Chickens are prey to a lot of predators. Their safety is the topmost point of concern to every chicken keeper. You might see groundhogs around your area and wonder do groundhogs eat chickens.
Groundhogs, commonly called woodchucks, are herbivores– they feed on plants, however, besides being harmful to chickens since they can steal chicken feed when they get a chance.
Furthermore, they can transmit diseases to your flock, and they’re fond of digging holes. The holes can cause injuries to people and other domestic animals that get caught in them.
When woodchucks make tunnels and gain access to your coop, they’ll not attack your chickens, but instead, they’ll turn to the free food inside the coop.
Are Groundhogs Dangerous to Chickens?
Usually, groundhogs will never intend to neither attack or harm your flock. Apart from plants, they also eat insects, snails, and the eggs of small birds. Your chickens and their eggs will be safe from harm.
What about the chicken feeds? Like all other predators, groundhogs look for the most accessible food source and will keep coming until nothing is left if they find the food in your backyard.
In addition, your flock can be at a high risk of being infected with diseases. For instance, rabies, Powassan, Lym, and parasites, including fleas and ticks.
Note that groundhogs will dig tunnels to your coop looking for food when they’re done eating plants. In short, groundhogs will only steal chicken feeds or carry diseases that can be harmful to your flock.
What Diseases Can Groundhogs transmit To Your Chickens?
Groundhogs carry diseases and parasites that can be passed onto your flock. They include:
It’s a contagious neurological disease that affects all mammals. The disease is transmitted through the saliva– when groundhogs bite.
Infected animals become agitated and can be seen snapping at objects that are not there. Also, you can see the chickens drooling.
Ticks and Powassan Virus
Powassan virus can cause weakness, seizures, and altered mental state. The virus can be spread through the bite of an infected tick to your flock.
However, chickens may be advantageous since they are superb in tick control.
Fleas can be moved to your flock. They can also carry parasites that can cause skin irritation, malnutrition, anemia, reduced egg production, and a general feeling of malaise.
Flea such as Stricktight Flea can irritate the vent of your hen leading to severe problems in her eyes.
Do Groundhogs Eat Chicken Eggs?
Groundhogs’ primary food sources are plants and sometimes insects, snails, and eggs of the small birds.
Therefore, they are not interested in eating the chicken eggs because they know the chickens are around.
However, they already know there must be chicken feeds where flocks are. Therefore, they will wander around looking for the feeds to munch on.
They will do so if they get a chance to eat chicken eggs. What about eating baby chickens? The answer is simple, NO.
Groundhogs will not eat anything related to meat. They choose vegetation and plants since this is what they will forage for all day long.
What Time Of Day Do Groundhogs Feed?
Typically, groundhogs are active during sunrises. They start to forage for plants and vegetation– using a sense of smell.
They will sometimes eat insects, snails, and small birds’ eggs if they come across one. When not foraging, groundhogs will sunbathe to keep themselves warm.
During the night, groundhogs will get back to their burrows to sleep. They’ll only get out at dawn.
We recommend keeping your flock indoors during their feeding time– in the morning, during sunrise.
How To Keep Groundhogs Away From Chickens
Keeping your flock free from predators such as groundhogs is the best way. Even though woodchucks won’t attack nor kill chickens, they’re still a considerable threat.
Burrows shelter groundhogs. But again, they can have tunnels that may lead the groundhogs to your chicken coop from the underground.
When they gain access, they will eat chicken feeds and other foods available.
Below are the guidelines on how to keep groundhogs away from chickens:
Installing Sonic Devices
Groundhogs hate vibrations so much. Installing solar-operated sonic devices that send vibrations into the earth every 30 seconds in your backyard will scare away groundhogs.
If you have a relatively small compound, you only need one sonic device– it can reach up to 60 feet in every direction, frightening the woodchucks.
Besides scaring the groundhogs, the vibrations will deter other pests, including snakes, mice, moles, and rats, from entering your property.
