No matter your flock’s size, chicken predators will be lured in by the sight, smell, and sounds of your hens. Predators that prey on chickens come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to know which are most prevalent in your area, and how to prevent potential heartbreak of losing your hens to these unwelcome visitors.
Raccoons can be found almost anywhere in the US, with the exception of: Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and in small portions of the Rocky Mountains. Traditionally, raccoons inhabit tree hollows or burrows along riverbanks, but can now be found living in a variety of habitats. In urban areas, they’ll happily take up residence in an attic, under a shed or in abandoned structures. Rural areas offer a multitude of options for raccoons to make their homes in – from forests, riverbanks, or wooded areas, to barns or other outbuildings.
Why raccoons are a threat to chickens
Raccoons will readily feast on your flock or their eggs. They’re notorious for using their dexterous paws to reach through gaps or open coop doors. They’re also strong and persistent, known to tear hardware cloth or break wooden chicken coops. Often, raccoons will reach through the wire of chicken runs and grab hens – killing them in the process.
Signs of a raccoon or a raccoon attack
Raccoons leave pawprints that are hand-like in appearance. Their thumbs aren’t opposable like humans, but they are long and allow them to grip well. You may also find scratches or gnaw marks along wooden coops, torn hardware cloth, or other signs of an attempted forced entry. Racoons may turn over garbage cans or feed bins in an effort to open them. If they’re successful in entering the coop, they’ll likely leave mass carnage behind, leaving mutilated chicken bodies in their wake. If they breach the chicken run by reaching through, it’s common to find beheaded chickens along the edge of the run.
How to prevent raccoons from breaking into the coop
Reinforce any weak areas of the coop or run, and make sure there are no gaps large enough for a raccoon’s paws to fit through. Use a raccoon-resistant lock on the chicken coop. Keep chicken feed or other animal feed in airtight containers with locks to prevent attracting raccoons. Keep garbage cans or compost piles far away from your coop to further deter drawing attention to your flock.
The Eglu Cube has raccoon-specific safety mechanisms, which prevents owners from having to make modifications. The tighter mesh of the bottom run panels prevents paws from reaching through, and unique t-lock handles are easy for human hands to open, but resist opening attempts from raccoons.
Foxes are common, crafty chicken predators that are found in nearly every US state. Their lithe bodies make them quiet, but powerful chicken predators.
There are 4 different species of foxes that inhabit North America, but the most commonly encountered in the US are the red and gray foxes. Their territory spans the majority of the US, with one or both varieties being found in every state. Both gray and red foxes can be found in cities or urban areas, making their homes in virtually any vacant cavity. In ideal habitats, red foxes thrive in a mixture of forests and open fields, while gray foxes prefer wooded areas.
Why foxes are a threat to chickens
Foxes are crafty and cunning, able to sneak up on their prey in virtual silence. They’re quick when they attack, and are very intelligent. They prefer live prey and have wide hunting areas that they will patrol. Foxes are most active at dawn and dusk, which corresponds with most chickens’ rise and roost schedules.
Signs of a fox attack
Foxes have paws similar to those of dogs, but more slender. They often travel at a steady jog, making their paw prints appear in a line. Foxes are excellent at excavating, so you may see attempts at digging into your chickens’ run or under their coop. It helps to have a chicken tractor where foxes are abundant so that you can easily move your flock’s home to another location while you fill in holes dug by these predators.
How to prevent foxes from breaking into the coop
It’s important to have anti-dig skirting along the entirety of your flock’s setup. The skirting should extend at least 4 inches past the base of the run and at a 90-degree angle, flush with the ground. Anchor the skirting securely into the ground with screw pegs for your chicken coop to prevent shifting or lifting.
Wolves aren’t the most common chicken predator, but they are among some of the smartest and lethal. These patient, intelligent hunters can make quick work of a coop of chickens.
