The Top 11 Predators of Chickens

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When my dogs got into the chicken coop, I almost gave up having chickens for good. I’ll always remember lifting up a dead chicken and having to get rid of the body. I then lifted another dead chicken and saw she laid an egg before being frightened to death.

My dogs didn’t eat any of my chickens. They got into my coop and they scared them to death. See, a well-fed animal won’t eat your chickens. They will instead chase them. It’s almost impossible to teach a dog not to chase something. Someone told me to tie a dead chicken around one of my dogs necks. Instead I built a gate.

I used chicken wire (Yes, that is it’s name) and cut a small hole in the bottom. It brought me a lot of comfort and joy watching my chickens get up every morning and make their way outside the gate. I love having chickens as pets. They are fairly easy to take care of and they make great garden fertilizer. Plus they are really cute!

Roosters are another story. We’ll cover that later. In this article we are covering the top eleven predators that may try to eat your chickens. You can try to outsmart the other predators, but we are not responsible for any injury caused to you or your chickens. It is all on you.

Owls

One time, while on a hike, I came across an owl pellet. I picked it up and put it in my bag of examining s. While dissecting it, I found the skeleton of a mouse. See, if you don’t know what a pellet is it is their poop. If you carefully cut it apart, you can then find their diet.

Most owls eat mice, if they are big enough, they will capture and eat a chicken. We aren’t the only species who loves to eat chicken. They are very favorable, their carcasses can be made into bone broth and they are fairly easy to catch. Chickens also lay protein-packed eggs every day. Any homesteader would be smart to have a hen or two.

Roosters can get difficult, however, they will protect the hens. For instance, owls are what is called nocturnal. That means they hunt and live at night. The easiest way to avoid them from stealing a hen, is to lock up your hens at night. When it comes to healthy hens, knowledge is power. You will have predators and animals who want to eat your flock. You will lose a few. This can be prevented if you know the predators in your area.

Owls live everywhere. At my first homestead, we had Barn Owls. These majestic birds are giant and when they spread their wings they can be up to 50 inches across or the size of a child. Most of the time they eat rodents, but if they can they will try and get your chickens. Your best bet is to have an enclosure for your hens that locks them in at night.

Because owls hunt at night, every homesteader should have a coop for their hens that is locked at night. If you are someone who wants their hens to be free, know that they don’t really do much at night anyway. You can lock them away at night to keep them safe.

Hawks

Chickens make a specific noise when a predator makes their attack. At my first homestead, I had a hawk that would perch on a pole and simply wait for my birds to reach my driveway. For three mornings I heard my flock scream and lose a member at the talons of a smart hawk. Also called raptors, this bird likes to eat chickens and can spot an easy attack from across a length of a football field. Unlike owls, they will come after your flock during the day. They can’t just be shot.

I got chickens for eggs and the eating of ticks. When they were done feasting on all my tick and ant beds, I bought a specialized tarp to hang over my coop. These are made from a flexible material and can be purchased at a local feed store. They protect your birds and cover them from dive predators. We call them dive predators, because they can fly and they can see when your birds aren’t fully protected. Hawks can wait for an opportunity and take off with one of your hens.

Wolves

My first homestead had wolves. I still scratch my head at understanding this creature. I’ve lived in a number of places with wolves and they are not a species I truly know. I do know they are very smart and will get into your coop if not watched. Fish and Wildlife want to know if there is a pack forming.

Unless you are confronted by a wolf and have no other choice but to defend yourself, you should not kill or wound one of them. They were once a protected species and in many states it is not legal to harm them. Our suggestion is that you put cameras up and try to catch them on video. Likely, they will try to sneak onto your property unannounced.

Because they are such smart species they will try and outsmart you. Well, they can’t outsmart a game camera and if you catch them trying to get one of your chickens, you can call in the experts and not break any laws in the process. They were once hunted to the point of extinction. Not so anymore. They are very intelligent and even the best ancestral farmer won’t exactly know how to deal with them.

