Chicken predators are some of the worst guests that can pay a visit to your flock. They are mean, destructive and can wipe out an entire flock.
These predators are more common to those living near the woods, forests and at the edge of big plantations like in the sugarcane growing areas.
However, this does not mean that those in urban areas are safe; some daring chicken predators will go an extra mile and seek dinner in town.
In this article, I am going to tackle chicken predators and some of the ways they operate. This will help you know what killed your chicken breeds.
Coyotes are canines native to the North America. They are closely related to wolves only that they are much smaller in size.
These notorious prairie dogs have a taste for chicken and will not spare any that crosses their path. Hunger will drive them out to your coop where they will make a quick kill.
A coyote will be easily recognized by her loud howls which she makes at night. Additionally, paw prints on the snow are a common sign that she was around.
They will attack and kill adult chickens which they will carry to dine in their dens. These animals will also target free ranging chickens and you will notice a missing bird when they return to roost before dusk.
In most cases, disturbance signs are common where the attack was carried out and there may be a few fallen feathers during the process.
Snakes are other efficient chicken killers. These chicken predators move very quietly and they will be very hard to notice.
Chicken snakes especially the small species have an avid desire for eggs and will mostly visit nest boxes or chicken nesting sites.
It is hard to tell whether it was a snake or a different predator because they will leave no signs. However missing eggs with no left empty shells tell it all.
Some snake species will bite and kill a bird with its venom. Minutes after the bird is dead, this reptile will swallow it whole and then retire in the wild.
Chicken snakes are so successful because they can fit and squeeze in tiny openings. They will also use holes burrowed by rodents who come to steal chicken feeds.
These reptiles are more common during the day and mostly during the dry season when most animals they prey on won der far to look for food and water.
Birds of prey
The most common birds of prey that attack chicken are hawks, kites and owls although some people have reported vultures killing chickens.
Hawks and kites are more active during the day. They are seen soaring in the skies or perched on tall trees looking for free ranging chickens.
These birds will strike like lighting if they were not spotted. Chicks and small chickens are more susceptible because they are light to lift them off.
They have sharp claws called talons and punctured chick that fall from their feet is a good sign to tell it was them.
Owls are nocturnal and will operate at night when you are a sleep. These birds will get in the chicken coop through open doors or target those notorious chickens like Lakenvelder who will roost on trees.
These daring chicken predators will not mind coming for your chickens in urban areas. They prefer to live where there are numerous human activities in chimneys and old unused garage.
Raccoons will scavenge for food in dumpsters or steal your cat food from her bowl. These animals are clever and know how to open windows or tear nets to get into the chicken coop.
Mostly nocturnal, raccoons will wait until it is dark and attack. They will squeeze between small openings and will not manage to pull a dead chicken out.
Because they will kill adult chickens, when the bird gets stuck they will eat the head and leave the body and walk away.
Although rare, bears are the worst predators that can visit your farm because they can miss a chicken and come for you.
These chicken killers are only common in a few isolated areas where they are common. They will be attracted by chicken feeds and even your left over food.
Since they are omnivores, these deadly giants will not spare your vegetables either. Thy have a huge appetite and can eat several birds before their stomachs are full.
There is nothing you can do when bears attack because they are protected by law. Calling the relevant authorities is the only choice.
Possums are great fan of eggs, small chickens and chicks. They are not that big and they will easily be intimidated by rowdy hens, turkeys and geese.
However, these chicken predators are fond of hunting chickens at night. They will rip through the hawk netting and head for the nesting boxes first.
If you want to know they come, they will leave a total mess on the nesting box. Additionally, they do not eat the shells and will break, eat the inner contents and leave them.
Opossums will sometimes attack chickens if there are no eggs. You will see signs of confrontation with feathers all over the coop.
They will eat the breast meat or head for the organs and then leave the dead bird. Read more about possums eating chickens here.