Gray wolves, also known as timber wolves, are most common in the northern part of the US. Their cousins, the Mexican gray wolf, have been reintroduced into the south, but still remain endangered. The states and areas most likely to see wolves are:
Yellowstone area of Wyoming
Why wolves are a threat to chickens
Wolves are incredibly intelligent, and hunt in packs. It’s not uncommon for a pack of wolves to take down grown deer and elk. Wolves have a keen sense of hearing and smell, and patrol wide territories of hunting grounds. Adult wolves can eat up to 20 lbs of meat in a single meal to satiate their appetite. While they prefer larger prey, wolves will not hesitate to attack a flock of chickens for an easy meal.
Signs of a wolf or wolf attack
Wolves are large – with females weighing 60-100 lbs and males between 75-145 lbs. Their pawprints are distinctly canine, so it can be hard to distinguish between their prints and those of domesticated dogs. Since they travel and hunt in packs, you’ll likely see several sets of prints. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t howl at the moon, but you may hear their trademark sound when they’re communicating during a hunt. Unless you have a strong, welded steel chicken run, it’s likely that wolves will be successful in trying to break into your flock’s setup, and there won’t be much evidence of an attempted break-in. Missing chickens (likely the entire flock) will be the only evidence of a wolf attack.
How to prevent wolves from breaking into the coop
Motion-activated lights or alarms may help deter wolves from coming onto your property, but the best way to prevent a wolf attack is by providing a strong chicken coop and run for your flock. Weaker chicken coops or runs made from hardware cloth and staples are no match for these large predators.
Coyotes are known to decimate flocks of free-ranging chickens, but will try to invade coops for a quick meal. Their range spans all across the US.
Coyotes are also known as prairie wolves. As their name suggests, they prefer to inhabit prairies and grasslands, but have expanded their territory widely over recent decades. Coyotes can now be found all across the US, in both rural and urban settings. They’ve adapted to urban living very well, and it’s not uncommon for them to be seen roaming neighborhood streets. This means protecting your chickens from coyotes is essential, since their range makes it likely that your flock will encounter them.
Why coyotes are a threat to chickens
Coyotes are fierce hunters, and are large enough to break into weaker chicken coops and runs. They’re also fast – reaching running speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Coyotes also have an impressive vertical jump – able to leap 6-foot fences in a single bound. This enables them to hop over privacy fences or other boundaries that may be keeping your flock contained.
Signs of a coyote or coyote attack
Coyotes live in family groups, similar to wolf packs. But, they prefer to hunt alone or occasionally in pairs. If a coyote is unsuccessful in breaking into your chickens’ coop or run, you’ll likely find digging or scratch marks, and gnawing along the structures. You may also see bending from wires being pushed or pulled. Coyotes leave tracks similar to domesticated dogs, with their average size being between 25-35 lbs. They make distinct yipping and barking noises that sometimes precede an attack.
How to prevent coyotes from breaking into the coop
Some flock raisers have found that motion-activated lights or alarms are enough to deter coyotes. But, as they become accustomed to these, they will push their boundaries further. The best way to protect your hens from coyotes is to have a strong, fully enclosed chicken run with anti-dig skirting.
Wild cats encompass a variety of species. These animals are powerful, stealthy, and widespread across the US.
There are many species of wild cats in the US, including:
Mountain Lions (also known as Cougars or Pumas)
Bobcats and mountain lions are the most common and widespread of these feline predators. Bobcats can be found in most US states, most commonly found in forests, deserts, and swamps. They have adapted to urban environments and sightings in backyards have been increasing in recent years.
Mountain Lions are the most widespread mammal in the Western hemisphere, making them a common threat to all US states. Their natural habitat is diverse – from forests, deserts, mountains, swamps, and dry brush country. Like bobcats, they are being increasingly sighted in urban areas.
Lynx, ocelots, and jaguars are not as common as bobcats and mountain lions. In the US, these large cats are only found in specific areas.
Borderlands between the US and Mexico
Into parts of Arizona
Why wild cats are a threat to chickens
Birds and cats have always had a notorious relationship. While larger wild cats would prefer a more substantial meal of a deer or other mammal, they won’t pass up the opportunity to decimate a flock of chickens. The sounds of chickens will draw in cats of all varieties, and depending on where you live, your flock may be at an increased risk of such unwanted attention.
