Predators       

This page is to help determine what kind of predator you have or protect from! I will be updating this page regularly with more specifics on predators  

Note: All of the animals listed below are known predators of Poultry          

Predators
  • Skunk
  • Opossums
  • Ants- Yes I said ants. They'll get in the nest and kill the chicks before they leave the shell.
  • Weasels
  • Coyotes
  • Owls - owls take just the heads
  • Otters
  • Raccoons
  • Ravens
  • Eagles
  • Fox (anything it can sink it's teeth into
  • Snakes
  • Crows (young chicks/eggs/peck eyes)
  • Hawks (young chicks)
  • Wedge Tailed Eagles (Adult birds)-Australia
  • Goannas (eat chicks/eggs)- Australia
  • Goshawks -Australia
  • Carpet snakes -Australia
  • Magpies (young chicks)
  • Kookaburra (young chicks)-Australia
  • Apposolote Bird (young chicks)-Australia
  • Cats Feral and domestic
  • Dogs Feral and domestic 
  • Rats (kill small birds/chicks/ducklings)
  • Humans (the 2 legged thief has been known to visit too!)
  • Links about Predators

    Protect your chickens from: foxes, opossums, weasels, raccoons, Hawks, Owls and snakes 

    waterfowl and game birds suffer loss from raccoons and foxes

     

Predators are usually the "unexpected" death to poultry.

They come in when you least expect it and kill one or all of your flock. Knowing the signs and preparing for them is more than half the battle.

The time it take to discover what is killing your flock can be devastating. This page is designed to help educate you on the signs the individual predators leave as well as how they kill and hopefully how to protect them.  Many of us think we have protected our birds then low and behold we get some big predator in that rips the door off the coop or figures out how to get under the coop, and we wake up to an awful surprise.

There are many great ideas to help:

Netting over the top of the pen.

Electric Fencing around the pen

Good flooring where nothing can burrow through or around

Music is widely used to help deter predators (on talk stations)

Take the time to protect your birds from predators, Do Not blame animals that get your birds, when you have not taken proper precautions. That is natural instinct!

Solutions - All predators avoid a strong security light, and it allows you the advantage of seeing them at night. Radios tend to spook the would-be predator. Dogs and geese can be a deterrent against loss of poultry due to feeding frenzies. Utilize your local wildlife manager or game warden for more tips and suggestions. A well-constructed habitat for your poultry stock will help insure less losses to wildlife predation.

Interesting Facts: These are comments from Poultry owners.

A cat, fox or dog will leave feathers. Set some traps out see what you get. A mink or weasel can and will go thru a 2x2 wire, but they will usually just suck the blood out of a bird. A coon cant go thru it, but can eat thru the wire, if its a thin enough wire. Raccoons can climb a lot of things, stucco, wouldn't surprise me. Raccoons kill chickens just for fun. They would eat part of one then kill another. They can climb anything and dig under too. I put an electric fence around my chicken coop and no more problems. He would reach in through the wire and grab one and pull it to the fence and then eat the head off and then go after another one

We had 49 chickens and now, we are down to 12 hens! It took me 3 months to find out it was a Great Horned Owl. It is 24 inches tall and has a wing span of 5ft. It is against the law to kill them here in Worcester Co. in Maryland. I have told so many people of my ordeal I am now afraid to shoot it. I just know the law would come swooping down on us. I have secured the area, the Owl was breaking our chicken wire, the wire was old, but he is amazing. I now have chain link fencing around the entire coop. I haven't had any visits in a week, he came every 3rd night. He also came right after night fall. Between 8:30pm and 10:00pm I walked right up on him one night. I didn't have the shot gun then 

Coyote: My chickens were attacked in the night of April 30, 01. I lost 13 altogether, the turn latch was torn off the house and the cinder block moved two feet from the door. All hens/roosters were missing except two, which were found dead. 5 birds, including my ducks survived.

