Did something get one or more of your chickens? Naturally, you want to know what it was and, more importantly, how to prevent it from happening again. We need to know all the possible killers and go through a series of questions to figure out what did it.
Examples of Land Predators:
Fox, raccoon, opossum, skunk, rat, feral pig, dog, people, bear, coyote,
snake, bobcat, cat, weasel, wolf, and tiger.
Examples of Aerial Predators:
Hawk, owl, eagle, and crow (usually only go after chicks or small breeds).
That’s a pretty exhaustive list of all the possibilities, and yes, there are more.
But, how can you possibly tell what killed your bird?
Here’re a series of questions to help narrow down the possibilities…
Did it happen at night or in the day?
Night – Human, fox, raccoon, opossum, skunk, rat, feral pig, bear, coyote, bobcat, weasel, wolf, snake, dog, tiger, or an owl.
Day – Human, bear, dog, snake, cat, weasel, hawk, eagle, or crow.
Are chickens missing and leaving no signs of their death?
Human, snake, owl, eagle, hawk, coyote, pig, bear, tiger or wolf. If it’s a small chicken, it could have been a snake.
Is the head gone (and maybe some innards) and everything else is left behind?
Think raccoon, hawk, owl, or eagle.
Are guts scattered all over the place?
Consider opossum or a weasel.
Is the bird gone, but there are feathers left?
It could have been a fox, coyote, feral pig, bear, tiger, or a wolf.
Are the inside of the eggs gone and the shells cracked?
It’s most likely a skunk.
Are the eggs completely gone?
Almost definitely a snake but could be a rat or a human.
Is the chicken seemingly unharmed?
This bird probably died from its own health issues.
But all these killers can be narrowed down to just 2 things!
Land predator or aerial predator…
Most killers roam around at night, so it’s going to be essential to secure the flock at night. For the daytime aerial attacks, securing netting or shade cloth is a smart option.
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What Killed My Chicken?
Clue Possible Predator
One or two birds killed --
Entire chicken eaten on site Hawk
Bites in breast or thigh, abdomen eaten, entire bird eaton on site Opossum
Deep marks on head on head and neck, or head and neck eaten, maybe feathers around the fence post Owl
Entire chicken eaten or missing, maybe scattered feathers Coyote
One bird gone, maybe scattered feathers Fox
Chicks pulled into fence, wings and feet not eaten Domestic cat
Chicks killed, abdomen eaten (but not muscles and skin), maybe lingering odor Skunk
Head bitten off, claw marks on neck, back, and sides; body partially covered with litter
Bruises and bites on legs Rat
Backs bitten, heads missing, necks and breasts torn, breasts and entrails eaten; bird pulled into fence and partially eaten; carcass found away from housing, maybe scattered feathers
Several birds killed —
Birds mauled but not eaten; fence or building torn into; feet pulled through cage bottom and bitten off Dog
Bodies neatly piled, killed by small bites on neck and body, back of head and neck eaten
Birds killed by small bites on neck and body, bruises on head and under wings, back of head and neck eaten, bodies neatly piled; faint skunk-like odor
Rear end bitten, intestines pulled out Fisher, marten
Chicks dead; faint lingering odor Skunk
Heads and crops eaten Raccoon
One bird missing —
Feathers scattered or no clues Bobcat, cougar (aka catamount, mountain lion, panther, puma), fox, hawk, owl
Fence or building torn into, feathers scattered Dog
Small bird missing, lingering musky odor Mink
Several birds missing —
No clues. Coyote, hawk, human
Feathers scattered or no clues Fox
Chicks missing, no clues Snake
Small birds missing, bits of coarse fur at coop opening Raccoon
Chicks or young birds missing Cat, rat
Eggs missing —
No clues Human, rat, snake, squirrel
Empty shells in and around nests Dog, mink, opossum, raccoon
Empty shells in nest or near housing Crow, jay
No clues or empty shells in and around nests, maybe faint lingering odor
All of these killers can be narrowed down to just two things: Land predator or aerial predator. Most killers roam around at night, so it’s going to be essential to secure the flock at night. For the daytime aerial attacks, securing netting or shade cloth or using a chicken coop are smart options.