do raccoons eat chickens

Do Raccoons Eat Chickens? 11 Amazing Ways To Prevent Raccoons in Your Coop

Are you concerned that raccoons will eat your chickens? If you aren’t yet, you should be.

While it would be wonderful to consider that raccoons fear you more than you fear them, this is only half true.

Raccoons are quickly repelled by the presence of a human, but it makes no difference how frequently you check the eggs in your chicken coop. A raccoon is likely to sneak in behind you the moment you turn your back, ready to prey on your unwary brood.

If you’re wondering- do raccoons eat chickens, the answer is yes. The short but sad answer is “yes”.

This isn’t the only danger these omnivores characterize to your backyard flock, but it’s one you should work hard to avoid.

Do Raccoons Eat Chickens? 11 Amazing Ways To Prevent Raccoons in Your Coop

Do Raccoons Eat Chickens?

Raccoons are just one of numerous creatures that are natural predators of chickens. Chickens are small enough that they can be easily preyed upon by a swarm of predatory birds and hungry mammals.

In reality, depending on where you live, your hens may be tormented on a regular basis by coyotes, foxes, weasels, skunks, dogs, cats, raptors, and other animals.

Raccoons, on the other hand, can be found almost wherever in the countryside.

While certain predatory risks, such as foxes and coyotes, are less widespread in cities, the raccoon is one of those opportunistic animals that will take advantage of any opportunity to have a great chicken dinner.

That is true even if you reside in the heart of the city.

Fortunately, there are various ways to keep raccoons from ruining your backyard flock. These strategies are easy to implement, and as with all areas of chicken care, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The Raccoon’s Biology

You’re probably well aware of what a raccoon looks and acts like, but here’s a refresher to help you remember.

Raccoons are native to both South and North America, with populations as far north as Canada and as far south as Argentina. They can also be found throughout Europe and Asia, where they were originally introduced.

Raccoons prefer lower elevations, avoiding high mountains and preferring grasslands and coastal marshes.

These mammals weigh about fifteen pounds on average, with males slightly larger than females. They have lengthy fur that is gray or brown-black in hue.

Raccoons are characterized by the black colouring on the front of their faces, which resembles a bandit’s mask, and by their black-ringed tails.

Raccoon Warning Signs: How Do You Know their Presence?

do raccoons eat chickens

If you came out to your chicken coop one morning to see a mound of dead chickens, you might wonder if the chaos was caused by a raccoon – or another type of predator.

Unlike certain predators, such as hawks and dogs, which may grab their prey and run with it, leaving a nose clue of their entrance, raccoons like to make a loud announcement of their presence. They want you to know they were present!

As a result, a raccoon will frequently leave bird parts lying around your coop, run, or even outside of the pen — they’ll even leave scraps near your house. Raccoons are messy eaters who don’t care what kind of devastation they leave behind.

This can be upsetting to witness, but on the plus side, you’ll at least know what kind of predator you’re dealing with. If you went to the coop one morning and found that a chicken had gone missing, a raccoon was most likely not to blame.

There will likely be a path of destruction leading directly to the perpetrator.

If you find a complete body, or the body of a chicken with only a few sections or parts missing, it is also unlikely to be a raccoon. Skunks, opossums, and weasels typically consume the chickens where they assault them.

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They don’t normally relocate the body or devour the entire animal, though they do on occasion. If the body appears undisturbed or has bite marks in the neck (or a missing head), a weasel was most likely responsible for the carnage.

Raccoons attack chickens by biting the head or upper neck area, ripping off the whole head and leaving it a long distance away from the body. The breast and crop can be eaten, chewed, or maimed, and the organs are commonly consumed.

The raccoons may also shred the legs and heads of the hens, scattering the fragments all over your property. It is not uncommon for a raccoon to raid a whole coop in one night, feasting on dozens of carcasses.

Do Raccoons Eat Chickens? 11 Amazing Ways To Prevent Raccoons in Your Coop

Other signs of raccoon presence can alert you to a close threat as well. The most obvious clue, of course, is the sighting of a raccoon. If you don’t see a raccoon, you could see some of its footprints. Raccoon tracks resemble dog or cat tracks, but are identified by the spread of the toes.

Both the front and back paws of raccoons have five toes. The traces, as well as the animal’s droppings, are quite apparent. It is dark brown and cylindrical, and resembles dog excrement, albeit it is normally a little darker.

Other Issues With Raccoons in Close Proximity to Chickens

You should be concerned about more than just raccoons eating your hens. Raccoons will also give you other troubles.

Raccoons not only enjoy eating chickens, but they also enjoy eating their eggs. If you have an unknown egg bandit, it could be a raccoon causing you problems.

