Common Chicken Predators in the U.S.

Updated on May 30, 2017
Widespread, clever, and tenacious, foxes are the stereotypical chicken killer, but there are many other species that may threaten your flock.
Widespread, clever, and tenacious, foxes are the stereotypical chicken killer, but there are many other species that may threaten your flock. | Source

Chickens are Delicious

Chickens are delicious, and we aren't the only creatures to think so. Virtually any animal that eats meat will happily eat a chicken, and it can be challenging to protect your birds against every potential threat that exists in your area. This list will help you get an idea of what threatens your flock and how to guard against predation, but it is always good to discuss the subject of predators with other chicken owners in your area before you get started. Not all species are equally tenacious in all areas.

Before We Begin

It is important to note before we begin that there is no such thing as a 100% predator-proof coop. Many will argue this point, but the fact remains that a truly tenacious predator will find a way to access your coop, particularly if given the luxury of time or when aided by inclement weather. This article will touch not only on coop security, but also deterrents, additional security measures, and--when applicable--methods for removal of predator species. By combining these efforts, you can minimize the risk of predation on your flock.

Opossums are often blamed for the misdeeds of other species, but in most cases are lethargic predators at worst.
Opossums are often blamed for the misdeeds of other species, but in most cases are lethargic predators at worst. | Source
General range of the Virginia Opossum
General range of the Virginia Opossum | Source

#1: Opossums

AKA: "Possum", "Virginia Possum"
Scientific name: Didelphis virginiana
Region: Midwest and South to East Coast, as well as the West Coast
Preferred method of entry: Climbing

We will start with the much-maligned opossum (referred to interchangeably as "possum"). The only marsupial species native to North America, opossums are not rodents, and contrary to popular belief, are unlikely to carry rabies. They are primarily scavengers, and their ferocious appearance is generally all talk and no action. They are unlikely to enter a secure coop, as they are not strong diggers nor are they as clever as other predators like raccoons or foxes. They are, however, skillful climbers, and will easily enter a coop or run that is not properly covered.

As a general rule, opossums prefer not to have to fight for their meal, and will target eggs, chicks, or chickens foolish enough to roost within easy reach. Chickens who roost on or near the ground, in sheds, or who are brooding on nests are prime targets. Opossums prefer to start with the soft underbelly, and chickens who are alive but stripped of feathers on their belly or rear-end can be a sign of an attempted opossum meal. Additionally, bodies of deceased chickens in which the abdominal cavity has been consumed are likely the work of opossums.

Opossums are typically easy to guard against, and widely regarded to be of least concern as far as predators go. However, in some regions of the country where they are overpopulated, and particularly on the West Coast where they are not native, opossums are known to be more aggressive and tenacious. Typically, if they do kill adult birds, they will kill only one at a time, though they can easily clean out a broody hen's nest of eggs or chicks in a single night.

How to defend the coop: Since opossums are climbers, a tall fence is not enough to keep them out. Your coop and run will need a cover on it that is secured at every point around the perimeter. Any small gap will be enough for a curious opossum to squeeze through, and one should never assume that a gap is high enough that the opossum can't reach it.

Deterrents and other tools: As mentioned above, opossums are typically lazy, and will opt for the easiest meal available to them. You can discourage them from taking an interest in your coop by offering food elsewhere on the property, if you so choose. There is no need to be elaborate--old eggs, kitchen waste, or pet food will appeal to them as much as anything.

If your intention is to keep opossums out of your yard entirely, you may find that to be a challenge, because they are opportunists and difficult to discourage completely. However, you can use "predator pee" products to make the area around the coop off-putting, or enlist the services of a livestock guardian dog if you have the option available to you.

Removal: If you have a problem opossum that you need to remove from the property, you will need to consult your local and state laws on how to handle it. Many states prohibit relocating an opossum, while some prohibit the killing of an opossum without a hunting permit. If you do need to capture a nuisance opossum, you can opt for a live trap, or even simply catch it by hand--just be sure to wear thick leather gloves on the off-chance it tries to bite. Once captured, you may consult your local Department of Wildlife on what to do next.

