12 Most Common Chicken Predators in the U.S.
L. Holloway is an experienced keeper of chickens and other fowl who has spent nearly a decade educating others on their habits and care.
Chickens are delicious, and we aren't the only creatures to think so. Virtually any animal that eats meat will happily eat a chicken, and it can be challenging to protect your birds against every potential threat that exists in your area. This list will help you get an idea of what threatens your flock and how to guard against predation, but it is always good to discuss the subject of predators with other chicken owners in your area before you get started. Not all species are equally tenacious in all areas.
Predator-Proof Chicken Coops?
It is important to note before we begin that there is no such thing as a 100% predator-proof coop. Many will argue this point, but the fact remains that a truly tenacious predator will find a way to access your coop, particularly if given the luxury of time or when aided by inclement weather. This article will touch not only on coop security but also:
- additional security measures, and
- methods for removal of predator species.
By combining these efforts, you can minimize the risk of predation on your flock.
12 Most Common Chicken Predators
- Red Foxes
- Birds of Prey
- Rodents (Mice and Rats)
- Weasels and Minks
- Coyotes and Wolves
Below, you'll find more information about each potential predator and ways to prevent them from poaching your flock.
- AKA: "Possum", "Virginia Possum"
- Scientific name: Didelphis virginiana
- Region: Midwest and South to East Coast, as well as the West Coast
- Preferred method of entry: Climbing
We will start with the much-maligned opossum (referred to interchangeably as "possum"). The only marsupial species native to North America, opossums are not rodents, and contrary to popular belief, are unlikely to carry rabies. They are primarily scavengers, and their ferocious appearance is generally all talk and no action. They are unlikely to enter a secure coop, as they are not strong diggers nor are they as clever as other predators like raccoons or foxes. They are, however, skillful climbers, and will easily enter a coop or run that is not properly covered.
As a general rule, opossums prefer not to have to fight for their meal and will target eggs, chicks, or chickens foolish enough to roost within easy reach. Chickens who roost on or near the ground, in sheds, or who are brooding on nests are prime targets. Opossums prefer to start with the soft underbelly, and chickens who are alive but stripped of feathers on their belly or rear-end can be a sign of an attempted opossum meal. Additionally, bodies of deceased chickens in which the abdominal cavity has been consumed are likely the work of opossums.
Opossums are typically easy to guard against, and widely regarded to be of least concern as far as predators go. However, in some regions of the country where they are overpopulated, and particularly on the West Coast where they are not native, opossums are known to be more aggressive and tenacious. Typically, if they do kill adult birds, they will kill only one at a time, though they can easily clean out a broody hen's nest of eggs or chicks in a single night.
How to Defend the Coop From Opossums
Since opossums are climbers, a tall fence is not enough to keep them out. Your coop and run will need a cover on it that is secured at every point around the perimeter. Any small gap will be enough for a curious opossum to squeeze through, and one should never assume that a gap is high enough that the opossum can't reach it.
How to Discourage or Repel Opossums From Your Property
As mentioned above, opossums are typically lazy and will opt for the easiest meal available to them. You can discourage them from taking an interest in your coop by offering food elsewhere on the property, if you so choose. There is no need to be elaborate--old eggs, kitchen waste, or pet food will appeal to them as much as anything.
If your intention is to keep opossums out of your yard entirely, you may find that to be a challenge, because they are opportunists and difficult to discourage completely. However, you can use "predator pee" products to make the area around the coop off-putting, or enlist the services of a livestock guardian dog if you have the option available to you.
How to Remove Opossums
If you have a problem opossum that you need to remove from the property, you will need to consult your local and state laws on how to handle it. Many states prohibit relocating an opossum, while some prohibit the killing of an opossum without a hunting permit. If you do need to capture a nuisance opossum, you can opt for a live trap, or even simply catch it by hand—just be sure to wear thick leather gloves on the off-chance it tries to bite. Once captured, you may consult your local Department of Wildlife on what to do next.
It is important to emphasize that you shouldn't attempt to eradicate opossums entirely from your property, as this will be an exercise in futility that will leave you frustrated and exhausted. Due to their prolific nature, there will always be opossums in the region, and removing one from your property will just allow a new one to move in from the surrounding area.
Opossums should only be removed if they are nuisance animals, such as when they are overpopulated or dependent on domestic sources for food. Removing an opossum that was ignoring your chickens may result in a new opossum moving in who thinks your coop is a buffet. When possible, coexist with this species, and only cull or relocate when absolutely necessary.
#2: Red Fox
- AKA: Fox
- Scientific name: Vulpes vulpes
- Region: Widespread globally--uncommon in Rocky Mountains and Southwest
- Preferred method of entry: Climbing, jumping, digging
Red foxes are a widespread species common in most of the continental USA and are infamous for their love of chicken. Unlike other predators like hawks or opossums who will kill one bird at a time, foxes will kill as many chickens as they can catch, and stash the remains for later meals. Because of this, they can easily clean out an entire coop in just one night, making a single lapse in security absolutely devastating.
