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chicken predators

paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 17427
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
I'm writing a new article to kinda put all of my ideas on raising chickens in one place. 

At the moment, I'm trying to make a list of all known chicken predators and then explore the space of how to protect against those predators.

First, the obvious predators:

mountain lion

Now for the less obvious:

I've heard of people having trouble with possum.  Is it with just stealing eggs?

I've heard of snakes stealing eggs.  Which snakes steal eggs?

I've had ravens steal chicks before.  And hawks take chicks and adolescent chickens.

What other predators am I not thinking about?

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Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
many snakes will eat eggs and/or chicks. bobcat and domestic cats are a problem too...I had one or the other (leaning towards  domestic at this point...... hard to tell bleary eyed at 2am) kill a full size pekin duck through a chain link fence.....maybe there should just be a cat category. fox is reported to be a problem by many people. I'm sure badgers are a problem in some areas as well as bears.


"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent

Joined: Jul 23, 2009
Posts: 1
paul wheaton wrote:I've heard of people having trouble with possum.  Is it with just stealing eggs?

`Possums will eat chickens. They make a big mess of it too. They do enjoy rotten eggs.

Skunks will eat eggs and chicks, but I have not lost any adult birds to one (yet?).

Rats will eat chicks and sometimes eggs.

The snakes I have found eating eggs are very large rat snakes and chicken snakes. They will also eat chicks.
Kathleen Sanderson

Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
Add owls.  We had one get into our indoor chicken coop twice (two successive nights); we had to catch it and release it outside.  The second time my husband (now ex) drove about forty miles to release it in another area.  Legally we could probably have gotten into trouble, as you aren't supposed to even handle protected species.  But it was better than killing the owl, or losing more chickens.  That owl found a small opening into our completely enclosed outside chicken pen, and then flew through a window to get into the inside pen, by the way.

I've lost chicks to cats several times, but never an adult hen.  You just have to make sure the cats can't get at the young chicks until they are at least half-grown. 

Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
mink! probably falls in the weasal category. I just discovered that we have mink around here after finding a road killed one in front of our house. whouda thunk? I am told they are master chicken killers. and they skin them!
Gwen Lynn

Joined: Sep 04, 2008
Posts: 736
That is pretty wild, you having mink around there. I never would have thunk it!
Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
someone in delaware cnty. told me they were all over the rivers and creeks up there. I had no idea. I always thought they were more northern creatures.

domestic/feral dogs has been the only major chicken predator I have had serious trouble with. I suspect I have lost a few to hawks but never saw it happen.

Joined: Jun 08, 2008
Posts: 79
Also bobcats, which you'll find even close into town. Crows-like ravens-just love any small baby critters, like chicks or ducklings, goslings.

Did someone mention fox? The original chicken theif.

Joel Hollingsworth

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
For completeness, you might list humans. 

"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 17427
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
As most of you already know, I added a section about predators in my article concerns about the way most people raise chickens

Joined: Mar 28, 2011
Posts: 62
Location: Western Pennsylvania
Well, no one has mentioned bears.  I started my life with chickens more in the woods than I am now, and bears were never an issue.  Foxes, coyotes and hawks were our main predators, but with a good dog they rarely had a meal at our coop!!

However, bears were always there, we always had one or two pass through, usually at the apple orchard next to the house, but they were never an issue.  Several occasions I was in the yard, not 50 feet when I spotted one and I never was afraid.  They never seemed to notice me, but they did move on quickly.  I followed all the rules and NEVER left food or garbage out, the bird feeder always came inside at night etc.

We lost our big dog, and the little Pug is a chicken watcher, not a predator chaser.  We started seeing raccoons closer and closer and hearing the coyotes closer at night and decided that we really needed another dog.  Big Dog Blue was part Heeler and part something "arctic" and he was one of those amazing dogs you never forget.  He cared for the chickens from peeps and was 100% blind, yet he rounded them up and casually herded them to the orchard and back.  After he died we decided to get a full blooded Heeler puppy to raise with my next (large) batch of free-range chickens (40).

That was the year of the Bear I called it.  Jake was still quite the puppy when Spring came and the bears started pooping closer to the house than ever.  One night we woke up to the weirdest sound.  Something was shaking the coop, or something.  To save money we build a 4' large-rabbit-hutch style coop, so the roof was about my nose level, we didn't know it yet but by the sound of things the roof was being torn off. 