Weasels are the worst bird predators I know of. They kill chickens for sport and can wipe out an entire flock.
These predators for chickens will not eat the carcass and you will find dead birds littered all over the chicken coop.
They are so daring such that they will come back to confirm whether there are any live birds left. Weasels are small and will manage to go through tiny openings.
Guardian dogs can easily turn mean and kill chickens. This will happen if they do not like to see chickens around or are used to eating raw meat.
It can be your own dog or a stray one from a nearby farm. Dogs will kill like coyotes targeting adult hens and roosters.
Mostly, dogs will prefer to carry the dead bird and eat it from somewhere safe. You will find feathers because dogs do not swallow them if you are lucky.
Bobcats will mostly hunt rats and mice in the wild but extreme conditions can make them come for your chickens.
These cats are adept hunters and will strike your free ranging chickens that wonder in the woods. They will bite the skull or the neck killing the bird.
Just like foxes, these canines prefer to stuff their leftovers in the ground covering them with litter for another day.
Claw marks on a carcass tell it all who took down the bird.
Foxes are very cunning and can kill an entire flock storing it for winter. These predators will hide in a bush, scout and carry chicken attacks.
They mostly prefer those birds that are busy scratching for bugs in the woods. In most cases, chickens that delay to return to roost make an easy target.
Foxes are mostly active during the day and sleep at night. They burry dead birds under the ground and will come back for more until they are over.
Human beings can sometimes turn to be the worst chicken predators you know of. A gang of thieves will come at night when you are asleep and steal as many as they can.
They will steal eggs and choose the big roosters for food. This behavior is common in urban areas where they are so many lazy people who do not want to work.
Their mode of attack is unique because they will leave almost no signs. However, if the hens are locked up, they will break in and you will find broken doors and roofs.
How to control chicken predators
Free range chickens are at a great danger because they will roam on their own. Those raised in commercial barns are safe and will live confined throughout the production cycle.
However, chickens predators can be controlled by:
Reporting will apply to thieves and large animals like bears. In some areas there are strict regulations not to shoot and kill animals.
If you catch a thief, do not take the law on your hands. The best way is for them to be taken to a court of law and face prosecution.
2 Have roosters
Keeping roosters together with your hens is a good idea. When free ranging, roosters are predator savvy and will always be on the lookout.
Additionally, these male chickens are very territorial and won’t let anyone near their flock.
3 Use hawk Netting
Hawk netting is a good deterrent for birds of prey. It can be put over the chicken run to keep your birds safe from aerial attacks.
This netting appears big and large when observed by chicken hawks from above. This discourages them and in turn becomes an advantage to your hens.
4 Get an automatic chicken coop door
An automatic coop door will play a key role to ensure your birds are safe. It is remote controlled and can be set to open and close even when you are not around.
5 use solar lights and eye balloons
Solar eye lights are good and will scare predators at night. Chicken predators will think that there is a person guarding the birds.
On the other hand, eye balloons will scare away birds of prey during the day. They can be hanged on tree tops or on the coop making hawks think there is someone herding chickens.
6 Make a concrete chicken coop floor
The coop floor is a favorite spot many predators that burrow prefer to get in. Making the floor out of concrete will help discourage burrowing animals.
7 Guineas and Geese do a good job
Guinea fowls and geese are integrated with chickens to keep them safe. Guineas are known to specially attack and kill snakes.
Geese will raise alarm and even confront anyone trying to get near the coop.
8 Have faithful guardian dogs
Some dogs breeds like the German shepherd are known to be very royal and easy to tame. These canines are very fierce and will not let strangers in your compound.
Dogs are both useful during the day and at night because of their good vision.
9 Take care of the coop walls and your perimeter fence
Your perimeter walls are some of the areas that can either let predators in or keep them off. Mend any broken fence and repair any cracks and crevices on the wall.
Ensure that the coop walls and roofs are fixed properly. Replace old and rotten wood that is weak and can be used as possible entry points.