As a backyard chicken owner, you're probably always worried you'll wake up one day and find the remains of one of your beloved chickens. It's even scarier to see it happen with your own eyes. Today, we thought it would be a good idea to go over some of the most common predators and how to prevent attacks on your chickens.
As written in our last post, there are many steps to introducing dogs to chickens. You have to be so careful and you also need to make sure you have the right kind of breed before deciding to get backyard chickens. Some signs of a dog attack might be scattered feathers, blood and a chicken carcass somewhere the dog likes to play. Also, always check their paws for signs of blood and feathers.
Dogs are carnivores. They love the smell and taste of chicken, which is why it's present in the ingredients in most dog food. Even if your dog passes the test when you introduce it to your chickens, you still need to be cautious when allowing them to interact with each other. For instructions on how to introduce your dog to your chickens, check out our last post linked here.
Wolves and Coyotes
The signs of attack from wolves and coyotes are very similar to that of dogs, but you won't find the chicken carcass nearby, or at all. Wolves and coyotes are mostly scared of humans, so you won't see them lurking nearby. They typically attack at night. They have sharp teeth and strong jaws and their paws can rip through anything, so your best method of defense would be to build a tall fence buried below ground so they aren't able to dig beneath the surface to get to the other side. They can jump pretty high, so make sure the fence is tall enough.
Most common signs of a bird attack include the chicken carcass nearby, little to no feathers scattered about and the injury will be in a more central location on the chicken. The birds you need to look out for are hawks, eagles and owls. You need to be more worried about these types of attacks if you have free range chickens. They strike when the chicken strays too far from the coop. In order to provide better protection for your chickens, you will need an enclosed coop and a covered run. You can even purchase netting to make a larger run.
Signs of attack include feathers scattered about, footprints and a strong odor will sometimes be present. Red Foxes strike in suburban and urban areas. You need to protect your coop from all angles, including the top, bottom and around the perimeter. Much like the wolves and coyotes, foxes can dig underneath a fence, so if you bury it below ground, it provides better protection against them.
Signs of an opossum attack will include scattered feathers, footprints, signs of a struggle, cracked eggs and an injured chicken. Because opossums are smaller, they like to target chicks, eggs and smaller chickens or chickens roosting low that are easy to reach. To protect your chickens from opossums, make sure you have a covered run and a secured coop at nighttime. They like to go after eggs most of the time, so if you leave old cracked or broken eggs outside of the coop at night, it's likely they won't bother your chickens.
The signs of attacks from skunks are the same as that of opossums in addition to a skunk odor. Skunks prefer digging over climbing, so a fence with a ground apron will be best suited against their attack. You can also set traps for skunks around the perimeter.
Signs of a raccoon attack include scattered feathers and footprints, signs of struggle, multiple dead chickens that were brutally killed, often with missing neck and chest regions. They will also leave the carcasses behind. Unfortunately, raccoons are good with their hands, so they can open latches and doors. To protect your chickens, use a tighter weave gauge wire or hardware cloth around the run. That will prevent them from being able to reach in and grab your chickens. Also, using a door latch that requires additional steps to open would be best — kind of like a child lock. You also need to make sure there are no holes or gaps in the roof or walls of your coop.
Weasels, Fisher Cats and Minks
Signs of attack are the same as that of a raccoon attack. Check the roof and walls of your coop for holes and gaps. If you find any holes or gaps, use galvanized wire. You can also add it to the floor of the coop to prevent them from digging to get inside.
Hopefully these tips keep your chickens safe and secure. To reiterate, make sure your coop doesn't have holes and gaps, create a safe perimeter with a tall fence that's also buried below the surface. Use strong wire around the run and make sure all doors are secured with strong locks that aren't easy to open. You can also use hardware cloth to cover the windows of your coop. Now, go and protect your chickens! It's better to be safe than sorry!