Nothing is more disheartening then having your flock attacked by a predator, and chickens seem to be a menu favorite for most wild and domestic creatures. Chickens are also more susceptible to attack since they’re smaller in size and weight compared to other flock animals. Knowing how to protect your girls begins with identifying who is doing the attacking.
- Missing birds: Coyotes, dogs, foxes and birds of prey (like hawks), will take chickens during the day, however, owls will strike at night. Domestic dogs will usually not eat the bird; they more often attack as a form of sport, leaving the body in close proximity to the attack. If it’s not molting season, scattered feathers can be a sure sign of a panic-stricken bird and potential predation.
- Missing limbs: Raccoons are known for their intelligence, hand skills and claws. If your birds are not kept in a mesh-style pen, raccoons can reach in and pull off limbs.
- Missing eggs: Skunk, rats, opossums, cats, snakes and birds of prey target unprotected nests. Look for egg shells in the surrounding area where the hens typically nest. If you know eggs are missing, but cannot find any shells, a stealthy snake might be getting into the nest and swallowing them whole.
- Birds with gashes near the cloaca: Weasels and their relatives kill for food, but unfortunately, also for fun. Look for scattered or bloody feathers. They tend to bite at the vent region, pulling out the intestines. You may find some birds still alive, but severely injured from an aggressive weasel attack.
- Birds found dead in closed corners: Birds are known to huddle together when trying to avoid predators that are in close proximity. The weight of the flock is enough to suffocate or crush the birds below. If this is found in your flock, look for signs above, as the predator may still be lurking nearby.
Once you determine what predator is threatening your flock it’s time to take steps to prevent further attacks, including securing your birds and reinforcing your coop.