The morning will start out like any other morning. You’ve had your coffee, you’re equipped with your egg basket and your muck boots.
You mosey on out into the sunny morning and head to your chicken coop. What happens next takes your breath away.
One of your beloved chickens has been killed during the night…
If you own chickens, this may be a scene you have encountered at some point. If you are a new owner, unfortunately, it is an event that will most likely disrupt one of your routine mornings in the future.
Chicken predators are everywhere. It’s no wonder they are a nervous wreck and on edge constantly.
Depending on where you live, you will most likely have to deal with at least one of the predators listed below.
It’s important to preemptively plan for your flock’s safety because, unfortunately, when these predators get a taste, they usually try to come back for more.
The following information will help you identify common predators of chickens and determine the best ways to keep your flock safe.
The Dirty Dozen – 12 Common Chicken Predators
No, we aren’t talking about your fresh eggs. The following critters are the bad boys that we love to hate when it comes to our precious chicks.
Let’s take a look at the lineup:
These birds are daytime, aerial, predators that have excellent eyesight which they use to zero in on their prey from their perches.
They are extremely fast and attack by diving toward their prey at extremely fast speeds, often killing their victims on impact.
If your chickens are on smaller side, such as bantams, hawks may decide to carry them off to consume at a safer location.
Owls are creatures of the night, though they have been seen attacking their prey during the day as well.
They behave similarly to hawks because they attack from the sky and tend to crush their prey.
Raccoons are triple-trouble predators. They pose at least three different problems for you and your chickens.
They love eggs and will steal them if they can. Their tiny paws are finger-like and they can reach into your nesting boxes to grab fresh eggs.
If they are brave enough and hungry enough, they will most certainly attack a chicken for food (often ripping your chicken’s head off first).
Like many other predators on this list, they carry diseases that can be dangerous to your chickens and your family.
It is best to do everything possible to keep these adorable thieves out of your chicken coop.
Like raccoons, opossums like eggs and in dire situations chickens as well.
Opossums tend to be a bit lazier so they would most likely seek out eggs and baby chicks, but don’t think that they wouldn’t want a tasty chicken dinner if the opportunity presented itself.
An age-old chicken farmer’s foe, the fox is everything you would imagine it to be when it comes to the perfect chicken predator.
Extremely agile, and fast, your chickens won’t know what hit them. If you are a first-time chicken owner and haven’t ever seen a real fox, it won’t be long now.
A fox will spend days staking your chickens prior to its first attack.
They are sly and smart, and when they do attack they tend to try to take the entire chicken (or chickens) with them when they leave.
A fox can jump fences, dig under them, and find the sneakiest ways into your coop.
The worst part? Once they know how to get in, have had a tasty snack, they will be back for more.
If you have dogs of your own, until they are trained, they should also be considered dangerous prey for your chickens.
Even if they get ahold of just one of your prized hens, that might be the nail in the coffin for the rest of your flock.
It is easier to train a puppy to grow up with chickens rather than to introduce an adult dog to your flock.
Some breeds, such as livestock guardian dogs, are bred to watch over your livestock.
Herding breeds, like Border Collies, may think they are helping by prowling around after your flock. Be sure to understand your breed and take the time to introduce your flock carefully.
Neighborhood dogs may also be a nuisance. Just when you think you have your own dogs trained well-enough, your neighbor’s pooch will show up and have a feast.
Even the most well-trained dogs may stray from their home if they smell or hear chickens.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to politely talk with your neighbors before you bring home your chickens to let them know about the changes happening on your farm so that they can prepare as well.
Coyotes behave like domestic dogs without the human intervention aspect. They will often hunt in groups or pairs and do so at night.
Luckily, coyotes tend to be afraid of humans so they are easier to scare off of your flock if you happen to catch them in the act.
As surprising as it may be, barn cats can also be considered predators to your flock.
They may attack young birds out of instinct and even adult birds if they are hungry enough.
They may try to attack at night when your chickens are resting, or in groups so they can disable the birds fast.
Like raccoons, skunks tend to seek out eggs rather than birds.
This isn’t to say that they wouldn’t attack a young or adult chicken, but their goal is typically to eat chicken eggs.
These sneaky little predators can fit into the smallest nooks and crannies on your coop.
They will often kill for a light snack, leaving most of the bird(s) behind.
Bobcats are a particularly nasty predator. They possess all the same drive and skills as a domestic cat, except for the fact that they are much larger and wild.
Because of their larger size, they can get into less sturdy structures. If you have bobcats in your area make sure that your coop is structurally sound.
Snakes can be a danger to both young chicks and your breakfast eggs.
They can slither in through small opening and consume chicks or eggs whole, which often leaves you wondering what actually occurred.
Snakes have also been known to set up house in some hen houses so keep an eye open for these thieves and make sure to remove them as soon as you see them.
When Do Predators Most Often Strike?
When a predator attacks typically depend upon two things: the type of predator and where the chicken is at the time of the attack.
Nocturnal predators (like owls and opossums) will move under the cover of darkness.
When these predators attack your flock, you will probably not even realize it until it is too late.
Most attacks tend to happen at night, when your chickens, and you, are tucked in for the night.
When your chickens settle in to roost for the evening, they completely check out for the night.
This is why most chicken owners enter their coops at night if they need to handle their chickens for medicating or moving.
Chickens are almost lethargic or groggy at night, and easy to catch. This also makes nighttime the perfect time for a predator to pounce.
During the day, predators like domestic dogs and hawks are usually the foes to keep an eye out for.
