February 10, 2009
OK, there was a lot of talk over in the Jibber Jabber thread about bears, and we’ve had other predator discussions too. I thought I’d start this topic so we could have them all together.
If you have chickens as I do, it’s always a source of concern. Bears not so much for me personally, though it’s always possible.
Even if you don’t keep chickens, there’s plenty of good reason to at least know what’s around you.
Here’s a list of what I think are the most common chicken predators in the US and Canada, and the signs after the fact of what an attack by each leaves you as clues. As usual, feel free to post about any others!
Dogs, Domestic Cats, Coyotes, Mink/Weasel/Martin, Raccoon, Raptors (Hawks/Eagles /Owls), People, Fox, Opossum, Skunk, Bear, Lynx, Mountain Lion, Cougar. I haven’t said much about the lynx etc below because I don’t have much real experience with them (I lived for 7 years where they were seen but they’re very shy).
Dog > By FAR!!!!! The Number one danger for most backyard flocks! Many birds in a flock will be mauled, killed, injured, dogs will chase and kill chickens for no good reason, to them it’s mostly “fun”. They’ll rarely eat any. Poorly kept dogs are a menace.
Coyote > Somewhat like dogs, but they’ll come in pairs usually and scatter a flock, kill several because they get in a bit of a frenzy over all the wings and squawking etc, but then take away a couple out to the bush to eat. Once these guys find a likely source of food, they’ll return the next evening and the next and again and again.
Domestic Cats > A feral cat could possibly kill a chicken, especially in an enclosed area, but it’s not easy and not common. Most people blame cats because they don’t realize how many raccoons, opossum, coyotes and fox are actually active in and very near cities and towns. Most well fed house-cats are pretty lame at trying to catch a chicken let alone kill one. It’s not impossible though.
Various wild Cat species > I have limited experience with cats, I lived where Lynx were occasionally seen but they are very shy so never bothered us. Mountain Lions, Lynx, Bobcat, Puma etc will all take chickens if they can. They will carry their prey off to a safe spot to eat it where they feel safe. Once they find a source of easy food they tend to visit again periodical for another try.
Mink/weasel/martin > Several killed, a lot of small bites, some portions eaten, especially heads and bellies. Mink do kill animals much larger than themselves and are incredibly fierce for their size. I have these since I live on a river… they’re tricky to protect against, smart, agile, sneaky and hunt all hours of the day and night.
Raccoon > Several birds may be killed or just one. Raccoons will often just eat the heads and crops. Because of their very dexterous paws, if a raccoon can’t can’t get into a coop or enclosure but can reach a chicken through a fence or opening, it will ‘grab’ a chicken and hold onto it while it dismembers it. (yeah, gross I know)
Hawk > One bird gone, a pile of feathers in an open area. Other parts nearby, sometimes only head eaten, depends on time of year (feeding young etc). Not all hawks will kill chickens, so don’t get worried about every sighting. The most likely ones are of the group called, “Broadwing Hawks” which is a larger type of hawk that includes: Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Rough-legged hawk, Ferruginous hawk and also, the Goshawk which is mostly in the very northern tier of the US and up into Canada.
Owl > a lot like hawks, but owls usually (most say exclusively) hunt at night. IMO they also hunt in the very early dawn, and at dusk too. Most owls eat only field mice, shrews, voles and other similar fairly small vermin they can swallow whole. The only owl that is actually big enough to kill a chicken is a Great Horned Owl. Keep your chickens in a coop, they’ll be safe from these guys.
People > Several birds gone, no sign of predator… yeah, it happens.
Fox > Several birds killed, usually by a broken neck, only one taken away. You may find part of a corpse and/or feathers nearby, they do take away and don’t like to eat in the coop.
Opossum > One or two birds dead, mauled. Mostly bellies eaten.
Skunk > Much like an Opossum, and they love eggs. Biggest clue is the smell of course, even if they don’t spray, they’ll leave scent.
Bear > door gone off of coop, fence destroyed, etc. you all knew that right?
Next will be control/defense tips and ideas.
Located in N.E. Ohio
February 10, 2009
BuckeyGirl’s thoughts about predator control.