Foxes are extremely clever, resourceful, and strong. They can chew through chicken wire, dig under fences, climb over walls, and squeeze through small gaps. They seem to instinctively know when bad weather or human error has left the flock vulnerable, and because they are so adaptable, they won't always be deterred by proximity to human dwellings. They are far more common in town and in urban settings than they are in rural areas, due to the absence of their own natural predators, but foxes can attack in the country as well, so it is important to defend against them.
Foxes kill multiple birds and stash them, and will often pick off birds without leaving evidence behind. If you smell an odor similar to skunk but not as strong, that is a good indicator foxes have been around. Buried birds, piles of feathers, or bodies with only the heads eaten off are signs of a fox attack as well.
How to Defend the Coop From Foxes
Foxes require strong defense from every angle. Bury fencing at least 6" or put down a wire "apron" around the perimeter of your coop to prevent digging. Only use welded wire or hardware cloth fencing--never chicken wire, as foxes can chew through it. Foxes can jump and climb over fences exceeding 6' high, so your run should have a secure top on it, even if it is only bird netting. Special care should be taken to ensure all doors and gates are properly latched at night, as well as regular inspections made to check for signs of attempted entry such as claw or tooth marks or digging.
Never assume that a gap is too small for a fox to enter. If their head will fit, their whole body will.
How to Discourage or Repel Foxes
Coyote pee, "predator eye" devices, and livestock guardian dogs are all recommended methods to discourage foxes from the property. Keeping foxes off your land in the first place is your best bet for avoiding casualties.
How to Remove Foxes
As always, check with your local and state laws before deciding to trap or relocate foxes. Foxes can carry rabies and disrupt local ecosystems, so relocating them is often prohibited by law. In addition, it can be extremely difficult to trap foxes, as they are very intelligent and learn quickly to avoid entering live traps. Foothold traps are more effective against foxes but require experienced use to avoid collateral damage while ensuring success.
If traps are not working, you cannot shoot the foxes, and you cannot afford further casualties to them, you may decide to use poison. This is generally not advisable, since even if your intended target finds and consumes the poison, it can still claim unintended victims when scavengers make the mistake of consuming the carcass. If you must poison the foxes on your property, use marshmallows stuffed with baker's chocolate.
Like all canid species, foxes are unable to properly metabolize theobromine, so chocolate is toxic to them. Baker's chocolate is especially potent due to its purity, and one bar will be enough to deal with two or three foxes. Because the chocolate breaks down quickly, it will pose little to no threat to other wildlife, although it is extremely important to ensure neighborhood pets do not have access to the bait as it will sicken or kill them as well.
#3: Birds of Prey
- Region: Widespread
- Preferred method of entry: Aerial attacks
Rather than attempting to individually address every unique species of raptor that might prey on your chickens, we will discuss the category of hawks, eagles, and owls collectively since they all hunt in relatively similar fashions and are defended against in the same ways. Birds of prey come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, and their collective range covers almost the entire United States, even extending into urban environments.
The most common species to predate chickens would be varieties like Cooper's hawk and the sharp-shinned hawk, as these are species that prefer to hunt birds, but even species like eagles and red-tailed hawks will hunt chickens if they are hungry enough and there is sufficient opportunity. Owls will hunt chickens as well, but because they hunt exclusively at night, there is little risk of them killing birds in a secured coop and run.
Birds of prey tend to strike while birds are free-ranging, though they have been known to exploit gaps in coops and runs that allow them to enter from above, cornering their prey in the coop where the chickens have nowhere else to run. They generally only kill one bird at a time. Unlike predators who roam on the ground, birds of prey cannot gorge themselves or they'd be too heavy to fly, nor do they have stashes like foxes where they save food for later.
When they consume their prey, raptors will often pick the ribcage bones clean in a distinctive manner. They will not leave tooth marks on the bones like other predators will, allowing you to rule out land predators if you find the remains. Smaller birds like chicks and bantams may be carried away completely, leaving no sign of the attack, while larger birds have to be eaten on-site since they are too heavy to carry, leaving a gory scene behind. Given the option, hawks prefer to carry their food away to a safer spot to eat, so if birds of prey are your culprit, your smallest birds will likely be the first casualties.
How to Defend the Coop From Predatory Birds
Coops and runs should be completely covered with bird netting. No gaps should exist anywhere in the coverage, lest birds of prey exploit the opening to enter.
How to Discourage or Repel Birds of Prey
Reflective tape, spinners, fans, and other shiny objects can disorient and confuse some birds of prey enough to discourage them from hunting in your yard, while some chicken owners swear by stringing fishing line from tree to tree across the yard in an erratic pattern, denying raptors easy access. Scarecrows may be effective, but it is ironically attracting crows themselves that may prove to be the best defense against hawks, as they are fiercely territorial against the large birds of prey.
How to Remove Predatory Birds
All birds of prey are federally protected in the United States, so any efforts to remove the birds or kill them is a violation of federal law. Even harassing raptors that are roosting on your property is illegal in some states, so check with your local laws before attempting to drive off hawks or eagles with fireworks or noisemakers. If you accidentally catch a hawk or other bird of prey in a live trap (as sometimes happens), contact your local authorities to find out how to address the problem.