Sometimes the chickens put up a ruckus, but mostly they just let something eat them without puttin up a fuss

 

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Skunk

Skunks- Skunks eat the eggs and young of ground nesting birds. They may damage vegetable gardens, kill and eat domestic poultry and their eggs. Skunks pose little threat to adult birds, but do prize eggs as a tasty treat and will often break up a nest when the opportunity avails itself. Skunks are very shy, with very poor eyesight. Primarily a nocturnal creature, skunks will usually respect a farm with geese, a good dog or farm cat. Let your nose tell you if a skunk has been in the hen house. Both striped and spotted skunks can raid chicken houses. The worst offender is usually the spotted skunk because it can climb easily to gain access.

Striped skunks suffer from poor vision at a distance of more than 2 or 3 feet. A keen sense of smell enables then to easily locate foods, which vary with the season. Not a particularly swift animal, skunks don't need good distance vision to locate prey species which have little or no mobility. The ability to see a predator at a distance is not necessary either, as the threat of spraying its musk will usually deter all but ignorant predators, who soon receive a lesson.

Because the skunk is classified as a furbearer, you must contact your local conservation agent after capturing or killing a skunk so as not to be in conflict with the Wildlife Code. Skunks captured in a live trap can be moved safely if the trap is kept dark by covering it with an old rug or burlap and then is handled gently.

 

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Possums-Opossums

Opossums are not commonly seen because they are mainly nocturnal (active at night) animals. Spotting them out during the day could possibly be an indication that they are sick, or injured. Do not approach an opossum at any time, especially one spotted during the day.

They are relatively poor predators, in fact they are actually scavengers who will generally sleep-off a raid in the very hen house robbed the night before. They do pose a threat to all poultry from eggs to adults, and should be minded for their boldness. They will usually eat their kill right where they caught it or very close.

 

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Weasels, Ermine 

Most people don't realize just how small weasels are. The largest weasel I have heard of was in Britain it weighed less than 200g. Most males weigh about 120g and females weigh about 65g. 

weasel2.jpg (8557 bytes)ermine5.jpg (7902 bytes)

One reason why weasels have such a bad reputation is because they eat the eggs of domestic poultry and wild game. One of what I would  call the vampire predators, weasels are literally blood-thirsty. If a weasel gets into a hen house, they can get into a frenzy with all the hens flapping around. This results in a large number of birds being killed. The weasel would then carry the birds off to be eaten later if it could, but unfortunately the hen house door usually doesn't allow it. Despite their small size they can kill quite a few chickens in a single night. Because of their high-metabolism, their nature is to kill all prey in a den, then eat at their leisure. Although they may fall asleep after the slaughter, in the henhouse, they are stealthy hunters, and are instinctively elusive. If the dead are numerous and the heads have been decapitated this is your culprit. 

This has given rise to the belief that the weasels are killing for fun or out of "bloodlust". This is not the case, its just an adaptation for making the best use of food when it is available.

Appearance
The short-tailed weasel is a tiny animal, only 15 to 23 cm. long. In winter it is white and in summer it is brown. The weasel has a tiny face, sharp teeth and claws, and a tail with black fur at the
tip. The weasel's coat changes color. The brownish summer coat turns white for the winter. Just the tip of the tail stays black.

Weasels are thought to use a wild, cavorting dance to mesmerize their prey and bring it within their reach. Some scientists, however, believe that this dance is brought about by the pain caused by parasitic worms that live in the stoat's skull!

Babies
In April, two to ten babies are born in a burrow. The nest is lined with fur from animals that the weasel has killed.

Food

It looks for rabbits, rats, birds, frogs, ground squirrels and mice. It eats hundreds of mice. If it li
ves in the north it also feeds on arctic hare and lemming.

But weasels are useful animals. They eat many rats and mice.

