eggs, and any chicks that aren’t secured. But it’s fairly rare for a skunk to eat a chicken.
Coyotes are a big chicken predator in plains areas. They are nocturnal and hunt at night. They will carry off any chicken, so check the ground for dog-like prints.
Wolves can be a problem if you live in a wooded, mountainous area. They are nocturnal, and usually hunt in packs. They can tear up an average chicken coop, and will create a complete massacre on your birds.
Bears are another predator common to mountainous areas. A bear will destroy even an above-average chicken coop, and will kill and eat your chickens right there. Partial bodies, feathers, intestines, and the like will be left in the coop, and you will find bear poop in the run as well.
Protecting against chicken predators
In order to save yourself some heartache, you really need to protect your chickens against predators. Here is how you do that.
Make the coop like “Fort Knox”
The most important step in protecting against chicken predators is to build a secure, predator-proof coop and run. The run should have netting or a solid top covering it, and the coop should have a door that can be closed and latched.
Many coops are raised off the ground to guard against predators digging into the coop. To protect against digging into the run, you should bury a section of wire or lattice under the ground, the whole perimeter of the run. For the chicken run walls, hardware cloth is a better option than chicken wire for creating a predator-proof run.
Reconsider free ranging
Free ranging, while wonderful for chickens, should be practiced with caution. We have found this out the hard way. If you do free range your chickens, make sure they are secured in the coop at night, with the door closed and latched. You will have to open the door for them when you get up, so they can go out into the run.
I wouldn’t suggest free ranging your chickens at any time if you live in an area with a lot of predators. That being said, if you choose to do so, do it when you can be out there with them, supervising. If you are with them, you can scare off any potential predators and keep them safe.
Get a chicken tractor
To get the benefits of free ranging without the fear of losing your chickens to predators, you may want to invest in chicken tractors. Chicken tractors are smaller coops and runs that ideally have at least 2 wheels on them. They can be moved to a new grassy area every day or two. This allows them to eat the grass and bugs in a new area whenever they are moved, but still provides protection against chicken predators.
If you haven’t started your chicken raising journey yet and need some guidance, check out our newest e-book, Chickens For Newbies.
Do you have additional tips to help protect your flock against chicken predators? Please share them in the comments so we can learn together!
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