The ammonia solution is considered the best line of defense. You pour into the burrows to send the groundhogs away, and they will never turn.
The solution has hydrogen and nitrogen atoms with a unique miasma, which is unpleasant to the groundhogs.
For the chicken owners who can not get the ammonia solution from hardware stores, they have a chance to make a homemade solution.
Remember to follow the safety measures while preparing the solution, e.g., wearing protective gear such as gloves to prevent burning your eyes and skin.
Garlic and Pepper
Garlic and pepper also have a malodor that can cause groundhogs to leave their burrows for good.
To get effective results, crush the garlic and pepper, mix, and then continuously place a small amount of the mixtures into each burrow entrance.
We recommend using a pet dog to keep away groundhogs. If the dog is in your backyard, groundhogs will sense the smell and won’t come close to the chickens and their coop.
It is essential to train the dogs not to attack but to defend your flock from a young age so they cannot look at chickens as food.
Groundhogs are afraid of humans. Woodchucks will be frightened and feel endangered by leaving human hair around the burrows around the caves.
They’ll decide to move far away to places they feel are safe. Make sure that the human hair you’re using is shampoo-free– the smell of the shampoo may block the smell of human savor.
Using The Lime Technique
The technique is most effective in keeping the woodchucks under control. Sprinkling lime powder around the holes and covering the holes will discourage the groundhogs.
Lime burns the groundhogs’ feet when they enter the burrows. The pain makes the groundhogs leave and look for a much safer home, hopefully far from your backyard.
The most familiar preventive measure is installing a fence. A metal fence such as a chicken wire deters groundhogs and other predators.
Ensure the chicken wire is not larger than 3-inch squares– prevent entry through the holes, and also make it at least 3-4 feet high to prevent woodchucks from climbing.
Also, bury the wire 18 inches below the ground to prevent burrowing.
Trim The Grass
Groundhogs can only be in an open place while sunbathing early in the morning to keep themselves warm. However, they hate being seen.
Mostly, they love concealing through tall grass, creeping their way through dense vegetation.
Trimming tall grass around your chicken coop, clearing woodpiles, and all other places that will help the groundhogs hide will discourage them.
A clean and clear area will less likely attract the woodchucks to come closer to your coop.
Rodent Proof Food Bins
Chickens’ food majorly attracts rodents and groundhogs. Make sure to seal chicken food bags into animal-proof bins.
They shouldn’t be able to get the lids off and devour feeds available for chickens. We also recommend collecting leftovers and disposing of them properly to discourage groundhogs.
Using an automatic feeder and waterer is much better. They reduce the chance of uneaten portions drawing uninvited guests into your backyard.
Employing Scare Tactics
Groundhogs can be nervous around things that sound unsafe. Scare devices such as rattling cans and balloons will scare them off.
However, when the predators get used to the scaring objects, they won’t get skittery, but instead, go ahead to look for food in your chicken coop.
Primarily, the method is used as the last resort, though it might be costly and tedious. Set traps to catch the groundhogs without harming them and relocate them to places far away from your backyard.
Be keen not to kill the predators even if the laws in your country do not allow the killing of groundhogs.
If you live in a place with groundhogs, they can be dangerous to your flock. They neither attack nor kill chickens, but they typically steal chicken feeds and other foods and transmit diseases to your flock.
We recommend using the above methods to prevent them from coming close to your chickens.
These include keeping the lawn cut, using a chicken wire fence, installing sonic devices, using rodent-proof food bins, and employing scare tactics.
If you feel the tricks are not working, try other options such as setting up no-kill traps, ground irritants such as ammonia solutions, garlic-pepper mixture, and human hair– their odor can send the groundhogs away and never return.
You can also use animal guards like pet dogs to keep away groundhogs and other predators.
Now, you have all that you need to know about groundhogs and ways to keep them away from endangering your chickens.