>A good fence and a strong coop is your BEST defense. If predators don’t get into the habit of finding an easy meal on your property, they’ll not bother hanging around. In the case of animals that can dig under a fence, digging a trench and burying 6 to 8 inches of fencing will almost always discourage them, or doing it in an “L” shape but less deep so an apron lays out flat on the outside of the fence line, so when a critter starts to dig down, he hits the fence laying flat. Something you don’t want is having a fence that predators can get into, but which traps the chickens inside for easy pickings.
>Chicken wire only keeps chickens in, it doesn’t keep other animals out. Using heavier gauge fencing for your run is best, even if it’s got somewhat larger holes, then putting up hardware cloth along the bottom 24 inches or so, so that raccoons can’t reach in after little handfuls of chicken. Most of the animals listed above can pull apart chicken wire seams, gnaw through chicken wire, or in the case of dogs, just jump on it till it pushes apart.
> Since animals such as raccoons, opossums, skunks and even bears are very opportunistic feeders, and omnivores, but meat loving omnivores much like us, keep your yard free from any extra food left lying around. This includes chicken feed out in the run overnight, dog and cat food left out on a porch, garbage cans, and sometimes even bird feeders can be a problem. Some animals may start with Fido’s kibble, then move on to the chicken coop for something that ‘tastes like chicken’.
>ALL raptors, Hawks, Falcons and Eagles are protected in ALL states under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 USC, 703-711). These laws strictly prohibit the capture, killing, or possession of hawks or owls without special permit. No permits are required to scare depredating migratory birds except for endangered or threatened species, including bald and golden eagles. REMEMBER though, scaring them means, being careful NOT to harm them in the process. Fish and Game does not mess around on this one and they DO watch for people who cross the line.
>Since Raccoons and several other creatures can climb, you might want to cover the top of a run, but this can get totally expensive, so this is an extreme measure IMO.
>If you truly live where raptors are an issue, you can drape the top of a run with bird netting or deer netting, just know that in the winter, even such nettings can and will collect enough snow and get heavy enough to be pulled down.
>For really tough areas, a few strands of electric fence around the base of a coop or the bottom of a fence will keep the hoards at bay. If you go to a farm or feed store, explain what you want it for, they’ll help you get what you need including the right size fencer. In most cases they’ll have someone on hand who can give you some directions too. Electric fencing is only scary till you get to know it, I used to help an uncle maintain his from when I was about 11. I wouldn’t know how to install it myself at the moment, but I know I COULD do it if I needed to. If you have bear in the area, several strands and a heavy duty fencer does discourage even a bear. A good zap on the nose usually convinces any and all predators they don’t really want what’s inside.
>Hanging CDs from string or fishing line etc from trees poles and fences so they flash in the sunlight can help keep raptors uneasy enough to avoid your yard if your birds free-range.
>If your birds free-range like mine do, having shelter for them to run under in strategic areas works well for me. I pride myself on having a bit of a wildlife refuge and I don’t want to chase away all visitors with things like the CDs. I have an A-frame type structure out where they can dodge under it, they run for the shelter there or under the trailer at times if they think there’s a hawk around or even just some shrubbery or under an area that has lots of trees. My hens are very aware of the skies and the calls of wild birds.
>Live traps are good, I highly recommend them, but most states/counties/communities have laws against relocating/releasing anything you’ve trapped in them afterwards. It spreads disease, makes them more difficult to catch a second (or third) time, less fearful of humans, and only moves a problem to someone else’s neighborhood. I honestly suggest that you call local authorities to determine how you’re going to handle anything you catch in one before you set a trap. In some places, animal control or fish and game will come out and remove raccoons or possums and such if you catch any, but not all.
Located in N.E. Ohio
November 18, 2008
I’ve used simply chicken wire over our run. Fairly inexpensive, but then it’s only 8×16 feet. I’ve also used fox urine granules to sprinkle around the coop and the edges of the yard where the coop is. There’s also wolf urine. I was worried that the urine would ATTRACT stuff, but everyone assured me it wouldn’t. I found both at hardware stores—-F.M. Pile in Charleston for those of you close.
January 26, 2010
Some additions to Buckeye Girl’s most excellent predator guide:
Lone dogs, foxes, coyotes, and bobcats will also grab a bird and run, particularly if the farm is protected by dogs that might give chase. One of my puppy buyers living in Arkansas, surrounded by national forest land, reported that a bobcat stole a chicken from their yard in broad daylight not 50 feet away with her and her husband watching. (Half grown farmcollie chased after it, cornered it in, and waited for her people to catch up and deal with it – I’m so proud of that pup!)