It is important to emphasize that you shouldn't attempt to eradicate opossums entirely from your property, as this will be an exercise in futility that will leave you frustrated and exhausted. Due to their prolific nature, there will always be opossums in the region, and removing one from your property will just allow a new one to move in from the surrounding area. Opossums should only be removed if they are nuisance animals, such as when they are overpopulated or dependent on domestic sources for food. Removing an opossum that was ignoring your chickens may result in a new opossum moving in who thinks your coop is a buffet. When possible, coexist with this species, and only cull or relocate when absolutely necessary.

Red foxes are tenacious and opportunistic predators that can do tremendous damage.
Red foxes are tenacious and opportunistic predators that can do tremendous damage. | Source
Red foxes are widespread, and are often more common in urban areas than rural.
Red foxes are widespread, and are often more common in urban areas than rural. | Source

#2: Red Fox

AKA: Fox
Scientific name: Vulpes vulpes
Region: Widespread globally--uncommon in Rocky Mountains and Southwest
Preferred method of entry: Climbing, jumping, digging

Red foxes are a widespread species common in most of the continental USA, and are infamous for their love of chicken. Unlike other predators like hawks or opossums who will kill one bird at a time, foxes will kill as many chickens as they can catch, and stash the remains for later meals. Because of this, they can easily clean out an entire coop in just one night, making a single lapse in security absolutely devastating.

Foxes are extremely clever, resourceful, and strong. They can chew through chicken wire, dig under fences, climb over walls, and squeeze through small gaps. They seem to instinctively know when bad weather or human error has left the flock vulnerable, and because they are so adaptable, they won't always be deterred by proximity to human dwellings. They are far more common in town and in urban settings than they are in rural areas, due to the absence of their own natural predators, but foxes can attack in the country as well, so it is important to defend against them.

Foxes kill multiple birds and stash them, and will often pick off birds without leaving evidence behind. If you smell an odor similar to skunk but not as strong, that is a good indicator foxes have been around. Buried birds, piles of feathers, or bodies with only the heads eaten off are signs of a fox attack as well.

How to defend the coop: Foxes require strong defense from every angle. Bury fencing at least 6" or put down a wire "apron" around the perimeter of your coop to prevent digging. Only use welded wire or hardware cloth fencing--never chicken wire, as foxes can chew through it. Foxes can jump and climb over fences exceeding 6' high, so your run should have a secure top on it, even if it is only bird netting. Special care should be taken to ensure all doors and gates are properly latched at night, as well as regular inspections made to check for signs of attempted entry such as claw or tooth marks or digging.

Never assume that a gap is too small for a fox to enter. If their head will fit, their whole body will.

Deterrents and other tools: Coyote pee, "predator eye" devices, and livestock guardian dogs are all recommended methods to discourage foxes from the property. Keeping foxes off your land in the first place is your best bet for avoiding casualties.

Removal: As always, check with your local and state laws before deciding to trap or relocate foxes. Foxes can carry rabies and disrupt local ecosystems, so relocating them is often prohibited by law. In addition, it can be extremely difficult to trap foxes, as they are very intelligent and learn quickly to avoid entering live traps. Foothold traps are more effective against foxes, but require experienced use to avoid collateral damage while ensuring success.

If traps are not working, you cannot shoot the foxes, and you cannot afford further casualties to them, you may decide to use poison. This is generally not advisable, since even if your intended target finds and consumes the poison, it can still claim unintended victims when scavengers make the mistake of consuming the carcass. If you must poison the foxes on your property, use marshmallows stuffed with baker's chocolate. Like all canid species, foxes are unable to properly metabolize theobromine, so chocolate is toxic to them. Baker's chocolate is especially potent due to its purity, and one bar will be enough to deal with two or three foxes. Because the chocolate breaks down quickly, it will pose little to no threat to other wildlife, although it is extremely important to ensure neighborhood pets do not have access to the bait as it will sicken or kill them as well.

Hawks, eagles, and owls may prey on chickens, but some species are more avid chicken hunters than others.
Hawks, eagles, and owls may prey on chickens, but some species are more avid chicken hunters than others.

#3: Birds of Prey

Region: Widespread
Preferred method of entry: Aerial attacks

Rather than attempting to individually address every unique species of raptor that might prey on your chickens, we will discuss the category of hawks, eagles, and owls collectively since they all hunt in relatively similar fashions and are defended against in the same ways. Birds of prey come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, and their collective range covers almost the entire United States, even extending into urban environments. The most common species to predate chickens would be varieties like Cooper's hawk and the sharp-shinned hawk, as these are species that prefer to hunt birds, but even species like eagles and red-tailed hawks will hunt chickens if they are hungry enough and there is sufficient opportunity. Owls will hunt chickens as well, but because they hunt exclusively at night, there is little risk of them killing birds in a secured coop and run.