On my first homestead, when I found out my area had wolves I considered hiring an expert to help me plant determents for the wolves in my area. They don’t like loud noises and if it’s not an easy meal, they will hunt elsewhere. They know when to run. They know farmers don’t care for them and they know when to go. Your best bet is to try and deter them legally. They are an unknown creature in many ways.

Knowledge really is power when keeping wolves out of your flock. They are not a species to be hunted, as the federal laws on wolves is difficult to navigate. You’re a busy homesteader, you won’t have time going to court and explaining why you felt you needed to kill a wolf.

Dogs

If there is any species who has caused me more pain, I wouldn’t be able to say what. Dogs are everywhere and if you live in a farm area you will deal with dogs who like to run. At my first homestead there were a number of herder dogs like Great Pyrenees that were trained to stay with their own flock. Know, that if a scent leads them away they will travel miles. They love to chase and they love to run after chickens. I found them worse to deal with than other animals. It’s a very sensitive area for a lot of neighbors.

Most people love their dogs like family and know that their beloved canine isn’t as protected by the law. It’s not polite to go on social media and take pictures of the dog and say you’ll shoot if the person who owns them doesn’t stop them from letting their dog run. Instead, contact your local agency and give them the pictures of the dog. Let them deal with it.

Remember that your neighbors know where you live and you don’t want to say something to them that causes friction. The Hatfields and McCoys started fighting over a pig and it took decades for them to come to a truce. Like wolves, dogs can be tricky. Your best bet is to handle nefarious canines via your governing agency. Neighbors know where you live and they likely love their dogs.

At my first homestead I had a number of hunting dogs make their way to my property. It was very simple to bring them back and those dogs didn’t go after my chickens. Other dogs did, and I knew the owners didn’t care if their dogs bothered a neighbor’s flock. Instead of confronting them, I called animal welfare.

Fox

If you’ve ever heard the term “fox in the hen house,” know that it comes from real life. They are very cute creatures, but they are very smart and love chicken. They are much smaller than a typical dog or a wolf. This makes it easier for them to get into small places.

The most common fox is the Red Fox. They are known for their cunningness. They will see your chickens as a potential meal. That is why you should consider closing in your hens. They will find a way to get in.

I don’t recommend clipping a hen’s wings. They are slight-flight birds, meaning they can fly short distances. If a raccoon or a fox does get into your hen house you want your hens to be able to have a chance to get away. They are in many ways predators and will try and get your hens. That’s why you should have a structure for your hens and keep them caged.

Mice

They are small animals. They can do horrible things. If you are on a farm your best bet is to buy a farm cat. The cat will run the property and love catching and eating the many mice who will arrive and try to nibble on your hen feed. They carry diseases and are in many ways very disgusting creatures. I

think cats are preferable to using any type of trap or poison. Litter boxes are disgusting, and a lot of humans nowadays keep their cats inside and declaw them. I find this unnecessary. I see them as mere tools for your homestead.

Purchase your feline from a shelter and make sure they know what the cat’s living situation will be. You don’t want to get a cat that is used to living in luxury. If you tell the shelter where the cat will be living and what they will be doing, they will help find the right cat for you.

I remember when I took a class on pet food from a veterinarian and was terrified of telling them I had farm cats. They embraced my decision and didn’t scour at my choice to let my cats be free and eat free. I provided them cat food, I also let them hunt. I never lost a cat to a coyote or never had a cat go missing.

I loved my cats, but they were a necessary part of my homestead. They had a job and they loved to do it. Now I see devices that shoot out electric currents and I still think a cat would do better. My only hesitation is how many people utilize rat poison and if a cat eats a poisoned rat they can get sick too.

Coyotes

At my first homestead on one of my trips to town, I saw a coyote. A woman who always walked her dogs off leash passed me on a dirt road. I slowed down and rolled down my window. I said to her, “Ma’am, there’s a coyote just a head of you.”

In homestead speak, I was telling her to leash her dogs. Coyotes will pretend to be friends with your dog, only to eat them later. I for one am not worried about coyotes. I grew up with them and understand this species. When you see a coyote or if it’s in the months of January or February, make sure your dogs are leashed. They won’t befriend your dog. They have been known to trick your dog into thinking it wants to be friends with them only to then lead your dog back to the entire pack of coyotes. It is then they will attack and devour your dog.