With larger animals – lambs, sheep, for instance, you might find scratches along the back, throat wounds. I’m told a bobcat goes for the throat and a cougar aims for the skull. An old farmer who saw a couger kill one of his cows near here a few years ago tells me the skull ‘rule’ is baloney. Scratches from a large dog harassing sheep can be mistaken for bobcat wounds sometimes, and vice versa. Bobcat scratches tend to be more of an even, four-claw scrape in my experience, and there may be several clearly identifiable scratches of the same pattern. Coyotes will go for the throat, too, or try to maim first, but they don’t leave the kind of claw scratches a big cat will.
Also, I’ve had a grown tom turkey snatched from inside a 5 ft. welded wire fence. Fish & Game’s official position is it was a bobcat. Local hunters & farmers say cougar, that a bobcat couldn’t get a 25-30 pound over that fence. Me? It’s gone. My dogs didn’t catch it. I leave more dogs out on duty now.
The best protection, imho, is twofold — heavy wire pens, particularly for night-time lockup, and well-trained farm dogs. I’m partial to English Shepherds and American Working Farmcollies myself, and am personally acquainted with quite a few very good LGDs, rough collies, Aussies, hounds, and mutts.
March 3, 2010
If you have bear in the area, several strands and a heavy duty fencer does discourage even a bear. A good zap on the nose usually convinces any and all predators they don’t really want what’s inside.
We know a beekeeper who keeps his bees in an area that has a lot of bears. He lives far away and so can’t check on his hives often. He strings one strand of electric (solar powered) fence around his hives, about 2′ above the ground. He hangs a piece of bacon on each strand each spring. He says that they are attracted to the smell of the bacon, touch it with their nose and don’t come back. He says that the bacon generally dries and stays on all season, if not longer, and remains effective.
February 10, 2009
February 8, 2009
January 10, 2012
..just a further tid bit of info..on the ole weasel..years back we had a flock of 100 chickens we raised for meat, it wasn't till they were fully grown and nearing butchering time, when Ed walked out to check them before work and found the whole flock destroyed by a weasel/weasels! Heads pulled off, throats bitten, partly eaten, it was a horrific site.. they kill just to kill. They got in in a tiny hole in the barn wood.. when setting up for chickens be sure all is sealed well.. it was the first time we had ever had chickens, it was a hard learned lesson..
" life is not about waiting for the storm to pass...it's about dancing in the rain"
April 1, 2009
No lions, tigers or bears, that I know of, but there is an increased number of coyotes in our area, I had never seen on until a couple of years ago, I though it was a stray dog until my neighbor told we what it was, even though we have a fenced area on our property that we take the dog out into, I never ever leave her ther alone, we back up to a huge woods and I worry about her being there alone, she isnt all that large. We have heard them howling at times after dark. I hear that they are quite fearless when they are on the prowl.
"Be kinder than necessary, everyone is fighting some sort of battle."
March 3, 2010
The FIRST time we put our chickens and ducks out…we had a great horned owl perch close by and watch the coop in the evening. We've never seen him before. Nice to see, except…
Fortunately, the birds were all in by then. We didn't let them out the next day because of the owl. We didn't see him on the second day, but heard him just outside the house in the trees. What a stinker. I wish it was another kind of owl. Their favorite foods are just what we have. I was hoping to have the ducks roam free at least. I was hoping they could cut down on our weeds and flies. The chickens, we planned to put in an ark. I also wanted Indian Runners this year and maybe some guineas. I would hate for them to be the owl's lunch.
I guess to some extent it should be expected here. We are in the middle of a major raptor migration route. We see pretty much all of them through here at certain times of the year…bald and golden eagles, red tailed hawks, snowy and great horned owls, and many other varieties of hawks and owls. At least we don't need to fear the vultures. Oh well, you have to deal with what you have.
February 10, 2009
Yep, GH owls are the only ones you need to worry about and of course they're going to hang around such a handy source of food. Actually, hawks are less trouble since they only hunt during the day and having convenient shrubs, lean tos made from scrap wood and sawhorses, even pic-nick tables and other places for chickens to take shelter from them means they'll move on pretty quick. Chickens seem to have a great instinct about hawks and learn really fast how to avoid that trouble. Owls just lurk and there's always that last hen late getting to the coop! Chickens are at a real disadvantage in low light, and owls are at their best. Annoying to say the least.