Birds of prey tend to strike while birds are free-ranging, though they have been known to exploit gaps in coops and runs that allow them to enter from above, cornering their prey in the coop where the chickens have nowhere else to run. They generally only kill one bird at a time. Unlike predators who roam on the ground, birds of prey cannot gorge themselves or they'd be too heavy to fly, nor do they have stashes like foxes where they save food for later.

When they consume their prey, raptors will often pick the ribcage bones clean in a distinctive manner. They will not leave tooth marks on the bones like other predators will, allowing you to rule out land predators if you find the remains. Smaller birds like chicks and bantams may be carried away completely, leaving no sign of the attack, while larger birds have to be eaten on-site since they are too heavy to carry, leaving a gory scene behind. Given the option, hawks prefer to carry their food away to a safer spot to eat, so if birds of prey are your culprit, your smallest birds will likely be the first casualties.

How to defend the coop: Coops and runs should be completely covered with bird netting. No gaps should exist anywhere in the coverage, lest birds of prey exploit the opening to enter.

Deterrents and other tools: Reflective tape, spinners, fans, and other shiny objects can disorient and confuse some birds of prey enough to discourage them from hunting in your yard, while some chicken owners swear by stringing fishing line from tree to tree across the yard in an erratic pattern, denying raptors easy access. Scarecrows may be effective, but it is ironically attracting crows themselves that may prove to be the best defense against hawks, as they are fiercely territorial against the large birds of prey.

Removal: All birds of prey are federally protected in the United States, so any efforts to remove the birds or kill them is a violation of federal law. Even harassing raptors that are roosting on your property is illegal in some states, so check with your local laws before attempting to drive off hawks or eagles with fireworks or noisemakers. If you accidentally catch a hawk or other bird of prey in a live trap (as sometimes happens), contact your local authorities to find out how to address the problem.

Striped skunks are common in the USA, but rarely predate on adult chickens.
Striped skunks are common in the USA, but rarely predate on adult chickens. | Source
Range of the striped skunk
Range of the striped skunk | Source

#4: Skunks

AKA: Polecat
Scientific name: Mephitis mephitis (striped)
Region: Widespread in the USA
Preferred method of entry: Digging, squeezing

There are multiple species of skunk in the US, including several that are referred to as "spotted skunks", but they all hunt in the same manner and pose similar risks.

Skunks are not avid chicken hunters as a rule. They are primarily scavengers, but they are happy to raid nests, and have been known to pluck eggs or chicks right out from under a broody hen. Attacks on adult birds by skunks are rare, but possible. Usually though, the sign that a skunk has infiltrated your coop will be broken and emptied eggshells, possibly with a whiff of their signature aroma left in their wake.

How to defend the coop: Skunks are diggers and wrigglers. Putting down a wire apron or burying your fence as you would with other digging animals will prevent them from tunneling in. Make sure there are no gaps in your fence either, as they can fit through extremely small spaces (if their head will fit, their body will fit.)

Deterrents and other tools: Some forms of predator pee will deter skunks, but a secure coop will usually be all you need to keep them out of your henhouse. Another possible method you could utilize is to leave piles of scraps or food on the far end of your property, attracting skunks and other scavengers away from your coops.

Removal: Remember: in many states it is illegal to relocate animals you trap due to the threat of spreading disease or destabilizing the local ecosystem. Check your local laws before attempting to trap and relocate a nuisance skunk.

Live traps should be baited with the skunk's favorite food. If it has been eating eggs, stock it with eggs. If it has been eating chicks, try leaving a raw piece of meat like a chicken leg in the trap. If and when you trap the skunk, take a tarp or sheet--one you don't mind throwing away later--and hold it in front of you so that the skunk cannot see your legs as you walk toward it. Since skunks have limited spray they can use, they will be reluctant to shoot at a target they cannot properly see. When you reach the trap, lay the sheet over the trap, covering all sides so the skunk cannot see out of it. Then, you will be able to relocate the skunk if that is your plan.