- AKA: Polecat
- Scientific name: Mephitis mephitis (striped)
- Region: Widespread in the USA
- Preferred method of entry: Digging, squeezing
There are multiple species of skunk in the US, including several that are referred to as "spotted skunks," but they all hunt in the same manner and pose similar risks.
Skunks are not avid chicken hunters as a rule. They are primarily scavengers, but they are happy to raid nests and have been known to pluck eggs or chicks right out from under a broody hen. Attacks on adult birds by skunks are rare but possible. Usually, though, the sign that a skunk has infiltrated your coop will be broken and emptied eggshells, possibly with a whiff of their signature aroma left in their wake.
How to Defend the Coop From Skunks
Skunks are diggers and wrigglers. Putting down a wire apron or burying your fence as you would with other digging animals will prevent them from tunneling in. Make sure there are no gaps in your fence either, as they can fit through extremely small spaces (if their head will fit, their body will fit.)
How to Discourage or Repel Skunks
Some forms of predator pee will deter skunks, but a secure coop will usually be all you need to keep them out of your henhouse. Another possible method you could utilize is to leave piles of scraps or food on the far end of your property, attracting skunks and other scavengers away from your coops.
How to Remove Skunks
Remember: In many states, it is illegal to relocate animals you trap due to the threat of spreading disease or destabilizing the local ecosystem. Check your local laws before attempting to trap and relocate a nuisance skunk.
Live traps should be baited with the skunk's favorite food. If it has been eating eggs, stock it with eggs. If it has been eating chicks, try leaving a raw piece of meat like a chicken leg in the trap. If and when you trap the skunk, take a tarp or sheet--one you don't mind throwing away later—and hold it in front of you so that the skunk cannot see your legs as you walk toward it.
Since skunks have limited spray they can use, they will be reluctant to shoot at a target they cannot properly see. When you reach the trap, lay the sheet over the trap, covering all sides so the skunk cannot see out of it. Then, you will be able to relocate the skunk if that is your plan.
One important note: No matter what you do, the skunk will probably spray in the live trap, so be braced for the odor. Also, wear a hat, and if you have long hair, tie it up and tuck it under the hat so that it is not exposed. Although the skunk will not be able to directly spray you if you follow the steps above, that odor will settle on your hair and stick to it for days if you don't protect it.
If you do get sprayed, or simply have the odor clinging to you, you will need to break up the oils to get it off. Dawn dish soap is the method most recommended by this author, who has been in that predicament before, but it will still take several washings to remove the odor entirely.
- Region: Widespread in the USA
- Preferred method of entry: Squeezing through small spaces
As with birds of prey, there are far too many snake species to address them individually, so we will discuss them all here. For starters, we must emphasize that the vast majority of the time, snakes are beneficial and not a threat to your chickens. Most species are too small to pose a threat to either chickens or eggs, and others are crucial in the efforts to maintain local mice and rat populations. Without snakes, your property (as well as your neighbors') will be thoroughly overrun with vermin, which is a health hazard not only to us but to our chickens as well.
Generally speaking, the variety that vexes chicken owners the most are the various species of rat snake. Some rat snakes will get a taste for eggs, and inexplicably, a hungry snake will sometimes kill a chicken in an apparent attempt to eat it. Of course, even the largest rat snake is far too small to eat a grown hen, so it is a waste, but fortunately, such events are extremely rare. It is far more likely that the snake will eat your eggs, leaving no trace of their disappearance, though it may also eat small chicks if it has the opportunity.
Rat snakes—as their name suggests—are far more likely to eat rodents than birds, but if they do take to predating on your chicks or eggs, you will find no remains with which to identify the culprit as they swallow their prey whole. A full-grown rat snake can swallow several eggs or chicks at a go, so if you suddenly find that four or five chicks have gone missing without a trace and no sign of struggle, a snake is your likely culprit.
Most snake species in the US are too small to pose a threat to chickens and are more likely to be eaten by the chickens themselves than the other way around.
How to Defend the Coop From Snakes
It is very difficult to predator-proof against snakes, as they are able to fit through the smallest of holes. Using hardware cloth and leaving no gaps larger than half an inch in your construction is the only way to prevent entry by snakes.
How to Discourage or Repel Snakes
Contrary to popular belief, mothballs will not deter snakes and make pose a health risk to your chickens. You may decide to invest in guineas, for although they are noisy, they will mob and attack snakes, protecting your chickens. You might also be able to teach the chickens themselves that snakes are food. Chickens who learn to eat small snakes can gradually graduate to larger species over time, which may be a problem if you actually want snakes in your yard to control vermin.
How to Remove Snakes From Your Property
Snake traps can be built or purchased and are generally effective. If you catch the snake in the act and know that it isn't venomous, you can catch it with your own two hands and put it in a pillowcase, tying off the open end so that it can't escape. Because snakes are so vital to the ecosystem and face such unfair odds against humans, it is highly recommended that you release the snake somewhere where it is likely to find food and shelter—preferably a distance from anyone else who owns chickens so that it will go back to hunting its natural prey.
