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13 Chicken Predators & How to Protect Your Flock from Them

Nicole Cosgrove

If you own chickens, you know keeping them safe is a top priority, but many people don’t realize how many predators can put the life of your birds in danger. We see many of these animals every day and don’t even realize the threat they pose. We spoke with all of the chicken owners we could find to create a complete list of chicken predators. We’ll tell you a little about each animal and give you some tips on keeping them away from your coop. Keep reading while we discuss dangerous animals and the methods you can employ to keep them off your property.

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Chicken Predators

1. Dogs

dog running
Image Credit: Peggychoucair, Pixabay

Dogs are one of the most popular animals in America, and most of us see at least one every day, so it’s a great place to start. While dogs are man’s best friend, many breeds will chase after smaller animals like the chicken, so they are no friend to these birds. Terriers and hounds, in particular, will have a difficult time peacefully walking past your coop without barking and jumping at the fence.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

The best way to protect your flock from dogs is to build a fence around your coop that stands at least 4 feet tall. Most dogs will respect a 4-foot barrier, so your chickens should be safe. If you are looking to get a dog that is safe to have around chickens, we recommend a breed that does not have a strong prey drive, like a Spaniel.


2. Cats

cat in hunting position
Image Credit: Karsten Paulick, Pixabay

Like dogs, cats are extremely popular pets, and most of us know at least one person that has one. Unfortunately, there are also quite a few feral cats living in any city, and you will even find them in rural areas. Chickens are usually a little too large for a cat, but if the cat is hungry or young with plenty of energy, it may try to take down one of your chickens and has a good chance at being successful.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

You can protect your flock from cats the same way you protect it from dogs by building a tall, sturdy fence. A 4-foot-tall fence will keep most cats out. Just make sure there are no ramps, platforms, or branches they can use to gain entry. Cats are intelligent and clever.


3. Foxes

fox standing on snow
Image Credit: Alain Audet, Pixabay

The fox is one of the biggest predators of your chicken, and these animals are extremely clever. A fox can dig and climb and will likely find a way around any fence you install. These animals will enter the coop and kill your chickens before carrying them off, leaving only a pile of feathers.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

The best way to protect your flock is to stay vigilant about patrolling the perimeter of the fence, looking for signs of tampering, and repairing it immediately. Since the fox moves under cover of the night, you can employ technology to set your coop to open and close at specific times so you can lock the chickens inside at night. You will also need to regularly check the coop for signs of wear that could form an entry point.


4. Raccoon

raccoon featured_edbo23, Pixabay
Image Credit: edbo23, Pixabay

The raccoon is another nocturnal animal that you can find in many parts of the United States. Raccoons break into the coop to feed on the eggs and baby chicks but will occasionally kill the adult birds as well.  Unlike the fox, raccoons cannot carry the dead and will leave the chickens in the coop.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

Like the fox, the best defense against a raccoon is a coop that automatically shuts tight at a certain time and doesn’t open again until all night predators are fast asleep. You will also need to regularly inspect the coop to look for signs of an opening that a predator can exploit.


5. Bears

bear in the wild
Image Credit: Robert Balog, Pixabay

Bears can be a danger to your chickens, especially in spring when they wake up hungry. Bears are not technically after your chickens but are more likely looking for their feed, which is high in protein. However, the bear can get quite destructive trying to get the feed and may kill some birds.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

The best way to minimize the danger of bears coming onto your property is to keep the feed tightly closed and locked, so you don’t attract any with its scent.


6. Coyote

coyote
Image Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay

The coyote is an animal that is similar to the wolf but slightly smaller. This nocturnal animal is extremely dangerous to chickens and humans alike. It will usually kill and eat the chicken on the spot if it catches one.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

Fencing can help keep coyotes off your property, but the best way to protect the chickens is to have an automatically locking coop that secures your chickens at night and lets them out in the morning.


7. Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion
Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay

Mountain lions are the second largest cat in North America, next to the jaguar. It prefers to hunt at night and will attack and kill almost anything, including chickens. It’s extremely fast and is an expert at climbing trees.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

A fence is a good deterrent for a mountain lion as long as there are no trees nearby the cat can use to get over it. However, the best defense is to keep the coop locked at night when most mountain lions are actively hunting.