Signs of a wild cat or wild cat attack
Wild cats will dig, claw, bite, gnaw, or push their way into a chicken’s area. Their tracks are distinct, with retractable claws leaving no indentations with their paw prints. Like domesticated cats, they may also climb on top of chicken structures, so it’s important to have a chicken coop and run that can withstand the body weight of wild cats.
How to prevent wild cars from breaking into the coop
Wild cats are large and powerful. For example, male mountain lions can weigh up to 220 lbs or more, so a sturdy structure is essential. Motion-activated lights, alarms, or sprinkler devices may help deter wild cats, but a hungry cat is a determined one. Make sure any chicken runs are fully enclosed and can support the weight of these predators.
Earning a reputation that goes well beyond their interaction with chickens, weasels are sneaky, slinky predators. Their long, thin bodies and large appetites make them a real threat to flocks.
There are 3 types of weasel in the US: the long-tailed, short-tailed, and least weasel. Their territory is diverse and widespread.
Great Lakes region
Why weasels are a threat to chickens
Weasels are notorious for being sneaky and crafty. They can slip through small spaces, climb and jump tall heights, and are masterful diggers. Weasels need to eat all year long to maintain their fast metabolisms and are quick hunters – immobilizing and killing their prey all at once through a well-placed bite to the neck.
Signs of a weasel or weasel attack
Look for holes, claw marks, or evidence of climbing on your chickens’ run or coop. Feed containers may also be overturned, or you may see marks from clawing or biting to get to the contents inside.
How to prevent weasles from breaking into the coop
Make sure your chicken run has anti-dig skirting and a fully enclosed top. Keep coop doors securely latched and feed containers away from run gates or other places where weasels may try to make their way into your chickens. Weasels have an extraordinary sense of smell, so keeping your chicken coop clean and their feed in airtight containers will aid in not drawing attention to your flock.
Birds of prey
These large birds can be found in every state in the US. And, with their migratory patterns, your flock may be at risk from more than one type of these aerial hunters.
Numerous types of large birds known as birds of prey or “raptors” reside in the US. Some of the more common varieties include:
These birds are migratory, so they can be found in any part of the US during various times of the year. Like most birds, raptors nest and roost in trees. Owls are most active at night, while hawks, eagles, ospreys, and falcons are most active during the day.
Why birds of prey are a threat to chickens
These large birds typically prey on small animals like mice, snakes, fish, and birds – but wandering chickens make an easy target for raptors the size of eagles, hawks, and larger species of owls. Even if raptors can’t lift a chicken, they may still launch an aerial attack, seriously wounding or killing a chicken in the process. Some birds of prey have been known to grab chickens through the bars of the run, pulling and biting until they’ve effectively killed them.
Signs of a large bird or bird attack
Unfortunately, raptors are extremely fast, silent, and provide very little warning or evidence that they’re around. You may hear the calls or hoots of these large birds during the day to alert you to their presence, but they’re stealthy when they hunt. Often a shadow on the ground is the only warning sign before a bird of prey makes its swoop down on their target.
How to prevent birds of prey from breaking into the coop
Birds of prey aren’t likely to try to break into a chicken coop, but they’ll definitely make a meal of a chicken that’s out free ranging. Keep your chickens under the cover of a fully enclosed chicken run to avoid aerial attacks. If you have chicken fencing, choose areas that have dense tree covering. Raptors rely on speed from a lofty dive to deliver their deadly blows, so if they’re unable to reach such a height in the open air, they won’t be able to pack as much of a punch. Still, the best defense is a wire roof, but if free ranging is the only option for your flock, you may want to consider other large bird deterrents like strips of reflective tape hung all around your chickens’ run.
The predator-resistant design of the Omlet Walk In Chicken Run will give you peace of mind, knowing your flock are being kept safe.
Bears may have a sporadic presence across the US, but should you share territory with them, your chicken coop will need to be as strong as possible. These large predators are some of the most powerful and imposing threats your flock will encounter.
Bears are scattered throughout the US, most commonly found in the northern regions. The 3 types are black bears, brown bears, and polar bears. Black bears are the most common and widespread, inhabiting the western coastline, northeastern states, and portions of:
Brown bears (including grizzly bears) can only be found in Alaska, a portion of Montana, and a small region where Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming meet.