#6: Mice and Rats
- Region: Widespread
- Preferred method of entry: Squeezing through small gaps, tunneling, climbing
It may seem odd to include mice and rats on this list, but they are a genuine threat to your birds. Not only are they unrepentant egg eaters, but they also carry deadly diseases in their droppings, and rats may chew on sleeping chickens, causing them life-threatening injury. Often drawn by spilled feed, it can be very difficult to keep them out of your coop and run completely, and even knowing that they are there may be a challenge unless you recognize the subtle signs of their presence.
Rodent droppings, tunnels in the bedding, cracked and empty eggshells, or even mysteriously sick and dying chicks may be the only evidence you get of an infestation. If you actually see a rodent while tending the coop, then the infestation is likely already severe.
How to Defend the Coop From Rodents
Rodents can chew through wood and tunnel through dirt. They can scale high walls to enter narrow gaps. It will be rather impossible to proof your coop against them completely.
How to Discourage or Repel Rodents
Using a rodent-proof feeder or not leaving feed in the coop overnight will go a long way to deter rodents. Enlisting the services of a barn cat or a breed of chicken known for mousing may help, but cats vary on their skills or interest in hunting, and chickens can only catch mice that come out in the day time.
How to Remove Rodents From Your Property
Most conventional traps and poisons are ill-advised due to the risk of collateral damage to the flock or other domestic animals. Chickens can be injured in snap traps, entangled in glue traps, or killed when they eat poisoned vermin that wandered into their reach. If you need to remove rodents from your coop, use live traps or construct a bucket trap to kill them without threatening your birds or other animals.
#7: Weasels and Minks
- Region: Widespread
- Preferred method of entry: Squeezing, digging, climbing
Weasels and minks encompass a sizeable family of species, including the mighty wolverine, but some species are more likely to pursue chickens than others. It's important to research weasel species that are common in your area, as some may not present a significant threat to your flock. If weasels are a threat, you need to address it before it becomes a problem. One weasel can wipe out a small flock in a single night, and to add insult to injury, they may only bite the necks to drink the chicken's blood, leaving everything else to waste.
How to Defend the Coop From Weasels and Minks
Weasels are very small, wriggly critters, so there mustn't be any gaps that they could fit their heads through. This can prove exceptionally challenging, so you may need to enlist the assistance of a professional carpenter if you can't manage it yourself. Weasel can also dig, so make sure to utilize buried wire, a wire apron, or pile rocks and gravel around the outside of your run to discourage digging. If possible, put a floor in your coop, elevated off the ground to prevent tunneling creatures (weasels included) from burrowing in.
How to Discourage or Repel Weasels and Minks
Weasels are by and large a part of a healthy ecosystem, and given an abundance of natural prey, are unlikely to target your chickens. They are also prey themselves, for animals like owls and hawks (likewise chicken predators), so attempting to eradicate them from your property will likely do more harm than good.
How to Remove Weasels and Minks From Your Property
Check with local laws before attempting to trap or kill weasels, as some species are endangered, and some states regard them as fur-bearing animals with a specific hunting season. Once you have clarified what your options are, you can research the specific methods of removal available to you.
#8: Domestic Dogs
- Region: Widespread
- Preferred method of entry: Digging, jumping, force
One of the most common chicken predators is actually the domestic dog. Most dogs are able to coexist with chickens just fine, especially with some training from their owners, but stray dogs or neglected pets running at large may be another story. Dogs are devastating predators because once they have access to the flock, they will kill every chicken they can catch for the sport of it. If you find multiple piles of feathers and dead birds that have been killed and left where they lie, dogs are the likely culprits.
How to Defend the Coop From Dogs
First and foremost: Never, never use chicken wire on your chicken coop and run. Even small predators can chew through it, and a tenacious dog will tear through it like it's not even there. Use welded wire and/or hardware cloth, perhaps even reinforcing your perimeter fence with cattle panel or chain link as well. Dogs can dig into coops, so bury your wire or use an apron to prevent digging, and make sure fences are high enough that dogs can't jump or climb over them.
How to Discourage or Repel Domestic Dogs
It can be challenging to discourage stray dogs from your yard. Having dogs of your own might help, especially if they are a large breed or a livestock guardian dog, as they will establish the yard as their territory and tell off any trespassers. Also, positioning your coop so that it isn't visible from the road or from far away could prevent a passing dog from taking notice of it. Electric fencing is also an option and will deter most predators.
How to Remove Dogs From Your Property
If you catch a dog in the act of attacking your chickens, you are within your legal rights to take any measures necessary to stop it, including killing the dog if need be. That being said, keep in mind that the dog is likely someone's pet. If the dog is not presenting an immediate threat, try to chase it off or capture it rather than immediately escalating to lethal force. This can avoid hostile interactions with neighbors and other members of the community, as well as avoiding a situation where an otherwise benevolent dog was needlessly harmed.
Of course, if the dog is a repeat offender and the owners have been located and confronted with no change in the circumstances, you are in the position to use your own best judgment on how to handle the situation. Your animals on your own property always take precedence over someone else's animal on your property.
- AKA: Wildcat
- Scientific name: Lynx rufus)
- Region: Widespread in the USA, excluding parts of the midwest and east.