One important note: no matter what you do, the skunk will probably spray in the live trap, so be braced for the odor. Also, wear a hat, and if you have long hair, tie it up and tuck it under the hat so that it is not exposed. Although the skunk will not be able to directly spray you if you follow the steps above, that odor will settle on your hair and stick to it for days if you don't protect it.

If you do get sprayed, or simply have the odor clinging to you, you will need to break up the oils to get it off. Dawn dish soap is the method most recommended by this author, who has been in that predicament before, but it will still take several washings to remove the odor entirely.

Although they may eat eggs or chicks, and may threaten adult chickens, overall most snake are beneficial and should be left in peace if possible.
Although they may eat eggs or chicks, and may threaten adult chickens, overall most snake are beneficial and should be left in peace if possible. | Source

#5: Snakes

Region: Widespread in the USA
Preferred method of entry: Squeezing through small spaces

As with birds of prey, there are far too many snake species to address them individually, so we will discuss them all here. For starters, we must emphasize that the vast majority of the time, snakes are beneficial and not a threat to your chickens. Most species are too small to pose a threat to either chickens or eggs, and others are crucial in the efforts to maintain local mice and rat populations. Without snakes, your property (as well as your neighbors') will be thoroughly overrun with vermin, which is a health hazard not only to us, but to our chickens as well.

Generally speaking, the variety that vexes chicken owners the most are the various species of rat snake. Some rat snakes will get a taste for eggs, and inexplicably, a hungry snake will sometimes kill a chicken in an apparent attempt to eat it. Of course, even the largest rat snake is far too small to eat a grown hen, so it is a waste, but fortunately such events are extremely rare. It is far more likely that the snake will eat your eggs, leaving no trace of their disappearance, though it may also eat small chicks if it has the opportunity.

Rat snakes--as their name suggests--are far more likely to eat rodents than birds, but if they do take to predating on your chicks or eggs, you will find no remains with which to identify the culprit as they swallow their prey whole. A full-grown rat snake can swallow several eggs or chicks at a go, so if you suddenly find that four or five chicks have gone missing without a trace and no sign of struggle, a snake is your likely culprit.

Most snake species in the US are too small to pose a threat to chickens, and are more likely to be eaten by the chickens themselves than the other way around.

How to defend the coop: It is very difficult to predator-proof against snakes, as they are able to fit through the smallest of holes. Using hardware cloth and leaving no gaps larger than half an inch in your construction is the only way to prevent entry by snakes.

Deterrents and other tools: Contrary to popular belief, moth balls will not deter snakes, and make pose a health risk to your chickens. You may decide to invest in guineas, for although they are noisy, they will mob and attack snakes, protecting your chickens. You might also be able to teach the chickens themselves that snakes are food. Chickens who learn to eat small snakes can gradually graduate to larger species over time, which may be a problem if you actually want snakes in your yard to control vermin.

Removal: Snake traps can be built or purchased, and are generally effective. If you catch the snake in the act and know that it isn't venomous, you can catch it with your own two hands and put it in a pillowcase, tying off the open end so that it can't escape. Because snakes are so vital to the ecosystem and face such unfair odds against humans, it is highly recommended that you release the snake somewhere where it is likely to find food and shelter--preferably a distance from anyone else who owns chickens so that it will go back to hunting its natural prey.

Mice and rats can eat eggs, spread disease, and injure chickens by gnawing on them.
Mice and rats can eat eggs, spread disease, and injure chickens by gnawing on them. | Source

#6: Mice and Rats

Region: Widespread
Preferred method of entry: Squeezing through small gaps, tunneling, climbing

It may seem odd to include mice and rats on this list, but they are a genuine threat to your birds. Not only are they unrepentant egg eaters, they carry deadly diseases in their droppings, and rats may chew on sleeping chickens, causing them life-threatening injury. Often drawn by spilled feed, it can be very difficult to keep them out of your coop and run completely, and even knowing that they are there may be a challenge unless you recognize the subtle signs of their presence.

Rodent droppings, tunnels in the bedding, cracked and empty egg shells, or even mysteriously sick and dying chicks may be the only evidence you get of an infestation. If you actually see a rodent while tending the coop, then the infestation is likely already severe.