The only US state where polar bears reside is Alaska.
Why bears are a threat to chickens
Bears rely on brute force in their attacks. Their heavy bodies, large paws, sharp claws, and massive teeth are all designed to rip, crush, and tear through most materials. Late fall and early spring are when bears are preparing for or waking from hibernation, and their appetites are insatiable. They will make quick work of a flock of chickens before moving on to their next meal.
Signs of a bear or bear attack
Bears have distinct tracks – large, wide front paws and elongated back paws, both with 5 claws. You may also see scratches on trees, summer beds (flattened areas of grass or earth where bears lay down), worn trails with broken limbs or saplings, or droppings. If a bear attacks your chickens’ coop, it won’t be subtle. If they aren’t successful in breaking into their space, you’ll see heavy damage from the attempt. If they are successful, you’ll likely have no chickens left.
Most snakes prefer eggs to the chickens that lay them but may go after chicks or even attempt to eat full-grown hens. And, since some species are venomous, and their range widespread, it’s important to be on the lookout for these chick and egg-eating chicken predators.
There are 4 types of venomous snakes in the US. These are:
The first three are the main threats to your chicken coop, as coral snakes are smaller and less likely to infiltrate your nesting boxes.
Rattlesnakes are most commonly found in the mid to southwest, and copperheads and cottonmouths primarily inhabit the southeast.
Other snakes that eat chicken eggs, or that may attempt to eat a chicken include:
The US states with the highest population of snakes are:
Why snakes are a threat to chickens
Snakes will fit through nearly any space — if their head fits, the rest of them will. Their long, powerful bodies enable them to climb nearly any vertical surface that offers traction, with some species able to climb trees to access a chicken coop or run. Larger snakes like chicken and rat snakes can eat many eggs in one sitting, and may attempt to constrict grown hens in a method similar to pythons.
Signs of a snake or snake attack
Snakes often visit coops during the warm daytime hours. Hens will likely squawk in protest when a snake is in the nesting box, which gets the whole flock going. When you hear this ruckus, it’s always a good idea to go check the coop and run. Other signs of snakes being close are snake skins, frequently collecting fewer eggs than usual, and crushed egg shells that snakes have regurgitated. If a snake eats a chick, they will simply be missing, as snakes swallow their prey whole. Hens that snakes constrict may be maimed or dead, and their heads may appear wet from the snake attempting to swallow them.
How to prevent snakes from breaking into the coop
Snakes are drawn to rodents and eggs, so keep food in airtight containers overnight to deter mice and rats, and collect eggs daily. Some snakes can grow to be over 5 feet long, which makes their vertical reach at least 4 feet. Cover the bottom 4 feet of chicken runs with hardware cloth (with squares no larger than ½ inch) to prevent snakes from slipping through. If your run is close to trees, you may want to cover the entire run with hardware cloth. Check for any gaps or access points that a snake may squeeze through. Keep chicken run covers across the top of your flock’s run to prevent roof access.
The thought of rats conjures up all sorts of unpleasant images, and unfortunately, these common pests frequently pose a problem for chicken keepers. While they’ll rarely go after hens, rats wreak havoc on coops and eggs.
Rats are found anywhere in the US, and in any environment. From fields to sewers, rats can thrive no matter where they call home. In chicken coops, they’ll likely hide out under feed bins or feeders, or any other tight space.
Why rats are a threat to chickens
Rats carry disease, attract other predators, and eat your hens’ eggs and feed. And, if they’re hungry enough, they may actually attack your chickens. They also chew through feed containers, wooden components of the coop, and create weak spots in coops.
Signs of rats or rat attack
Look for holes dug around the edge of the coop or run, gnaw marks on feed containers, rat droppings (small, oblong pellets), missing eggs, or bite marks on your hens.
How to prevent rats from breaking into the coop
To help keep rats out of the run, it’s important to make sure food and treats are stored in airtight containers. Serve food and treats in a Caddi Chicken Treat Holder to prevent food waste and keep them out of rodent reach. Invest in a strong plastic coop that can’t be gnawed through, and collect eggs daily. Omlet’s easy-to-clean chicken coops and runs will help you keep your flock’s area free of smells that will attract rats.