8. Hawks

hawk flying
Image Credit: Radovan Zierik, Pixabay

Unfortunately, birds of prey like the hawk pose an extreme danger to your chickens, and there is little you can do to protect them. The hawk is a daytime hunter that will stalk your birds as they are out of the coop and scratching for seeds.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

Unfortunately, it won’t be easy to protect your birds from the hawk. Your best bet is to purchase a rooster. Roosters keep an eye on the sky while the chickens are scratching and will alert them if they see danger, which will send them scurrying back to the coop. Roosters are also larger with sharp claws that can help defend your birds.


9. Owls

long eared owl
Image Credit: Kevinsphotos, Pixabay

Owls are another bird of prey that can be extremely dangerous to a chicken. However, unlike the hawk, these birds are night hunters. So they shouldn’t be able to attack your chickens unless your birds don’t get back to the coop by nightfall.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

The best way to protect chickens from owls is to look over your flock as the sun goes down to make sure no birds remain outside. Chickens become paralyzed once it gets dark and will stand there helpless until morning. If you see one outside the coop, you will need to pick it up and place it inside where it’s safe.


10. Skunks

skunk ourdoors
Image Credit: sipa, Pixabay

Skunks smell bad, but they can also cause considerable damage to your pen and coop as they attempt to get at your chickens’ eggs and may even kill a chicken when doing so. Skunks dig, so they will create holes that other animals can use to gain access to the coop, and they also like to nest in any shelter they can find near or under the coop where it can get repeated access to the eggs. You can usually tell when a skunk is an invader because it often leaves broken eggshells behind.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

Keep the pen and nearby area free of any objects that the skunk might use for cover. A dog or a cat is also an effective way to convince a skunk to go somewhere else.


11. Opossum

Opossum
Image Credit: Jalynn, Pixabay

The opossum is a night animal that will try to break into your coop to steal eggs and eat baby chicks. It may also kill the adult chickens by biting them on the neck.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

The best way to protect your coop from opossums is to make sure there are no holes in the structure and use an automatic timer that locks it up at night until morning when the opossum is long gone.


12. Weasels

Weasel
Image Credit: Trond Giæver Myhre, Pixabay

Weasels look a lot like ferrets and are part of the same family. These animals can get through tiny space and will usually climb right through your chain link fence and enter your coop through any hole that is more than 2 inches wide. These animals are looking for eggs, but they also enjoy killing and may kill a few birds for fun.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

Cats and dogs can be a strong deterrent for a weasel, but since the weasel is nocturnal, the best defense is a locking coop without any holes in it. Ensure that all ventilation areas have heavy screening to protect them from weasels. Inspect your coop regularly for damage or new holes and repair it immediately.


13. Snakes

western hognose snake
Image Credit: Charles Brutlag, Shutterstock

Snakes are not only dangerous for your chickens. Poisonous ones can also bite you while you are tending the cage. Snakes can easily circumvent many of the security measures you put in place and usually look to get the eggs.

How Can I Protect My Flock?

The best way to prevent snakes from gaining access to your coop is to inspect it regularly for any holes and repair them immediately. You will need to keep the area free of objects the snake might use for shelter, and you will want to keep the grass trimmed.

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Summary

As you can see, there are plenty of predators that would love to eat your chickens or their eggs, but it’s not that difficult to provide a reasonable amount of safety. A good 4-foot-tall chain link fence is a great start and will allow you to see what’s going on inside while keeping out most animals. Regularly inspecting your coop for holes that might be forming and repairing them is essential to protect your chickens from smaller predators like weasels. Manually locking or setting a timer to close and lock the coop after dark automatically is critical to your chicken’s safety, as most predators work at night.

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article, learned about a few new predators to look out for, and learned some new tricks to keep them away. If we have helped create a safer environment for your birds, please share these 13 chicken predators and how to protect your flock from them on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured Image Credit: Ruibento, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.