How to defend the coop: Rodents can chew through wood and tunnel through dirt. They can scale high walls to enter narrow gaps. It will be rather impossible to proof your coop against them completely.

Deterrents and other tools: Using a rodent-proof feeder, or not leaving feed in the coop overnight will go a long way to deter rodents. Enlisting the services of a barn cat or a breed of chicken known for mousing may help, but cats vary on their skills or interest in hunting, and chickens can only catch mice that come out in the day time.

Removal: Most conventional traps and poisons are ill-advised, due to the risk of collateral damage to the flock or other domestic animals. Chickens can be injured in snap traps, entangled in glue traps, or killed when they eat poisoned vermin that wandered into their reach. If you need to remove rodents from your coop, use live traps or construct a bucket trap to kill them without threatening your birds or other animals.

A least weasel, one of many weasel species you may encounter in North America.
A least weasel, one of many weasel species you may encounter in North America. | Source
Territory of the Least Weasel, one of many species that might hunt your flock.
Territory of the Least Weasel, one of many species that might hunt your flock. | Source

#7: Weasels and Minks

Region: Widespread
Preferred method of entry: Squeezing, digging, climbing

Weasels and minks encompass a sizeable family of species, including the mighty wolverine, but some species are more likely to pursue chickens than others. It's important to research weasel species that are common in your area, as some may not present a significant threat to your flock. If weasels are a threat, you need to address it before it becomes a problem. One weasel can wipe out a small flock in a single night, and to add insult to injury, they may only bite the necks to drink the chicken's blood, leaving everything else to waste.

How to defend the coop: Weasels are very small, wriggly critters, so there mustn't be any gaps that they could fit their heads through. This can prove exceptionally challenging, so you may need to enlist the assistance of a professional carpenter if you can't manage it yourself. Weasel can also dig, so make sure to utilize buried wire, a wire apron, or pile rocks and gravel around the outside of your run to discourage digging. If possible, put a floor in your coop, elevated off the ground to prevent tunneling creatures (weasels included) from burrowing in.

Deterrents and other tools: Weasels are by and large a part of a healthy ecosystem, and given an abundance of natural prey, are unlikely to target your chickens. They are also prey themselves, for animals like owls and hawks (likewise chicken predators), so attempting to eradicate them from your property will likely do more harm than good.

Removal: Check with local laws before attempting to trap or kill weasels, as some species are endangered, and some states regard them as fur-bearing animals with a specific hunting season. Once you have clarified what your options are, you can research the specific methods of removal available to you.

Not all or even most dogs will be obsessive chicken killers, but any breed can produce a chicken killing dog, as was the case with this corgi.
Not all or even most dogs will be obsessive chicken killers, but any breed can produce a chicken killing dog, as was the case with this corgi. | Source

#8: Domestic Dogs

Region: Widespread
Preferred method of entry: Digging, jumping, force

One of the most common chicken predators is actually the domestic dog. Most dogs are able to coexist with chickens just fine, especially with some training from their owners, but stray dogs or neglected pets running at large may be another story. Dogs are devastating predators, because once they have access to the flock, they will kill every chicken they can catch for the sport of it. If you find multiple piles of feathers and dead birds that have been killed and left where they lie, dogs are the likely culprits.

How to defend the coop: First and foremost: Never, never use chicken wire on your chicken coop and run. Even small predators can chew through it, and a tenacious dog will tear through it like it's not even there. Use welded wire and/or hardware cloth, perhaps even reinforcing your perimeter fence with cattle panel or chain link as well. Dogs can dig into coops, so bury your wire or use an apron to prevent digging, and make sure fences are high enough that dogs can't jump or climb over them.

Deterrents and other tools: It can be challenging to discourage stray dogs from your yard. Having dogs of your own might help, especially if they are a large breed or a livestock guardian dog, as they will establish the yard as their territory and tell off any trespassers. Also, positioning your coop so that it isn't visible from the road or from far away could avoid a passing dog from taking notice in it. Electric fencing is also an option, and will deter most predators.

Removal: If you catch a dog in the act of attacking your chickens, you are within your legal rights to take any measures necessary to stop it, including killing the dog if need be. That being said, keep in mind that the dog is likely someone's pet. If the dog is not presenting an immediate threat, try to chase it off or capture it rather than immediately escalating to lethal force. This can avoid hostile interactions with neighbors and other members of the community, as well as avoiding a situation where an otherwise benevolent dog was needlessly harmed.