Raccoons have also been linked to the transmission of several diseases, including rabies, infectious canine hepatitis, and canine distemper. While most of these mainly impact other mammals, raccoons are still unwelcomed guests in your home.

do raccoons eat chickens

Do Raccoons Eat Chickens

Keep Raccoons Away From Your Chickens With These Tips

Here are a few ideas to keep raccoons away from your chicken coop:

1.  At night, keep your chickens indoors.

It can be difficult to drag oneself off the sofa at night to walk outside and lock your chickens into the coop, especially when winter arrives and bedtime means 5 p.m.

However, it is critical that you turn your chicken coop into a nightly fortress to keep predators at bay.

If a manual chicken door isn’t cutting it for you – or if you’re regularly gone from home in the evenings and early mornings – you might think about installing an automatic coop door opener.

These doors aren’t cheap – most cost at least $100 – but they run on timers, so you don’t have to worry about locking your chickens in at night.

When it becomes dark outside, your chickens will enter the coop on their own, and the door will close behind them.

2.  Keep an eye on the time

Although raccoons are primarily nocturnal, they, like other predators, prefer to hunt and eat at both dawn and dusk.

Although this is not the only time to be concerned about these chicken predators, it is the most likely period for an assault.

Attacks from this window are typically carried out by sick, malnourished, or very young raccoons.

You may see exceptions to this rule in the fall and spring, when predators are hungry and may deviate from their usual routines.

However, keeping an eye on the time and calendar, as well as employing regular predator behavior to influence your own pattern, can be an excellent approach to keep raccoons away from your chickens.

Wait until late in the morning to allow your hens out, then make sure they’re back in before it gets dark.

Before winter approaches, and as raccoons increase their feeding patterns in preparation for the next cold season, it would be prudent for you to perform a thorough assessment of your coop as well. Look for any flaws or gaps and fill them as needed.

3.  Trap a Raccoon

Do Raccoons Eat Chickens? 11 Amazing Ways To Prevent Raccoons in Your Coop

If everything else fails, you might want to consider trapping. Just bear in mind that many locations prohibit the movement of raccoons from one area to another, so if you plan to trap a raccoon and release it elsewhere, you should check your local regulations first.

If you have a raccoon problem on your farm, the best approach to catch one is with a have-a-heart (or Hav-a-Hart) style trap. This type of trap will allow you to capture the animal without endangering it.

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This is not the same as the foot- and leg-hold traps that are commonly available for purchase.

You’ll need to bait the trap with some tasty food, such as cat food or even sweet treats, and you may need to be patient with this quest. When raccoons find out what’s going on, they’ll figure out how to avoid being trapped by the trap’s bait.

However, with hope, you’ll be able to apprehend your raccoon offender soon. You can then move it to another area or hand it over to the appropriate authorities (as long as it is legal).

4.  Examine Your Fences

Raccoons have the ability to easily climb up and over a fence. Make sure your fence is robust and keeps out low-to-the-ground predators such as dogs and foxes, and keep in mind that the fence must not only keep predators out but also keep your chickens in.

Because raccoons are such skilled climbers, it may be worthwhile to invest your time in creating a covered run. Raccoons will be unable to enter the pen even if they can scale to the top of the fence.

Don’t forget that these bugs enjoy digging! Consider burying four feet of hardware cloth around the coop and run. This will keep them from excavating and going under the fence.

Do Raccoons Eat Chickens? 11 Amazing Ways To Prevent Raccoons in Your Coop

5.  Use Ammonia to Your Advantage

You’ll want to be careful where you do this because ammonia can be harmful to other animals and even humans. However, scattering ammonia-soaked rags about your home can help deter raccoons.

However, you will need to replace these on a frequent basis, especially after a strong rainstorm, so keep that in mind.

6.  Protect Your Coop

Raccoons are extremely intelligent and have deft fingers, making breaking and entering a breeze for these agile mammals. They have the ability to scale buildings and fences, dig beneath barriers, and even open latches.

When they find out how something works, they remember it and will come to your coop repeatedly. They will also take notice of any flaws in your coop and run design and exploit them.

Even if your coop door has a slide lock, don’t be deceived into thinking it’s safe from these mammalian intruders. They can still get in because it isn’t difficult for them to understand how sliding locks function.

You should install a lock that requires at least two steps to open. The more intricate the system, the better it will be at keeping raccoons out. Some people use combination locks for padlocks, while others use a lock and a cinderblock to secure the door.

In addition, take the time to reinforce your coop both permanently and at night. Check that the coop door closes tightly and there are no cracks. A raccoon may easily slide through cracks.

If you know that raccoons are a particular concern for you, you should use hardware cloth to close up any potential entry points in your coop. Use the tiniest cloth you can find, preferably a 14-inch hardware cloth.

This is especially crucial when it comes to doors, vents, and windows. The same regulation applies if your chicken tractors are encircled by wire netting or poultry netting.

