“They’d be extinct in a week.”
My answer—straight and blunt. Think it was a little hardcore? No, I don’t believe in lyin’ or sugarcoatin’ anything especially when it comes to the truth of life, death and chickens (or ducks, turkeys, whatever, lol). And while my son knew exactly what I was talkin’ about, let me lay it on the line for all of you….
Chickens have missed the boat on the whole evolution thing. They have absolutely no defense plan in place. They might hen-peck the hell out of each other or a Roo might flog the hell out of you for comin’ into the yard but when it comes to somethin’ tryin’ to get em, well, their chances ain’t good. folks. Ain’t good at all! winks
Unless you’re a Farmer, then swallow the cold facts now—keepin’ chickens means acceptin’ somethin’ is gonna happen to one or all of them. I started out years ago with twelve Rhode Island Reds in the early Spring. By summer’s end, I had ONE. It’s a live and learn process, folks. Meanin’, the best you can do is learn as things happen. Build your Coops strong and recognize a threat when the damage is done – tryin’ like hell to prevent it from happenin’ again. And most of all, realize that despite our best efforts, anythin’ can and will happen.
Below is a list of Predators from “my” neck of the woods – the mountains of Virginia. Now dependin’ on where you live, you might have more or less. And if you know somethin’ I don’t know, please, by all means, throw me a bone in the comments.
Yes, that’s one of my chickens in the picture—dead. One of my best Layers and biggest Barred Rocks. The dog is my Step-Father’s who lives on the property next to mine. The dog was dropped off by my step-brother years ago because he got in trouble for havin’ too many pooches. The dog, Oreo, was kept as confined by my step-father as was done by my step-brother. Chained. Dog was too hyper to run free and since my step-father was old, he couldn’t walk him. Sweet dog. I did what I could for him when I could but occasionally, he would break the chain and guess what would happen? He’d run to my property, stalk and kill my chickens.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinkin’ this could never happen to you because my step-father’s dog was out of control because she was stuck on a chain. Maybe you’re sayin’, that little lap dog your neighbor has would never hurt a fly. WRONG. My mother’s lapdog, who I also love, has killed more chickens than nearly every other Predator out there—the only one beating the laptop would be the Bear. So don’t think that, that little adorable thing with bows in it’s hair won’t tear through your chickens like a three year old and a birthday cake. It will. Now, usually when dogs hit the scene, chickens will usually lay where they fall—where the dogs drop them. Dogs usually only snatch them up, shake them like a chew toy, throw them around like a ball a little bit. Its rare, but not impossible, for dogs to eat what they kill as far as chickens go.
And if you do have a dog, particularly from the neighbors house, that kills chickens, don’t expect anyone to do anything about it. Once and only once did my step-father offer to pay me for my dead chickens and even then, he was only willing to give me the two or three dollars they cost as chicks. He refused to consider the time, work and effort it took to raise them up—the feed, bedding and everything else. Not to mention how attached me and the kids got to a couple of them that showed something extra special from all the others in the flock. I finally had to fence in an acre or so of my land—just to keep his dogs from getting to my chickens—as I believe in allowing my birds to free-range during the day. No way am I keeping them Cooped up.
Don’t you think for one dang second, Ms. Kitty, would never take out a chicken. Like dogs, it’s very possible that she will. However, here’s the thing. I have two cats—big cats—that go in and out my house. One cat thinks he is a dog. We call him Sparta because he wars with everything he comes across in our yard. Now, Sparta has been known to muck around the chickens – try to play here or there—but he doesn’t seem to want to mess with his bread and butter—so the muckin’ only goes but so far. By that I mean, he knows mice, small chipmunks and flyin’ squirrels love to sneak into the Coop and get the Chicken Food. Sparta loves those things a lot more than he likes muckin’ around with the chickens. My other cat, Lulu, often gets tormented by my birds. I have some Polish Chickens and every time they see Lulu comin’, they will take off like a street gang and let her have it. They particularly love peckin’ at her tail. Maybe they think it’s a big ol’ worm? Poor Lulu knows to avoid the chickens.