It’s a horrifying sight to see a hawk pick up an entire chicken and take flight with it, or even worse crush it in front of your eyes.
While most predators attack during the night, there are a handful of daytime enemies to keep an eye out for as well. Most of them will come from above.
Common Methods of Attack
It is important to understand the different ways a chicken can get attacked so you can combat it preemptively.
Knowing the behavior of the top predators will help you create a safe living space for your chickens.
As mentioned before, aerial attacks are common and often difficult to predict.
A hawk or owl will watch your chickens, at times without your knowledge, and then dive and either crush your chicken or carry it off depending on the size of the two birds.
As sad as it sounds, chickens are at risk from every angle.
Certain predators will dig under your fences to reach your precious flock.
You may think you bought the best fencing possible, but if you do not have the appropriate setup, some of the nastiest predators will simply go under the fence to get their chicken dinner.
Weasels, for example, can make themselves even more slender than they appear and will squeeze into some of the smallest openings to get to your chickens.
Some snakes will even find their way into your coop and have their way with your chicks.
Surprisingly enough, groups of small animals may attack a single chicken to share the meal.
An example of this is a group of hungry barn cats.
If they are hungry enough, they may choose to gang up on a larger chicken at night and have a feast of the carcass.
Where Is My Chicken Most Likely to Be Attacked?
Where you decide to keep your chickens depends on your location and preference for your birds.
If you know you are in the middle of a high-predator area, it is most likely in your best interest to keep your chickens in a coop.
If you have a Livestock Guardian Dog along with some safe havens for your chickens to hide in on your property, you may opt to let your feathered friends free-range.
Coop attacks are extremely disheartening because you know you’ve put time, effort, and money into your chicken coop.
Safety was your top concern, so when a predator attacks your chickens in their own home, you will feel both shocked and discouraged.
If this happens to you, just know that unfortunately, it is all a part of owning chickens and the learning process.
One bird has been sacrificed but you can take steps to prevent the same kind of attack from happening if you are able to identify the predator and method of entry.
If your birds are free-range, it is much more likely that you will lose birds more frequently than if you kept them in a coop.
However, some feel that it is a small price to pay to offer your flock the freedom that they will enjoy from being free-range.
Free-range birds are at risk from all of the types of attacks and predators.
Daytime and nighttime are all equally dangerous for your chickens. However, there are a few things you can do to prevent loss.
How to Prevent Loss
It’s incredibly important to understand the predators in your area and what makes them tick. If you are able to do this, you can always stay one step ahead of them.
There are a few additional measures you can take to ensure your beloved flock is as safe as possible.
Roosters are a topic of controversy and it seems that they have earned a bad reputation.
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to own their own rooster due to city ordinances banning the master of morning alarm clocks.
If you are able to own a rooster, definitely take it into consideration.
They take on the burden of protecting their hens throughout the day. If you have free-range birds, adding one rooster to your flock can make a huge difference in how many chickens you lose to predators.
Aerial predators are often deterred by a large rooster.
He keeps his eye to the sky at all times while his ladies forage for food. If he spots a hawk, he will alert his hens and then puff himself up making it look like he is even bigger than he is.
Often, this is enough to turn the hawk off, not wanting to do battle with such a large bird.
Livestock Guardian Dogs
A Livestock Guardian Dog that has been raised with your flock, and trained to treat them with care, could be a lifesaver.
There are a handful of breeds of dogs that fall into this category, and typically they are hardy breeds that can withstand the elements and spend most of their time with livestock.
Some of the more popular breeds to consider are the Anatolian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, and the Komondor.
If you have the space, and time to take on one of these loyal breeds, they will fiercely protect your flock from all types of predators, including some of the larger ones.
If you don’t have time to train a canine companion for your flock, a great method of protection is poultry fencing and netting.
The fencing is perfect for protecting your chickens due to the small hexagonal gaps which prevent predators from entering your coop.
Chicken wire (fencing) has been around since the 1800s and as they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!
Poultry netting is a bit different in that is it a net-like material that is typically used to cover your chicken run or any other exposed area that leave your chickens at risk of an attack.
Often, poultry netting is placed above chickens preventing aerial predator attacks.
You can also find electric, moveable poultry fencing that helps keep predators from entering.
This is a great option if you prefer to keep your chickens on the move rather than in one place. It is inexpensive, lightweight, and often solar powered.
Since many of your chickens’ predators spend their time on the ground, they often find their way into the coop by digging under your fencing.
This can easily be solved with the addition of a skirt or underground fence.
Many chicken owners will simply bend their fencing outward on the bottom to deter the predators. Others will opt to bury the fencing rather than letting it sit on top of the ground.
This will also prevent predators from getting in. They become discouraged and cease their efforts if it appears that the fence never ends.
Automatic Coop Doors
Nocturnal predators will strike in the night when you are fast asleep and your chickens have zonked out for the night.
If you have been leaving your coop door open at night, you are leaving your feathered friend vulnerable to an attack.
If it is not possible to lock your coop every night, automatic doors are the solution to this problem.
Since chickens naturally return to their home roost each night, you do not have to try to round them up.
You can set automatic doors on timers to be sure all of your chickens have returned home before locking the doors.
The Key To Flock Longevity
When you add a flock to your family, you inevitably fall in love with chickens, and the delicious eggs they produce.
Losing some of your birds to predators can be devastating.
The key to keeping a coop full of happy and healthy chickens is prevention.
Understanding the types of predators in your area, and how they behave, will help you to create a safe environment for your flock.
With proper prevention, you can wake up to many mornings filled with coffee, crowing, and clucking.