- Preferred method of entry: Climbing, tearing
Bobcats are widespread in the United States, but because of their inherent fear of people, they usually avoid habitated areas and homes. As such, they are uncommon chicken predators but will resort to hunting our flocks if food becomes scarce or they have young to feed.
Bobcats will hunt at any time of day, but their preferred hunting times are dawn and dusk. If they leave any remains for you to find, they will likely have distinctive claw marks, leaving little doubt as to the culprit.
How to Defend the Coop From Bobcats
Bobcats are far more likely to pick off free-ranging chickens, but a hungry enough cat will enter a coop for a meal. Make sure there are no gaps that the cat could enter through, including vents or eaves on the roof. Bobcats can jump and climb, so never assume a gap is too high to be a problem. As mentioned several times before, never use chicken wire on your coop and run. A bobcat will find chickenwire to be no obstacle and will tear through it easily. Make sure the run is covered and that there are no gaps in it.
How to Discourage or Repel Bobcats
Night eyes, predator pee, hotwire, and/or a livestock guardian dog are all very effective at deterring bobcats.
How to Remove Bobcats From Your Property
Check your local and state laws before attempting to trap, kill, or relocate a bobcat. Most regions have very strict laws on how this species can be handled.
- Region: Widespread in mountainous and forested areas
- Preferred method of entry: Brute force, digging, tearing
Bears are a unique challenge if you live in an area that has them. Their impressive strength renders most prefabricated coops utterly useless, as they can tear through wood and wire with ease. Once in, they will eat your chicken feed, eggs, and any chickens they can catch. In all likelihood, if a bear has visited your coop, you will know right away from the damage it does.
How to Defend the Coop From Bears
If you live in a bear-prone area, build your coop and run as solidly as you would your own house. Do not skimp on materials, and make sure to enlist the services of a professional carpenter if you need to. Also, reinforcing run wire with cattle panels on all sides is the best option for a secure environment for your flock.
How to Discourage or Repel Bears
Electric fencing, livestock guardian dogs, and removing temptation from the property (trash and other food sources) will help discourage bears from ever taking an interest in your yard. You can also make an "unwelcome mat." Take a sheet of plywood and use 3" nails or screws to create a spiked surface. Lay these "unwelcome mats" all around your coop so that marauding bears will have to walk over them to access your birds. Odds are, they will find the potential meal to be not worth the pain, and move on to easier prey.
How to Remove Bears From Your Property
You will likely need to enlist the services of professionals to remove the bear from your property. Aside from being dangerous, bears are often protected by laws that dictate when they can or can't be hunted or trapped. Consult your region's laws before attempting to handle the issue yourself.
#11: Coyotes & Wolves
- Scientific name: Canis lupus (wolf), Canis latrans(coyote)
- Region: Wolves: Widespread in Alaska. Only common regionally in the continental USA (see map) Coyotes: Ubiquitous throughout the continental US and Alaska.
- Preferred method of entry: Digging, climbing/jumping
Coyotes and wolves usually have a healthy fear of human beings, but if prey is scarce, they are overpopulated, or inexperienced young are hungry enough, they may venture into your yard for a meal. In some areas, coyotes especially are more tenacious than others, and will more actively hunt domesticated prey, even coming into towns and suburbs to hunt.
Unlike domestic dogs, if wolves or coyotes prey on your flock, they are unlikely to be wasteful. They will try to eat what they catch, which means it is unlikely you will find remains of your birds unless the animals are interrupted while feeding. Tooth marks on dismembered remains will be the most likely indicator of your culprit.
How to Defend the Coop From Coyotes and Wolves
Like domestic dogs, coyotes and wolves are equipped with strong jaws and powerful paws for digging, so using good wire fencing (not chicken wire) is a must. Bury wire or put down an apron to prevent digging in, and make sure your run is covered so that spry animals can't simply jump over your perimeter fence. Coyotes have been reported jumping fences as high as 6 feet tall, so a top is crucial for a safe flock.
How to Discourage or Repel Coyotes and Wolves
Predator pee may be effective against coyotes, but it is dubious whether or not it will deter wolves. Livestock guardian dogs and electric fencing, as well as solar-powered night eyes, will help dissuade wild canines from exploring your yard for a meal.
How to Remove Coyotes and Wolves From Your Property
Consult your regional laws on the subject before attempting to trap or kill coyotes or wolves. In some areas, they are protected, or can only be killed in-season. Because of their intelligence, these animals are challenging to trap, and you may need to enlist the services of a professional.
- AKA: Trash Panda, coon
- Scientific name: Procyon lotor
- Region: Widespread in the United States
- Preferred method of entry: Climbing, squeezing, opening latches, or reaching through gaps
Raccoons are perhaps the most vexing of chicken predators because, unlike other animals that exploit existing gaps or weak points to enter your coop, raccoons will actually manipulate latches to open doors, windows, or nesting boxes. They may also reach through fencing to grab birds, allowing them to kill and eat your chickens without setting foot in the coop or run. They also seem to exploit bad weather to access birds, attacking during storms that may drop tree limbs on your coop and run, or blow open doors for them.