Of course, if the dog is a repeat offender and the owners have been located and confronted with no change in the circumstances, you are in the position to use your own best judgement on how to handle the situation. Your animals on your own property always take precedence over someone else's animal on your property.

Bobcats are a large feline species native the USA, and occasional chicken predator
Bobcats are a large feline species native the USA, and occasional chicken predator | Source
Common range of the bobcat.
Common range of the bobcat. | Source

#9: Bobcats

AKA: Wildcat
Scientific name: Lynx rufus)
Region: Widespread in the USA, excluding parts of the midwest and east.
Preferred method of entry: Climbing, tearing

Bobcats are widespread in the United States, but because of their inherent fear of people, they usually avoid habitated areas and homes. As such, they are uncommon chicken predators, but will resort to hunting our flocks if food becomes scarce or they have young to feed.

Bobcats will hunt at any time of day, but their prefered hunting times are dawn and dusk. If they leave any remains for you to find, they will likely have distinctive claw marks, leaving little doubt as to the culprit.

How to defend the coop: Bobcats are far more likely to pick off free ranging chickens, but a hungry enough cat will enter a coop for a meal. Make sure there are no gaps that the cat could enter through, including vents or eaves on the roof. Bobcats can jump and climb, so never assume a gap is too high to be a problem. As mentioned several times before, never use chicken wire on your coop and run. A bobcat will find chickenwire to be no obstacle, and will tear through it easily. Make sure the run is covered, and that there are no gaps in it.

Deterrents and other tools: Night eyes, predator pee, hotwire, and/or a livestock guardian dog are all very effective at deterring bobcats.

Removal: Check your local and state laws before attempting to trap, kill, or relocate a bobcat. Most regions have very strict laws on how this species can be handled.

Various species of bear live in the United States, and can threaten chicken coops and other fowl.
Various species of bear live in the United States, and can threaten chicken coops and other fowl. | Source
Map showing the distribution of various bear species in North America
Map showing the distribution of various bear species in North America | Source

#10: Bears

Region: Widespread in mountainous and forested areas
Preferred method of entry: Brute force, digging, tearing

Bears are a unique challenge if you live in an area that has them. Their impressive strength renders most prefabricated coops utterly useless, as they can tear through wood and wire with ease. Once in, they will eat your chicken feed, eggs, and any chickens they can catch. In all likelihood, if a bear has visited your coop, you will know right away from the damage it does.

How to defend the coop: If you live in a bear-prone area, build your coop and run as solidly as you would your own house. Do not skimp on materials, and make sure to enlist the services of a professional carpenter if you need to. Also, reinforcing run wire with cattle panels on all sides is the best option for a secure environment for your flock.

Deterrents and other tools: Electric fencing, livestock guardian dogs, and removing temptation from the property (trash and other food sources) will help discourage bears from ever taking an interest in your yard. You can also make an "unwelcome mat". Take a sheet of plywood and use 3" nails or screws to create a spiked surface. Lay these "unwelcome mats" all around your coop so that marauding bears will have to walk over them to access your birds. Odds are, they will find the potential meal to be not worth the pain, and move on to easier prey.

Removal: You will likely need to enlist the services of professionals to remove the bear from your property. Aside from being dangerous, bears are often protected by laws that dictate when they can or can't be hunted or trapped. Consult your region's laws before attempting to handle the issue yourself.

Coyotes usually avoid human confrontation, but can be difficult predators to address.
Coyotes usually avoid human confrontation, but can be difficult predators to address. | Source
Range of the gray wolf
Range of the gray wolf | Source
Range of the coyote
Range of the coyote | Source

#11: Coyotes & Wolves

Scientific name: Canis lupus (wolf), Canis latrans (coyote)
Region: Wolves: Widespread in Alaska. Only common regionally in the continental USA (see map) Coyotes: Ubiquitous throughout the continental US and Alaska.
Preferred method of entry: Digging, climbing/jumping

Coyotes and wolves usually have a healthy fear of human beings, but if prey is scarce, they are overpopulated, or inexperienced young are hungry enough, they may venture into your yard for a meal. In some areas, coyotes especially are more tenacious than others, and will more actively hunt domesticated prey, even coming into towns and suburbs to hunt.

