Predators are not the first thing you think of when you decide to raise chickens.
But if you ever go out and find feathers strewn around and hens missing, or worse, see them laying half eaten. . . It will be a sad day on the homestead.
That’s why you should be aware of all the creatures that will kill and eat chickens, so you can be on the lookout and ensure that your coop is predator-proof.
Note: I live in Kentucky, so we may have different chicken predators than you have in other regions, but I have tried to cover all the common predators in the U.S. Some of these may not apply to you in your area.
Probably the most common chicken predator around, raccoons are very smart and will find all kinds of ways to get your precious chickens.
You need to ensure that your wire is strong/small enough to keep out raccoons, that the top of your run is completely covered by that same wire and that you bury about a foot of it in the ground to deter digging.
Also, make sure your chickens are roosting inside the coop. If your chickens roost on the ground in the run and a raccoon can reach his hand through the wire you could wake up to a very disturbing sight.
Raccoons are strong and if they can get a hold of a wing, leg or head they will pull it through the wire.
Note: Chicken wire is not effective in protecting your flock against most predators. Raccoons and other predators on this list will be able to tear through chicken wire. Hardware mesh or other small (1/2 inch or less) welded wire is
Some people are unaware that opossum or possums will eat chickens. They are generally scavengers but will strike where the opportunity arises.
Eggs and small chickens are at most risk, but they have been known to take down large-fowl as well. They will usually leave their pray where they killed it.
Possums are not as smart as raccoons and will not try to open latches, but they can climb and dig. They can also get in small spaces for their body size (size of a full grown cat) so as long as you ensure all openings are covered by good stout wire your flock should be safe.
For some reason, people are surprised when they learn that skunks will eat chickens, and that may be because they’re so stinking cute. But they are a very common predator and pose more of a threat here than opossums do.
Skunks are very good diggers. B
You’ll usually be able to smell if a skunk has been hanging around your coop.
Whether it be a stray or your own, dogs can be a threat to your new chickens.
If your chickens are confined, burying the wire or using stones like previously stated will help deter most digging.
Do not leave your dogs alone with your chickens. Even if they don’t chase cats or other animals they may try to eat your chickens or simply just get a little too rough trying to play. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
You may not think about house cats eating your chickens, but cats love to hunt. And small birds are always a favorite quarry.
If you live in a more urban area, stray and feral cats may be more of a problem. There are an estimated 70 million feral cats living in the U.S. according to National Geographic.
That’s a lot of tiny ferocious predators.
In all seriousness, free-ranging young chickens and bantams are most likely to be their goal out of your flock as they are not as likely to break into a run/coop.
Hawk & Owl
Yet another reason to have a covered coop. Hawks and owls are notorious for snatching adult chickens and flying off with them.
You’ll likely find a pile of feathers and nothing more.
Hawks are more likely to take a chicken during the day, while owls are more likely to strike at night.
Don’t be fooled into thinking snakes are only a threat to eggs and chicks. Snakes can kill full grown large-fowl chickens by wrapping around them and squeezing.
It was just a few weeks ago that I came upon a
It’s easy for snakes to burrow under coops and runs, so burying your wire mesh around the run and coop can be a big help. You also want to make sure there are no holes and gaps in and around the doors and walls of your coop where they could squeeze in.
Getting rid of rodents (which attract snakes!) can also help discourage snakes from hanging out around your flock.
Weasels, Mink & Martens
Technically they’re all weasels since they belong to the weasel family. Some are found in different regions, however.
Weasels are elusive and not often seen. They can easily squeeze through small openings and get into your coop. If you have any openings larger than a half-inch, you need to cover them with wire mesh or seal them up.
I’ve heard that anywhere a hotdog can go a weasel can go.
Weasels don’t eat the whole bird. They’ll eat pieces and leave the most of it laying. The carcass will be laying where it was killed as they do not carry them off.
Larger members of the weasel family cannot go through small
(I cringe thinking about this one.)
I hear of rats being more of a chicken predator in the cities, but they are abundant in rural areas as well and can easily pose a threat.
Rats are small so they will be more of a threat to baby chicks and bantams as well as eggs. They are another creature that does not eat all of the chicken. They will gnaw on it and leave the carcass laying for you to find later.
If you notice that your chickens have bite marks on their legs that could be a sign you have rats in the coop.
I’ve personally never had a problem with bobcats although I have seen them around and Hubby has sighted a few on Half Moon Ridge. They’re larger than house cats weighing 15-40 pounds. They’ll eat about anything from the size of a housecat on down.
Having a secure coop and run will ensure that your chickens are safe from bobcats.
How many times have you heard a saying about a fox in the henhouse? Probably many times.
Foxes are notorious chicken predators. They are sly and smart like raccoons but will strike without leaving much evidence behind. They can climb, dig and jump over many obstacles. Chicken wire is no match to their chewing power.
Despite all this (and seeing foxes around the farm) I’ve never had any problem with foxes taking my chickens. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, has had her entire flock of ducks wiped out from a wily fox.
Fastening your free rang chickens up at night in a secure coop will help keep them safe at night.
Coyotes pose more of a threat to free-rangers than cooped chickens. They have been known to snatch chickens out of a yard; even with people standing in close proximity.
They may strike any time of day and can be gone before you have time to react.
An electric fence may help keep larger predators at bay. A perimeter fence that will keep dogs in will also keep larger creatures out of your yard and property.
We do not have a wolf problem where we live, but I know other places (mainly the Northwest) do. They can be very dangerous to all kinds of livestock and, again, will probably pose more of a threat to free-range flocks.
Coyotes and Wolves will both try to single out the older and weaker birds in a flock. Wolves are not as likely to kill chickens because they usually avoid people. So if you keep your coop close to the house, you shouldn’t have much trouble with wolves.
Bears can wreak havoc among your feathered friends and there’s not much that can stop them. A sturdily constructed coop and run are essential.
The best thing to do is not attract them in the first place. Apparently, bears love the smell of chicken feed. If you live in a bear area ensure that your feed is closed up in a metal garbage can and is not accessible.
A few years ago my father-in-law had a problem with a mountain lion killing his calves. They can be extremely dangerous to you and your livestock.
Learning about common chicken predators is a great way to prepare yourself to care for your flock. Did you find any of these surprising? Let me know in the comments!