Raccoons will often kill more than they need and only eat the neck and chest area of the birds. Birds that have been consumed in this fashion or maimed through the fence are likely victims of raccoon attacks. Another tell-tale sign of raccoon attacks is their preference to dismember their prey. If you find a leg here, a wing there, and the head somewhere else, a raccoon is likely the culprit.
How to Defend the Coop From Raccoons
Never use chicken wire on your coop or run. Raccoons and most other predators can tear this apart. Use a small-gage hardware cloth or welded wire to prevent raccoons from reaching through it to grab birds. Do not use simple hook-and-eye latches to close your coops and runs—raccoons can open these with their dexterous paws.
All latches should require manipulation by a human hand to open if keeping raccoons out is your goal. Runs should be securely covered, and there should be no gaps anywhere on the coop or run—no matter how high. Raccoons are skillful climbers and can enter even the highest opening. (which is how they end up in so many peoples' attics.)
How to Discourage or Repel Raccoons
Predator pee, livestock guardian dogs, and electric fence are good deterrents to raccoons. Also, removing temptation by keeping trash and pet food out of their reach will help discourage them from sniffing around your yard in the first place.
How to Remove Raccoons From Your Property
Raccoons are usually fairly easy to trap, and there are traps designed specifically for them that will eliminate the risk of unintended prisoners or victims. Consult with your regional laws before trapping and relocating a raccoon, as in many states, it is illegal to do so. Raccoons can carry rabies and other diseases and will not hesitate to bite, so if in doubt, enlist the services of a trained professional.
How to Minimize Predator Threats to Your Coop
Regardless of where you live and what predators are common in your area, there are a few things you can do to minimize the threat of predation to your flock.
- Never use chicken wire to secure your birds. At a minimum, use hardware cloth or welded wire, perhaps reinforced with cattle or hot panels.
- Always cover your coop and run with—at minimum—sturdy bird netting to prevent entry from flying or climbing predators.
- Bury fencing at least 6 inches or lay a wire "apron" around the perimeter of your run to discourage digging or tunneling into your enclosure.
- Incorporate electric fencing, livestock guardian dogs, solar-powered night eyes, predator pee, and other deterrents to prevent predator species from even taking an interest in your yard.
- Do not leave pet food or trash unsecured where it may attract wildlife to your yard.
- Limit free-ranging time, and supervise when possible. There is no way to 100% protect against predators while chickens are free-ranging, so they will always be safer in the coop and run.
- Check your coop and run daily for signs of damage, wear, or attempted entry by predators. Even a secure coop can be infiltrated if a predator has enough time to wear down your defenses.
12 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Got My First Guinea Fowl
Jennifer is a full-time homesteader who started her journey in the foothills of North Carolina in 2010. Currently, she spends her days gardening, caring for her orchard and vineyard, raising chickens, ducks, goats, and bees. Jennifer is an avid canner who provides almost all food for her family needs. She enjoys working on DIY remodeling projects to bring beauty to her homestead in her spare times.
Well, no. It’s a guinea fowl.
That is what many people ask when they first pull into a homestead to see these birds shuffling around.
We took the plunge into guinea fowl about a year ago, and boy was it an eye-opening experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I have grown to love our guineas very much, but it has taken some serious getting used to.
This is why I wanted to share with you a list of things I wish someone had told me before bringing them home.
1. A Guinea Is Not A Chicken
You might be thinking, “Well, duh!”
But I mean they are not even remotely the same.
Chickens are very domesticated birds. You can coop them, free-range them, or do half and half.
Chickens are fine with both.
Guineas are not the same. Unless you clip their wings extremely short, they are going to get out of the coop. That is actually a good thing if you have them for any reason beyond meat and eggs.
Guineas are also very dominant.
So don’t be surprised if they end up running your coop. Our guineas have completely taken over.
Our chickens were adjusted eventually, but you know the guineas have entered the coop when you look out and even the rooster is in the nesting boxes trying to get out of their way.
Don’t let this deter you from keeping your chickens and guineas together. Guinea fowl become tamer when allowed to interact with chickens.
2. Guineas Know No Boundaries
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but chickens know when they are off of their turf. I’m not sure how, but they do.
Well, guineas are not like that.
Guineas will walk onto a road and think they own it. They will take over the neighbor’s yard if they so desire.
When we first got our guineas, they not only took over our yard and chicken coop but our neighbor’s too. Thankfully, he was a good sport about it.
But most Saturday mornings I’d go out to feed the animals and sure enough, my neighbor would go into his coop and find my guinea rooster roosting in his coop.
So in the midst of feeding animals, he’d catch them and pass them over the fence to me. Talk about embarrassing.
But our neighbors have grown to enjoy the benefits of guineas too, so it all worked out.
Plus, all homesteaders know that animals have a mind of their own. So my guineas go up to visit our neighbors and their goats come down to visit us on occasion.
3. They Are ‘Chatty Cathy’
Guinea fowl are ‘Chatty Cathy’.
They talk all of the time.
The hens make a noise that sounds like they are saying, “Come back. Come back,” while the roosters make a “Chi chi chi” sound.
This is the main way you can tell your males and females apart.
Not only do they converse a lot, but they do it loudly.