Guineas hate to come into the coop too and they'll roost out in the trees refusing to come in where it's safe if they're loose. Owls will just pick them off one by one. The only way to really keep them safe is to have them locked in a covered run… but then they're not going to be able to range around to keep the tick population down, which is the best thing about having guineas!
I was talking to a local farmer who is out disking his fields early already because of the unusually warm and dry weather about the coyote population around here. He said there's so many he doesn't think there's a single groundhog on his farm anymore and the rabbit population is probably down to nothing too. His farm dogs have been driven to distraction and of course, now that they have so little wild prey, they're after chickens, barn cats, house pets and he's even worried about his calves! Not something coyotes usually bother, but if they're desperate, who knows!
Located in N.E. Ohio
March 3, 2010
Where are the trappers and hunters? Up here, there are many coyotes. You can get paid pretty good money for the pelts.
When we had an intact male llama, there were no coyotes for at least a mile radius from out place. If they did happen to wander though, they were awfully nervous. It was funny to watch. As far as we can figure, it was the smell of the animal alone that struck fear into them.
December 14, 2010
LK When I was a kid I could get $2.25 for a large prime muskrat pelt. That was 1953. Today the trappers on the Eastern shore get about $2.50 for the pelt. They get more for the meat. I went to work for the A&P for $1.05 per hour and sold my traps. It takes a skilled trapper about an hour to skin and stretch a fox or coyote pelt. And it takes several traps and days to trap the animal and he must check his traps everyday. He will probably drive fifty miles per catch. My Brother tells me that there are trappers in South Carolina that trap for homeowners on contract. $150 per kill.
August 20, 2008
February 26, 2010
February 10, 2009
He looks large enough to be a Great Horned, which would be pretty bad actually since those are big enough to be a danger to your hens.
Really with ear tufts, yellow irises, as big as he looks and the markings, he’s either a Great Horned or a Long-eared own… At first I thought a screech owl, but he’d have to be smaller, so I think this is a bad thing, except WHAT A PHOTO!!!
It’s one of those I have good news and bad news sorts of things! Maybe he’ll just be happy eating mice and chipmunks and such that are attracted to the feed in your coop!
Located in N.E. Ohio
August 20, 2008
According to a bird person I know this is a Great Horned Owl who has his ear tufts down. (I didn’t know they did that).
Apparently we are very lucky he didn’t kill every chicken in the coop. There are about 20 chickens in that coop, all but three of them very young. I left the small chicken door open last night, won’t forget that again! I wonder if he was looking for a daytime resting spot.
My coops are in a big building that I use for a carriage house for my pony carts. Coops are built in the back with people doors opening into the coops from the tack area and small chicken doors leading outside for the chickens. To get him out I opened the people door to the coop and then the carriage door where we take the cart and wagon in and out. He was gone before I could turn around.
The younger chicks had scattered outside but within a few hours I found them all, and all are fine. The only casualty was a setting of eggs, the hen was in a cage on them and perfectly safe, but she freaked and abandoned them. I’ve resettled her with some different eggs and she’s happily setting away again.
Quarter horses, Welsh ponies and Arabians
March 3, 2010
April 18, 2012
The local fish and wildlife agents here in NC have been reporting that the coyotes are interbreeding with local stray dogs and making a new sort of larger hybrid that hunts in packs.
I have been ‘followed’ at night by coyotes going from house to car and it is an eerie feeling!
A year ago a young girl was seriously injured and later died by a pack when she was walking in the woods to get to her father who was in a deer stand.
We rarely see them here on the farm but there are prints everywhere. The county to the north here has had tons of reports of coyotes and hybrids, especially in the suburbs.
We would like to get some donkeys eventually for a little herd protection in calving season sometime.
Just wondering if anyone else has seen any hybrid coyotes and what they are doing about them.
don't wait for the storm to pass, learn to dance in the rain
October 31, 2010
I’m very close to time to put my chicks in the outdoor hen house.
Last night I saw a raccoon on the back porch which means there will surely be more. One of the things BG said was not to leave food around the yard to draw them.
With that in mind – how do people handle their compost piles? I think that may be drawing in the raccoons in our case.
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