There isn’t much worse than counting your flock at the end of the day and finding one less hen in the coop. (Except not knowing what happened to your chicken).
That’s why it’s important to dig deep and learn about the common chicken predators in your area. Knowing what you’re up against can help you protect your flock from the beginning.
To help you get acquainted with your nemeses, we’ve put together this list of common chicken predators so you can plan ahead and keep your favorite hens around for a long, long time.
While raccoons don’t always go directly for the whole chicken, they do love to eat their eggs.
A raccoon in the coop may introduce bacteria and disease into your flock (and your eggs). So if you see any of these cute little paw prints nearby, you know you’ve got a raccoon hanging around your coop.
While raccoons are most interested in eggs, in the dead of winter, when they’re extra hungry, they may kill a chicken for supper (and usually won’t even eat the entire bird).
These little tracks come from an opossum loitering around your chicken coop. An opossum would rarely kill a chicken for its meal, but it isn’t rare for them to feast on eggs (just like those little raccoon bandits).
You might be able to determine which predator is egg-eating by the location of the leftover shells. For example, raccoons can carry eggs a ways from the nest to feast, while opossums will typically nosh on them inside the coop.
Foxes are one of the more well-known critters that supplement their meals with chickens from the coop. They’re sneaky, can get into some of the most well-planned coops, and usually come back time and time again.
Fox footprints closely resemble a dog’s footprint. The main difference? A fox has a more narrow pawprint with thinner claw marks.
If your chickens go missing completely, with nothing but feathers strewn about, you can bet it was a fox or dog.
Unfortunately, our sweet pooches also enjoy a chicken dinner from time-to-time and if your dog hasn’t been trained to leave your chooks alone, you might have a problem on your hands.
You’ll know your dog is up to no good because you’ll probably see the massacre happen or the carcass of the dearly departed within your yard.
On the other hand, if the dog belongs to a neighbor, you may have to investigate the crime scene further and follow the clues to pinpoint the culprit.
Coyotes are vocal animals, and while their paw prints look similar to most dogs, they can often be heard in the dead of night, calling to one another.
If you have a coyote problem, you may need to consider a livestock guardian dog or at least upping your security around the chicken coop.
With that being said, you might be able to determine if your coop has a coyote problem if the tracks left behind are less prominent than a dog.
If you live in an area where large cats, like bobcats or cougars, hang out, you’ll be in for a real war. These cats are smart, quiet, and quick. It’s difficult to identify a large wild cat unless you catch it in the act.
If you think you’ve got a wild cat problem, consider putting up a trail came to see if your intuition is right.
On rare occasions, barn cats may attempt to kill a chicken. However, it’s not a common occurrence.
Once a barn cat gets pecked at by a chicken or two, they typically learn their lesson. On the other hand, young chicks and tiny bantams are more prone to domestic cat attacks than a full-grown standard chicken.
Hawks, owls, and eagles are also common predators of chickens. You’ll know your chook was attacked by an aerial predator if they appear crushed, carried away, or ripped apart.
You might see some tracks of these birds nearby, but in most cases, the attack is so stealth that there is little evidence of the attacker.
Skunks, like raccoons and opossums, are more interested in chicken eggs than the whole bird.
Skunks will enter your coop, feast on eggs, and leave the shells behind. And on rare occasions, they may attack and kill a chicken for their meal.
You’ll know a skunk is around if you smell them, but also by their 5-toed feet.
Weasels are sneaky little critters with the ability to slither into small spaces to get to your unsuspecting chickens. While they’re small, they can pack a nasty punch.
Weasels are known to kill chickens and eat very little of them. So if your chicken is dead, and looks like it never became someone’s meal, it’s possible the weasel is to blame.
According to Critter Control, “A weasel footprint has five clawed toes surrounding a V-shaped paw pad.“
Speaking of slithery critters, snakes are also on the list of common chicken predators. With that being said, they’re most interested in your breakfast…the eggs.
Some wonder why their egg production has dropped, but soon learn that a sneaky snake has been eating their eggs…whole. Usually, a snake goes unnoticed, but if you suspect this reptile is your culprit, you may find snake skins nearby or a slithery path in the dirt.
When it comes down to it, there are many predators of chickens and the best way to keep your chickens safe is to know what kind of critters you’re dealing with in your specific region. Then, plan your coop accordingly to keep your flock as safe as possible. Check out our article on why you need hardware cloth for flock protection (hint: chicken wire isn’t enough).
Henny+Roo regularly includes predator protection in our monthly boxes for chicken keepers. Items like predator urine protectants, reflective bird deterrent tape, and even inflatable faux snake decoys have been featured in the boxes of treats, health items, coop products and gifts that our subscribers enjoy monthly. Check out our subscription and non-subscription offerings at: hennyandroo.com