I can’t emphasize this point enough.
Guineas are loud creatures. It can be annoying at times, but you either choose to embrace it, or guineas aren’t your cup of tea.
4. Who Needs ADT When You Have Guineas?
This is a great benefit of owning guineas.
I was not prepared for how great of watchdogs these birds were going to be for our homestead.
We don’t have a lot of predators around our homestead, but we did have a stray dog problem.
We raise meat rabbits and unfortunately, these stray dogs had figured out we had them. It got to a point where we were going outside every morning to either find a hutch destroyed or a rabbit missing.
We tried everything to catch them in the act but never had any luck. Then the dogs started getting more brazen and showing up in the middle of the day.
They were fast. As soon as we’d come out to find them, they’d be gone.
I heard the guineas going nuts the first few days they were released on the property. I went outside to check out what was going on, and sure enough, there stood one of those stray dogs.
It was so afraid of them that eventually, our dog problem ceased.
We had a few stray cats stalking our chickens as well. A cat tried to stalk our guinea rooster one day, and he actually let the cat pounce.
As soon as the cat pounced, the guinea flew over his head and attacked him. We no longer have a stray cat problem either.
They will guard your animals and property against both predators and people that should not be around.
They are great to have for this reason alone.
5. You Don’t Need The Orkin Man—You Need Guineas
Our property was once completely wooded. We have since cleared a lot of it in order to homestead, but we still had a pest problem.
We had ticks everywhere and every year we had to do battle in our garden because of June Bugs.
Our middle son came in one day with a giant tick on him. He had the ring around the bite so off to the doctor we went for antibiotics.
That day is what led us to guineas. My husband made an executive decision and a few days later we were the proud owner of our first guineas.
Since we have had guineas, we don’t have bugs.
They go all throughout the woods, in the different animals’ areas, in the garden, and all over the yard.
This is another huge benefit to owning guineas.
6. Guineas Must Be Trained
As mentioned earlier, guineas are not very domesticated birds.
They don’t actually require a coop. They will roost in the trees.
However, if you want them to come home and roost then they’ll need a coop.
If you decide to start with keets, you raise them basically as you would a baby chick or duckling. They require a brooder box and starter feed.
They need to be protected from the wind and kept warm for the first few weeks.
You can also raise guinea fowl from adults.
Our first go-round with guineas we raised day old keets. We raised them all the way up until they were ready to start free-ranging, and we messed up big time.
We let them all go at once.
Guineas travel in close-knit groups so once they are all out and gone, they are gone if they aren’t trained that this is home.
The next go-round we bought only adults.
We cooped them for about six weeks. Then we let them out one at a time. We would release a new guinea about every day or so.
Because they won’t leave each other, they had to keep coming home to roost.
By the time all of our guineas were released, they knew that this was home.
This is what you’ll need to do whether you raise them from keets or not.
Giving them a coop with food, water, and roosts will entice them to come home every day more so than if you just let them roost in the trees.
7. Guineas Are Poor Mothers
Guinea fowl are fast-paced, flighty birds.
They are also seasonal layers. They prefer to nest on the ground instead of nesting boxes as chickens do.
It takes guineas about 26-28 days to hatch a full clutch.
A lot of times they will make a nest off in the woods. If you find it, it is a good idea to move the nest back to the coop.
Guineas are usually great setters.
The problem is that once the eggs hatch, the moms are off and running again. They take their babies through wet areas which can cause them to chill and ultimately die.
So what do you do if you want to raise those baby guineas?
- Put the guinea eggs under a broody hen. She will raise them as her own and take great care of them.
- Incubate the eggs and raise them as you would day old keets that you purchased.
If you leave things in the hand of a guinea hen, sadly, the keets will probably not survive.
8. Fly Away Little Guinea
Have I told you yet that guineas are nothing like chickens?
Chickens don’t really fly. They can use their wings to help them slightly hop to high places, but they don’t soar.
I’m talking like actually take flight.
It is nothing for our guinea fowl to fly on top of our house. They sit on our fence posts with ease.
If something scares them, they’ll just fly right over it.
I’ve even seen my guineas walking back from my mother-in-law’s house which is across from our house.
They got tired of walking up the driveway, so they just flew from the bottom of our driveway over our house, and into the farthest corner of our backyard with no problem.
I was not aware of this when we got them. I imagined them to fly like a chicken flies.
The first time I saw them soar over our house, it was amazing.
So just be prepared that they will actually soar longer distances than you’d probably think.
9. Guineas Are Excellent Gardeners
I already mentioned that guineas are great at eating bugs. They have saved our garden from being ravaged by the June Bugs.
I am so thankful for that!
What is even more amazing is that they don’t destroy your garden.
Chickens like to eat bugs, but they’ll also eat your plants and scratch the ground all around them.
Ducks are great at eating bugs, like chicken. However, their feet are so big that if the plants are not large enough, they’ll squoosh them in the process of eating the bugs off of them.
And ducks like certain plants too.
They eat the bugs, are delicate on the plants, and don’t scratch the ground.
If you are like us and try to grow as much of your own food as possible, then guineas are a great little weapon to unleash on those unwanted garden pests.