Only in our undies, me with the spotlight, him with the shotgun we ran outside and never did see anything, but heard it crashing through the brambles behind the coop.   A few shots for good measure and time for cleanup.  The bear wasn't successful.  The girls were smart enough to jump off the roosts and run out the little door into the attached run, but the roof was toast.

Naturally storms were due that night, so we scrambled to replace the roof that day.  We used corrugated poly to allow light in the coop, and the bear snapped it all around.  I think he shoved his nose between the roof and the wall because it was broken all around and the panel above the roosts was demolished.  We replaced that panel with metal and bought the more heavy duty poly for the replacement.

The thing we did the second time was put a few inches of exposed raw chicken wire around the whole coop just under the roof/wall.  That way if any animal would put fingers/hands/paws or noses under the panel to sniff they would get torn up by the raw wire.  I know from working with it how it tears my hands up, so why not?

We never did have another coop attack, even to this day (my second bigger coop also has the exposed wire) However our next problem with bears was harder to manage.

My yard back then was an acre, maybe more with a creek, trees, brush and the chickens had free run.  We built a attached run to confine them when needed and for a place to hang in the winter, but most days they were all over the yard.  You really can't do much during the day besides the dog in the yard on patrol.  Jake was good at his job (he still is!!) but bears are his limit.

About two weeks after the roof incident, we woke to another noise in the middle of the night.  Once again, spotlight, shotgun etc.  This time we saw a dark backside tearing up into the woods, but the coop wasn't harmed.  Several days after that is when the day attacks started.  I was finding fresh poo, bear poo big and little piles close to each other, so I think we had a mama and cubs.  She was teaching them to eat chickens.  I would return from work around 2pm to eaten chicken carcasses and a freaked out dog.  So I called Game Control to find out that we were having LOTS of bears in the area.  In one week a mama and three cubs were spotted down the road about 2 miles, two were trapped getting into a dumpster over the hill, then I had seen a small one on its own, and a large one on its own myself.  It was sad, we placed duck eggs under a broodie hen and had baby ducks about, but the bear got mama and babies when they were about 6 weeks old.  All in all, we lost 12 chickens and the baby ducks that summer.  But the dog became VERY good at detecting bears.  If there is a bear in the woods he will stand between you and the woods, his hackles up, head down.  He'll chase off any other animal, but bears still freak him (5 years later).

Most of the Game Commissioners told me I was nuts, something else was killing my chickens and taking the time in the middle of the day to eat them out in the open in the center of the yard, only 20 feet from the road.  While my dog was in the yard, with no mess at all, no mess of feathers, just a cleaned out carcass.  No blood, very little left of the birds.

Anyway, I did finally get one to come out with a trap, two weeks and there was a lot of poo around the trap, but we never did catch them.  The bears couldn't have been after the food because the feeders were full, about 25 feet from the kills.  That bear wanted chicken, not chicken feed. 

What finally put an end to it was the garden fence.  We had problems keeping the chickens out, so we put up a wire fence, but then the deer popped over, so we put in an electric fence, and baited it with foil and peanut butter.  After that I never had bear poo in that area of the yard again.  I figured they were coming in from the creek side of the yard, mostly brush/woods from that side, then hitting the electric fence and going back to the woods instead of coming into the yard and the chickens' main area.

Anyway, we've gathered many more bear stories over the years, and they are starting to go further and further into town.  But yes, they are an issue to chicken keepers.  Especially in years where there are just too many bears in too small an area!!


Always put your eggs in one basket.........why would you carry two?
Sher Miller Lehman

Joined: Mar 28, 2011
Posts: 2
Location: Hawaii
Here in Hawaii the problems are (besides marauding dogs) mongoose and feral pig. The mongoose problem is huge and is a major limiting factor in raising chickens here.

The problem is easily solved with raccoon traps and sardines. And a very secure coop.

If the wind doesn't blow, row.
barry tuttle

Joined: Apr 02, 2011
Posts: 1
Location: Northeast Connecticut
Here in CT we have to deal with the Fischer that was re-introduced a few years ago to prey on the grey squirrel population. 
subject: chicken predators