These smelly scoundrels hunt in the cover of darkness. Not only do they contain a pungent musk, but they will eat eggs and chicks – injuring any hens in their way.
Skunks reside in every US state. Their natural habitat is wooded areas or grasslands with cover, but they’ve become more widespread in recent years. It’s not uncommon to see them in city neighborhoods as well as rural areas.
Why skunks are a threat to chickens
Skunks have sharp teeth and claws, and will gladly feast on eggs or chicks. They will dig up your flock’s area in their pursuit, and should they spray, the pungent odor can last several days.
Signs of skunks or skunk attack
Long claw marks along the ground or chicken coop may be present, but often it’s the distinct sulfurous skunk odor that gives them away.
How to prevent skunks from breaking into the coop
Since they are nocturnal hunters, an automatic chicken coop door is an excellent way to keep your hens safe from skunks. Anti-dig skirting around your chickens’ run will help deter a skunk’s tunneling efforts.
Domesticated dogs and cats
Not all chicken predators come from the wild — some can be found in your own backyard. Whether it be a neighborhood pet, or one of your own, dogs and cats can pose a very real threat to your chickens.
Dogs and cats are the most common pets in the US, with an estimated 65.1 million and 46.5 million households owning a dog or cat respectively. Any time a dog or a cat ventures beyond their designated yard, they pose a threat to your flock.
Why dogs and cats are a threat to chickens
Domesticated canines and felines share the prey drive that their wild cousins possess. Even if it’s not with malicious intent, a dog or a cat can excite chickens to the point of collapse.
Signs of dog or cat attack
Neighborhood dogs and cats can show up any time, with little warning. Free-ranging flocks are the most at risk from dogs and cats. Look for overturned feed bins, paw prints on the sides or top of the coop and along the ground, or digging marks next to the run. Chickens that have been attacked by a dog or a cat can survive depending on their injuries, but you’ll likely see chickens with varying degrees of mortal wounding. Some may be relatively unscathed — appearing to have died suddenly, and some may be severely maimed.
How to prevent dogs and cats from breaking into the coop
The best chicken coops keep your hens comfortable and safe in all conditions – including during potential predator attacks. Keeping your chickens in strong, capable setups not only helps them live long and healthy lives, but also brings you peace of mind. Imagine not having to worry about your chickens even with predators on the prowl.
Omlet’s chicken coops are designed to help keep your flock safe from all varieties of predators. From rats to bears and everything in between, our chicken products will help your hens feel protected and secure in their home.
All of our chicken runs have anti-dig skirting to help prevent predators from tunneling in, and roof panels to protect your flock from aerial attacks. And, with the addition of an automatic chicken coop door to any existing chicken coop or run, you can help keep your hens safe during predators’ most active hours.
Tips for creating a predator-resistant yard
Chicken coops should always be checked for weak points or gaps that predators could take advantage of. Quickly fill any holes dug by a predator with dirt or gravel, and install anti-dig skirting along your chicken run if it does not already have it. This chicken coop skirting can be anchored with screw pegs, and for further reinforcement, pavers or potted plants can be added along the skirting to keep it tight on the ground.
Chicken fencing can be used as a perimeter fence to keep animals farther away from your chickens’ coop. You may also consider mobile chicken coops as an option to keep your flock on the move, or to reposition them closer to security features of your property.
Trail cameras or outdoor security cameras can be placed around your yard with a good view of your coop to see if anything is amiss. Automatic alarms or motion-triggered flashing lights may also deter predators from sneaking around.
Take care of your flock with Omlet
Keeping your chickens safe has never been easier with Omlet. Our line of chicken products have all been designed with your flock’s safety and comfort in mind. And, with products like chicken tractors, chicken pens, and large chicken coops, you’ll never have to compromise safety for convenience. When you choose Omlet to help protect your flock, you’ll rest easy knowing that you’ve provided them with a firm foundation against even the most formidable foes.