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Mink 

Mink, This aquatic member of the weasel family is found throughout most of northern North America and the most commercially valuable fur-bearer like the weasel, are also a vampire type predator at times, but tend to like hunting in waters where they live. Although they may travel up to a mile from water, this is usually during a hard freeze or drought condition. Mink are much larger than weasels, and often do remove their prey to a safe location before eating. They do find ducks a delicacy.

Mink are about the size of a house cat and semi aquatic in habit; general color dark chocolate brown, darkest on back, and nearly black on feet and end of tail; under parts paler than back, with considerable white on midline from chin to vent; neck long, head hardly larger around than neck; tail long and moderately bushy; eyes and ears small; legs short; pelage soft and dense, overlaid with longer, blackish guard hairs.

 

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OWLS

A persistent owl takes the heads, crop and neck of our chickens that like to roost in the pines and are not in the pen

A great horned owl last summer, that'd swept in and got a full grown hen in the middle of the day

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Raccoons

Members of the bear family, raccoons are VERY strong in relation to their size Raccoons are not commonly spotted because they are mainly nocturnal (active at night) animals. Spotting them out during the day could possibly be an indication that they are sick, or injured. Do not approach a raccoon at any time, especially one spotted during the day time.

Raccoon are omnivorous, therefore pose as much of a threat to the corn fields as to the chicken coop. Because of their large size raccoons will tend to remove the kill some distance before eating. They often travel in groups, and will fight over the carcass. If you find the remains with the entrails cavity missing and feathers strewn about, this may have been the result of a raccoon raid.

Raccoons can cause substantial damage. In rural areas, raccoons may feed on farm crops or raid poultry houses. A raccoon typically attacks birds by biting the head or upper neck area. The heads of adult birds are usually bitten off and left some distance from the body. The crop and breast may be torn and chewed and the entrails eaten. Raccoons have been known to mutilate poultry in cages by pulling heads or legs off. Several kills may be made during a single night raid with part of one or more carcasses fed upon. Dead fowl may be at the kill site or dragged several yards away. Raccoons are also serious predators of wild bird populations. Reports indicate that raccoons have been responsible for eliminating local populations of some nesting waterfowl.

 

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Fox

Fox - Famed in story, fable, and legend as the king of poultry raids, the fox whether it's a gray or red, tends to strike fear in the hearts of chicken farmers. The fox is prone to hunt 2 hours after sundown and 2 hours before sunup. Foxes take their prey some distances (miles even) from the sight of the kill. Grays are famous climbers and will take the food up a tree to devour it. Usually the only sign of a fox raid is feathers and squalling hens. Foxes respect geese, but will stalk ducks for food Although most active at night, they are also seen by day. Coat color varies, but the tail is always tipped with white, and the legs, feet, and tips of the ears are always black They are known for their raids on poultry but are nonetheless very beneficial to farmers as destroyers of rodents. carnivorous mammal of the dog family, found throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere fox can and do take domestic fowl when the opportunity presents itself, particularly during the spring when there is a need to provide food for growing litters. Red fox do not chew their food, but tend to swallow whole. This accounts for the abundance of fur and crushed food bones found in fox droppings. They commonly kill more food that they eat at one time, and bury the extra food in caches.

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Coyote

Coyotes are territorial and will only leave their hunting range under duress. They are best known for their haunting songs at dusk Coyotes prefer larger quarry than chickens, but will rob a hen house, leaving the same sign as foxes, very little. The problem is they like to tell the whole coyote world after words. Wait about twenty minutes after a raid for him to bay about his deeds in your hen house.

 

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Rats..yes they can kill

Rats, can attack and kill young poultry, and do so much in the manner of weasels, proper management and waste disposal, as well as proper storage of feeds should eliminate this risk. Owls, and hawks both pose a threat especially to free range flocks, Runs built with netting on the top, or hanging pie tins in trees may thwart flying predators. 

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Dogs and Cats 

They account for a great loss to poultry. Teach your animals at a young age to respect your poultry, and inform your neighbors that stray pets are unwelcome on your property.

 

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The Chicken Encyclopedia™