BUT—other house-cats frequenting outside have not been so friendly and they aren’t even the strays—who are damn sure hungry. I’ve have a couple of strays hit my chickens and if they can carry them off, they will but usually they cant so the chickens lay. A lot of times my Roo will go after Strays but if its more than he can handle, he will allow a Hen to be sacrificed.
Cats will nab baby chics, ducks or anything. if they kill an adult bird, they will only devour the meaty parts, leaving feathers and such lying all around.
They can wipe out quite a few in a night especially if they aren’t traveling alone. They eat out the breast, gizzard, guts and or sometimes leave pieces of flesh and such near watering sources. If they steal eggs, they usually eat those elsewhere.If you find a biheadless bird inside a pen– its a Coon. They reach in the fence, grab the bird, bite it’s head off and drop the rest. If they reach in and can only grab a leg, well, guess what— you will have a one legged chicken.
A Hawk will grab a chicken through a fence as well. Will bite the head off if that’s the only choice it has.
Weasels will kill for fun. They can get into a Coop like nothin’ else and just have themselves a good ol’ killin’ of a time. If the head is missing and the back of the neck, well, blame this critter. Also, beware, if you live near water, well so does the weasel. Weasels will also attack the butt of a chicken, yanking out the intestines. Other chickens may peck at a bird, too, on it’s rear. They will peck and peck until intestines are exposed.
This little guy loves white meat. If it doesn’t completely kill a chicken, it will be happy just taking a chunk out of the breast. If it can’t get that, it will settle for a chunk out of the thigh. If it does kill an entire bird, it will gobble it up right there on the spot.Usually, though, you will find a dead bird with the entire cavity eatten out. And don’t think this sucker just travels and kills at night. Ive had them kill my chickens on days it was cloudy, all day long.
Will eat anything that’s a baby– swallow them whole. Will also eat eggs. However, a black or non-poisonous snake that is in a Coop, near the feed, is not necessarily a bad thing. They usually focus on rats and mice– rats can attack birds too.
Coyotes will carry prey back to their den. They will puncture the neck to kill. They can attack one or more chicken depending on whether or not they are traveling in a pack.At times, they hunt in twos.
Saving this one for last was intentional. While I love black bear and think they are some of the most beautiful, graceful creatures in these woods, they have also been one of my biggest headaches concerning my chickens. Why? Because options are very limited. We called the Game Wardens – since Hunting Season was far from bein’ in – and even they offered very little help or advice. The advice they did give was pretty typical—don’t leave food or trash around (we didn’t) and don’t give them a reason to come around (again, we didn’t).
My husband said bears are opportunists and I never believed he was more right about anything until we had our ‘bear problem’. Apparently, coming after my chickens became the best opportunity around as we had bear after bear after bear hit. In fact, they started to visit so often, they had no fear of us or anything. We watched one late afternoon just before evening, in broad daylight, as one plopped it’s big butt down on some boards at the edge of my yard, cleaning his paws, just watchin’ my chickens before he decided, without stress, which ones to pluck up and eat first. While we scared him off that day, the one before, while we were coming back from town, we caught him after the damage was done. He didn’t even carry them off. No. He just flopped his big ass right down in the middle of my yard and had himself one of the finest chicken dinners there ever was. Tore into my Coop like it was made out of cards and left pile after pile of feathers as he laid in the soft grass eating one right after another.
Live and learn, right? Well we built a Coop like Alcatraz after that. Still, the bear kept comin’ and comin’ and comin’. Unable to get in the Coop at night—they just tore into everything else after dark—they would come in broad daylight and snatch what they wanted up. Drove me insane.
One other thing we could try, according to the Game Warden, was pit an electric wire around the Coop. Take pieces of aluminum foil, smear peanut butter inside and then fold it over the wire—all over. The bear would sniff out the peanut butter and then when we went to get a mouth full, he’d get the shock of his life. That would scare him enough to make him run.
Some of you may think, shoot the bear, but unfortunately, not all Game Wardens will issue a kill permit. Plus, its hard to catch the bear. When ours started to hit, it hit a lot and then only once every so often. Bears aren’t so easy. Just try your best. Build a good Coop – good and strong and pray its too much of a bother for an Opportunist to fool with. Keep trash picked up and don’t leave Feed laying around or easy to get. That will draw them in too.