10. Guineas Are Crazy Fast
If you need to catch your guineas, you can forget it.
The only way you’ll most likely be able to catch them is if they are cooped at night.
Even then, you get only one shot. If you blow it, you won’t catch them that night.
You first have to wait until they are cooped.
Then you have to grab them by their wings. We actually use a net, so we don’t hurt them.
Guinea fowl have really delicate legs. If you grab them by their leg, they’ll whip around on you and actually break it.
That is why it is best to grab them by their wings or just use a net and catch the whole bird at once.
When you have to catch them be prepared to laugh at yourself. It gets humorous quickly.
11. Guineas Are Free Entertainment
People told me chickens were funny. They were right.
People told me goats were funny. They were right.
But no one ever told me how funny guineas are to watch.
When they shuffle up and down the driveway looking for bugs, it is an adorable sight.
Watching a guinea outsmart a cat and then running it off is a funny sight.
Guineas just add one more funny thing to watch while you are out on a homestead. It is nature’s free entertainment.
12. Guineas Are Low Maintenance Birds
Guineas don’t have to have a coop.
They forage for their food.
Guineas don’t need nesting boxes.
Yes, a coop is a good idea as we discussed previously.
But in all actuality, guineas are super low maintenance. There are no nesting boxes to clean, no large coop to maintain.
They are just happy to fly around your property and eat your bugs.
You don’t get much more low-maintenance than that.
Having these amazing birds as part of your homestead will give it a complete feeling.
Yes, they have their pros and cons, but from my personal experience, I wouldn’t trade my guineas.
They have been much more of a help around our homestead than a hindrance.
Here are some excellent beginner guides on raising guinea fowl, if you decide to get one yourself:
Causes of Sudden Death in Chickens
If you are into raising chickens for business purposes or for your personal use, it is good to be aware of causes of sudden death in chickens.
This way, you will have the means to prevent this from happening or guide a friend who is into raising chickens about preventing chickens from being killed this way.
Snake - Chicken Predators - How To Protect Your Chickens From Snakes
Snakes are found on most islands and in every continent except Antarctica. They adapt to living in different habitats, but most species prefer damp, dark, cool places where food is abundant. Likely places to find snakes around your property is wood or junk piles, gardens with heavy mulch, untrimmed shrubs and shrubs growing next to foundations, unmowed and unkept lawns, fields with tall vegetation, pond and stream banks with abundant debris, cluttered basements and attics, feed storage areas and barns where there are lots of rodents and crawl spaces under houses.
Methods of Kill
Most snakes kill their prey either by introducing venom through bites or by constricting them to death before swallowing them. Their highly flexible lower jaws allow them to take in large prey. For instance, the African egg-eating snake can take in eggs larger than his own head. Its spine acts like teeth, breaking the eggshells as it passes through the body. After taking the contents of the egg, it will then regurgitate the empty shell. Once a snakes gains access to your coop, eggs, and small chicks are those that are most often eaten by snakes.
Prevention & Treatment
Those living in areas known for snakes should fortify the base of their chicken coops and runs and fit an apron around your chicken run. Also cover windows and other openings, such as ventilation holes with fine mesh or hardware cloth. Check for cracks or holes in any buildings and fill them in, as these could be places where snakes could enter. You can also try snake deterrents. But be careful when using anything toxic, such as mothballs. Make sure that it is out of reach of your children, chickens, and other pets. A safer method of dealing with snakes is by setting snake traps.
Because snakes do not like open spaces, it is also recommended that you mow the tall grass around chicken coops. Make sure you clear away their favorite hiding spaces like wood piles and rocks. Compost piles in your backyard are excellent breeding grounds for the snakes. These should be cleared or relocated far from your chicken coops. Also eliminate rodents from your property as they will attract snakes. Trim any bushes or shrubs to create a space of at least 6 inches between the ground and the bottom branches.
For more information and discussions on snakes and how to protect your flock visit the Predators and Pests section of the forum.
One of the most effective predator deterrents for a chicken flock is—a chicken! Roosters are especially helpful in free-range flocks, where male birds act as guardians and defenders of the ladies. While a good rooster can—and will—fend off smaller predators, the bird’s best defense is as guardian, scanning the ground and sky for trouble and sounding a loud alarm when trouble arrives on the scene.
When provided in adequate numbers—the general rule is one rooster for every 10 to 12 hens—roosters guard against common daytime predators such as foxes and hawks by issuing a loud crow that sends hens running for cover and alerts farmers of clear and present danger. A rooster will also adeptly locate forage for his harem of hens, over which he’ll stand guard while they dine. Some chanticleers, however, can become indiscriminately aggressive, posing harm to children or pets with their long, sharp talons those birds are best suited for stew service.
Modern farmers don’t need to dump their electric fencing for pig perimeters and split-rail fences in order to see value in alternative methods of protecting livestock. Farming is a fluid endeavor that invites both hacks and time-tested solutions, and sometimes the fix for a problem at hand is found beyond the farm-store shelf. Humans have raised animals for a long time however we keep them safe today is the right way to farm.
This story originally appeared in the July/August issue of Hobby Farms magazine.