Predators of Chickens and How to Protect Your Birds

Thoroughly knowing the predators of chickens is the first step to keeping your chickens safe.

| 2011 Guide to Backyard Chickens

  • Fox Kits Eye a Meal
    A couple of kit foxes could drag off a whole free-ranging bird, but would rarely enter the chicken coop.
    iStockphoto.com/Jim Kruger
  • Opossum
    Opossums hunt along, and they'll attack and devour small birds on the spot.
    iStockphoto.com/Kathleen Reidnauer
  • Hawk on the Attack
    A hawk has the ability to carry off a small chicken, and you'll find only the feathers in most cases.
    iStockphoto.com/Steve Mcsweeny
  • Northern Hawk Owl
    Owls will enter barns or coops through small openings or fly through windows.
    iStockphoto.com/Robert McKay
  • Raccoons
    Raccoons often hunt in tandem with their family group.
    iStockphoto.com/Jeannot Olivet
  • Rats in the Barn
    Rats carry off baby chicks and roll away eggs.
    iStockphoto.com/Lendry
  • Secure Coop
    A secure coop is necessary for keeping chickens safe.
    iStockphoto.com/johnnyscriv
  • Farm Dogs
    Gus and Clover keep watch at Prairie Turnip Farm.
    Karen Keb
  • Safety in Numbers
    Safety in numbers doesn't always apply on the farm.
    iStockphoto.com/Borut Trdina

  • Fox Kits Eye a Meal
  • Opossum
  • Hawk on the Attack
  • Northern Hawk Owl
  • Raccoons
  • Rats in the Barn
  • Secure Coop
  • Farm Dogs
  • Safety in Numbers

Chicken keepers understand, without a doubt, that a farm is a tenuous balance of predators and prey – nature’s checks and balances. Chickens, after all, look for ways to die. So unless you build the poultry version of Fort Knox, or imprison your birds in a bunker with a concrete foundation, you will, on occasion, lose some souls to any of the predators of chickens. The best strategy for stopping thieves is vigilance.

At our farm, the 30-plus laying hens roam free in a large fenced-off pen with the goats, adjacent to the pigs. They have a homemade coop in which they dutifully put themselves away each night at dusk, as well as an old Butler grain bin in which to take shelter. An enormous, hollowed out silver maple tree is their chosen spot to roost and enjoy the shade in the heat of the day. Admittedly, much of the ground is scratched bare (all the better for dust bathing), but a large area of the chicken yard also consists of tall weeds, saplings and grass, where they go exploring and scratching for insects.

Despite all their free ranging and the “entertainment” available to them, chickens (and turkeys especially) do not like to stay put – enabled, of course, by their wings, which we don’t clip. In fact, a group of our Midget White turkeys and Dorking chickens take an evening stroll every night around the barns, investigating the new grass growth and the birds in an opposing yard. By their wandering nature, poultry are vulnerable to predation. Nevertheless, there are measures you can take to reduce your losses.

You either can eliminate predators by lethal methods or you can employ tactics that prevent their access to coops and pens. Since the former is nearly impossible and sometimes illegal, we’ll focus on strategies that deter predators, or keep them out entirely.  



The usual suspects

Before you can control predators of chickens, you must first identify them. Determine where, how and when birds are lost. What does the damage look like? Are the birds maimed, or is there just a pile of feathers left behind?

A simple, but not fail-safe, first method of deduction is to lay sand around the crime scene area. Smooth it out just before confining your birds for the night. Examine it in the morning for tracks. This requires perseverance because tracks can quickly be destroyed by your chickens, or predators may visit intermittently.

Leanne
5/15/2018 8:38:59 AM

night before last something TOOK a chicken with no trace of feathers left behind, only noticed when i counted after letting them out of henhouse the next morning. Last night something Took another chicken, ate one except for leaving feathers leg and thigh bone, AND killed two and left them laying untouched except for kill marks at head and neck...only space is bout inch and a half at top of hen house door when its closed. What animal could possibly fit through that and get a chicken out?


Leanne
5/15/2018 8:38:58 AM

two nights ago something took a young chicken from inside the henhouse that was closed up...no trace of feathers, remains or anything the next morning, only noticed when counted. last night, a chicken was taken, no trace. however, another was eaten completely except for a leg and thigh bone and feathers while two others were killed and left untoouched except for kill marks on the head. the ONLY space possible is bout an inch and half opening I feel there is more than one type predator


iracaniyekenny
12/23/2017 11:45:21 PM

In the winter I found mey eggs chicken distroyed and chickens out over their house so now I need to know the responsible







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