Coyotes will also get into your chicken coop. They always tried to get into mine at night. I listened to them scamper onto my property and listened to their ululations while they sniffed on my homestead. I kept my cats and dogs in at night and my chicken house was always closed at night. The coyotes were never able to penetrate my chicken house.

I secured their house and my house and kept all my animals safe. I also made a fence with chicken wire and designed a hidden gate. My chickens found it, the coyotes did not.

Cats

Chickens are too big to be a meal for a cat. Baby chicks are the perfect size. I left my chicks with the mom for as long as I could. She will protect her chicks from predators. One year, when I entered three chicks into a local fair, I took the baby chicks from the mother. My cats were very interested in them. Personally, I don’t trust cats. This goes with any predator you may encounter. Prevention is key.

Chickens are very low on the food chain, if an animal can turn them into a meal, they will. When my chickens grew to a size too big for a cat, the worry stopped. A grown chicken will fight and peck a cat. A cat will prefer going after an animal that it can more easily turn into a meal. Unattended baby chicks are an easy meal. A full-grown chicken is not.

Cougars

On one of my hikes to the creek that ran through the center of my first homestead, I noticed the silence of the birds. Instead of traveling to the bottom of the creek, I turned around. I found out when I got home that there was a hungry cougar in the area. I found out later it loved the creek and would spend hours there lapping up water and looking for food. I never found out if it was in the creek when I wanted to go down there. Not something I wanted to find out.

If a wild animal like a cougar, wolf or bear is in your area the best means of identifying it is by examining their types of poop. If you see a certain species type of poop or scat, then you need to be aware that that kind of animal is in your area. Also, know the seasons. We were in a drought when I wanted to walk to the creek that day. I knew it was a water source and if a wild animal is thirsty, it can be desperate.

Desperation will cause a wild animal to do horrible things. Cougars like to hang out in trees and will stalk you. It’s usually too late to fight off a cougar when it goes for an attack. Always remember to protect your neck if you are encountering an attack.

Bears

When I found bear poop or scat on my first homestead, I almost started to cry. I could tell it was bear scat by doing a simple search for bear poop. Beer scat will usually have berry seeds in it. Know the different types of poop from wild animals so you can properly know what predator you are dealing with.

A bear usually won’t break into your coop. It will try and get into your feed if it can. Always leave food shut. Don’t ever try and pet a bear cub. If you don’t see a mom, she is most likely around the corner. If you think a cub is orphaned call your local wildlife agency and let them deal with it.

You don’t want to mess with mama bear. Bears will hunt at all times and are an animal at the top of the food chain. They don’t like loud noises and do avoid people most of the time.

Raccoons

Know that raccoons have opposable thumbs. They can get into places that are locked. If they aren’t hungry they will still kill your chickens. They enjoy the noise that comes from popping off the head of a chicken. They can also leave quite a mess. They will go after your hens and they will try and eat the chicken eggs. They do hunt at night, so having a locked night enclosure can help mitigate any problems they can cause.

This is another animal that has been mercilessly hunted by humans. They are very smart and somewhat skittish. They are not an animal to be encountered or cornered.

Chickens have a lot of predators and are a meal for a number of wild animals. Finding the balance between freedom for your hens and protection is necessary. They are low on the food chain.

I once had four roosters who fought off predators and fought each other. They protected the hens from predators. However, it really is better if you just have one. If you lose it, get another. I remember one day I watched a hawk fly into my chicken coop. They do this and can easily get away with one of your hens.

If you want your chickens to be free consider making them an enclosure that is large. A movable enclosure can help make soil that is very fertile. Chickens will eat your seeds and do not belong in your garden.

If you design a coop that is moved, you will help keep the grasses free from bugs and provide nutrients to your soil. Chickens also like to eat small rocks and scratch. This can help stir the soil and make the ground very fertile for seeds.

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