Even if a raccoon’s huge body cannot fit inside a chicken house, it can stick its fingers through larger gaps. The raccoon will then pull the chicken through the opening, ripping it to pieces in the process.

That is not a fate you want to inflict on your hens!

Don’t forget about the top and bottom of your coop. Make sure the entire roof is secure, including any loose shingles, and surround the bottom of the coop in wire to keep predators from lurking beneath (this is piccadilly important if your coop is raised up off the ground).

 

7.  Keep an eye out for young birds.

Raccoons will attack chickens of all ages, but young cockerels and pullets are most vulnerable. This is because young birds are more prone to lie on the ground at night, when raccoons may easily reach them, and they haven’t evolved all of the instincts needed to defend themselves.

8.  Stored Feed Should be Inaccessible

As with the first several suggestions, this is another means of averting a raccoon attack that will reduce the risk of other creatures attacking your hens as well.

It will help prevent other problems, including feed loss and insect attraction (like rats and mice).

Keep your feed supply out of any animal’s reach at all times. Do not leave chicken food in the coop overnight.

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Make sure spills are cleaned up immediately, as the food can easily draw raccoons to the coop – and when they arrive, they’ll discover an even sweeter meal awaits them inside.

Consider storing your food in airtight drums within a lockable, enclosed barn. Water should also be kept out of reach of raccoons, though this is less vital than feed.

If you leave pet food dishes (or rubbish bags) outside at night, this is also something you should cease doing.

You don’t want to send the raccoons the idea that your house is the new smorgasbord on the block. They’ll come for the free garbage and stay for the free chicken.

 

9.  Make a commotion and be present.

The simplest approach to keeping raccoons away from your flock is simply to be present. Raccoons dislike loud noises, strong scents, and flashing lights.

They will definitely detect your presence on the land and will be less likely to approach a coop if a dog is close.

If you have a dog on your property and have a known raccoon problem, make sure your pet is rabies-vaccinated, as raccoons are known carriers.

Installing a motion-activated light, for example, can prevent raccoons. They are less likely to enter a coop if a light flashes every time they approach because they will be spooked.

 

10.  Cayenne Pepper can also be used

Most exterminators and pest control companies do not recommend using pellets or poison to prevent or kill raccoons since hens frequently get into them. This is just as likely to murder your chickens.

Cayenne pepper, on the other hand, is a good (and more natural) remedy. Capsaicin has no effect on chickens (the ingredient in cayenne pepper that makes it so spicy).

Raccoons, on the other hand, will not approach your chickens if you sprinkle cayenne pepper around the perimeter of the property, so it’s an excellent strategy to keep these predators at distance.

11.  Make contact with Animal Control.

Some folks prefer to…ahem… “take matters into their own hands” when it comes to raccoon control. This frequently requires setting traps or shooting raccoons who are seen on the property.

However, keep in mind that in some regions and at certain times of the year, this is not always permitted. You may need to contact animal control or a wildlife rescue service to see if they can assist you with the problem.

 

Do Raccoons Eat Chickens?  How A Raccoon Can Devastate Your Chickens

Raccoons may appear beautiful and cuddly, but they are capable of wreaking havoc on your property. They can not only devastate an entire flock of chickens in a matter of minutes, but they can also devour eggs and spread diseases.

Once a raccoon discovers how to get to your chickens, it will return time and time again until all of your chickens have died.

Don’t put off taking action until this moment. Instead, use a few simple preventative measures to ensure that raccoons never come by your coop looking for a free chicken dinner — you’ll be relieved not to have to deal with these masked thieves!

References:

  1. Rosatte, Rick; Sobey, Kirk; Donovan, Dennis; Bruce, Laura; Allan, Mike; Silver, Andrew; Bennett, Kim; Gibson, Mark; Simpson, Holly; Davies, Chris; Wandeler, Alex; Muldoon, Frances (July 1, 2006). “Behavior, Movements, and Demographics of Rabid Raccoons in Ontario, Canada: Management Implications”Journal of Wildlife Diseases42 (3): 589–605. doi:10.7589/0090-3558-42.3.589ISSN 0090-3558PMID 17092890S2CID 22385302. Archived from the original on December 9, 2012. Retrieved December 7, 2008.
  2. “The Raccoon – Friend or Foe?”Northeastern Area State & Private Forestry – USDA Forest Service. Retrieved December 7, 2008.
  3. Link, Russell. “Raccoons”Living with Wildlife. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Archived from the original on March 24, 2008. Retrieved December 7, 2008.
  4. “Raccoon”Nebraska Wildlife Species Guide. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Archived from the original on October 23, 2008. Retrieved December 7, 2008.
  5.  “Mammals: Raccoon – (Procyon lotor)”. Mdc.mo.gov. Archived from the original on June 22, 2008. Retrieved March 19, 2010.

 

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