Unlike domestic dogs, if wolves or coyotes prey on your flock, they are unlikely to be wasteful. They will try to eat what they catch, which means it is unlikely you will find remains of your birds unless the animals are interrupted while feeding. Tooth marks on dismembered remains will be the most likely indicator of your culprit.

How to defend the coop: Like domestic dogs, coyotes and wolves are equipped with strong jaws and powerful paws for digging, so using good wire fencing (not chickenwire) is a must. Bury wire or put down an apron to prevent digging in, and make sure your run is covered so that spry animals can't simply jump over your perimeter fence. Coyotes have been reported jumping fences as high as 6 feet tall, so a top is crucial for a safe flock.
Deterrents and other tools: Predator pee may be effective against coyotes, but it is dubious whether or not it will deter wolves. Livestock guardian dogs and electric fencing, as well as solar-powered night eyes will help dissuade wild canines from exploring your yard for a meal.
Removal: Consult your regional laws on the subject before attempting to trap or kill coyotes or wolves. In some areas, they are protected, or can only be killed in-season. Because of their intelligence, these animals are challenging to trap, and you may need to enlist the services of a professional.

Raccoons are clever predators that may prove difficult to keep out of your coop and run.
Raccoons are clever predators that may prove difficult to keep out of your coop and run. | Source

#12: Raccoons

AKA: Trash Panda, coon
Scientific name: Procyon lotor
Region: Widespread in the United States
Preferred method of entry: Climbing, squeezing, opening latches, or reaching through gaps.

Raccoons are perhaps the most vexing of chicken predators, because unlike other animals that exploit existing gaps or weak points to enter your coop, raccoons will actually manipulate latches to open doors, windows, or nesting boxes. They may also reach through fencing to grab birds, allowing them to kill and eat your chickens without setting foot in the coop or run. They also seem to exploit bad weather to access birds, attacking during storms that may drop tree limbs on your coop and run, or blow open doors for them.

Raccoons will often kill more than they need and only eat the neck and chest area of the birds. Birds that have been consumed in this fashion or maimed through the fence are likely victims of raccoon attacks.

How to defend the coop: Never use chickenwire on your coop or run. Raccoons and most other predators can tear this apart. Use a small-gage hardware cloth or welded wire to prevent raccoons reaching through it to grab birds. Do not use simple hook-and-eye latches to close your coops and runs--raccoons can open these with their dexterous paws. All latches should require manipulation by a human hand to open if keeping raccoons out is your goal. Runs should be securely covered, and there should be no gaps anywhere on the coop or run--no matter how high. Raccoons are skillful climbers, and can enter even the highest opening. (which is how they end up in so many peoples' attics.)

Deterrents and other tools: Predator pee, livestock guardian dogs, and electric fence are good deterrents to raccoons. Also, removing temptation by keeping trash and pet food out of their reach will help discourage them from sniffing around your yard in the first place.

Removal: Raccoons are usually fairly easy to trap, and there are traps designed specifically for them that will eliminate the risk of unintended prisoners or victims. Consult with your regional laws before trapping and relocating a raccoon, as in many states it is illegal to do so. Raccoons can carry rabies and other diseases, and will not hesitate to bite, so if in doubt, enlist the services of a trained professional.


In Summary

Regardless of where you live and what predators are common in your area, there are a few things you can do to minimize the threat of predation to your flock.

• Never use chicken wire to secure your birds. At minimum, use hardware cloth or welded wire, perhaps reinforced with cattle or hot panels.

• Always cover your coop and run with--at minimum--sturdy bird netting to prevent entry from flying or climbing predators.

• Bury fencing at least 6 inches or lay a wire "apron" around the perimeter of your run to discourage digging or tunneling into your enclosure.

• Incorporate electric fencing, livestock guardian dogs, solar-powered night eyes, predator pee, and other deterrents to prevent predator species from even taking an interest in your yard.

• Do not leave pet food or trash unsecured where it may attract wildlife to your yard.

• Limit free-ranging time, and supervise when possible. There is no way to 100% protect against predators while chickens are free-ranging, so they will always be safer in the coop and run.

• Check your coop and run daily for signs of damage, wear, or attempted entry by predators. Even a secure coop can be infiltrated if a predator has enough time to wear down your defenses.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


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