Should you keep chickens and have raccoons in your area, then you have every reason to worry about. So, do raccoons eat chickens?
Raccoons are carnivorous animals and eat nearly everything they come across, including vegetables, fruits, and small animals. They attack small, more vulnerable animals and can not defend themselves in most cases.
Yes. Raccoons do kill and eat chickens. Although they look cute and cuddly, they are dangerous creatures, especially backyard chickens.
Here we will discuss how raccoons attack and eat chickens and how you can protect your flock from these predators. Keep reading to learn more.
The Biology Of Raccoons
You might have probably come across a raccoon or know what it behaves like, but here is what you need to know further about them.
Raccoons are native to North and South America and can be found as far south as Argentina and as far north as Canada.
They are also common in Europe and Asia, where they came from. They tend to inhabit lower elevations and stay out of high mountains. Raccoons are also common in prairies and coastal marshes.
They usually weigh about 12 to 15 pounds, with males being slightly larger than their female counterparts.
They also have long fur with distinct brown-black or gray coloration. You can easily identify them by their black-ringed tails and the black coloration on their face, which looks like the mask of bandits.
Signs Of Raccoon Problems
As mentioned earlier, raccoons like to attack small animals, including chickens. If you walked to your coop and found a pile of dead birds.
You might be wondering whether it is a raccoon that caused the mess or any other type of predator.
Unlike most predators, like dogs and hawks, who usually grab their prey and run away with it without you noticing their arrival, raccoons tend to announce their presence loudly. They will want you to know they were there.
When they attack and kill, they will often leave pieces of the birds lying outside the pen, the run, or around the coop.
Generally, raccoons are messy eaters and will not care about the kind of destruction they leave in their wake. Their attack can be unpleasant to behold.
However, it will also make you know the kind of chicken predator you are dealing with. There is a path of destruction to lead you directly to the culprit in most cases.
If you find a full chicken body or a body with a few pieces removed, it could not be a raccoon attack.
Predators such as weasels, skunks, and opossums usually eat the birds right where they attack them.
They rarely move the body or eat the whole of it. If the bird’s body has bite marks on the neck or appears completely untouched, a weasel is likely the cause of the carnage.
Raccoons will attack a bird by biting the upper neck area or the head, usually tearing it off and leaving it a distance away from the rest of the body.
The crop and breast may also be eaten, mutilated, or chewed. They also eat the organs. Besides, they shred the chickens’ heads and legs, scattering the pieces all over the garden.
Raccoon tracks are similar to those of cats and dogs. However, you can distinguish them by the spread of the toes.
Can Raccoons Smell Chickens
Generally, raccoons have a great sense of smell, but they can not detect the presence of a chicken by smelling.
However, they can smell chicken feed. Therefore, they can easily locate a coop and launch an attack whenever there is a chance.
These disgusting predators are great climbers and can also dig under the fence.
Tips To Keep Raccoons Away From Your Flock
Here are a few tips that can help you keep raccoons away from your backyard chickens:
Watch the Clock
Although raccoons are nocturnal creatures, they are like other chicken predators that like to hunt and eat at dusk and dawn.
However, this is not the only time that you will have to worry about them, but the time when they are more likely to attack.
In some occurrences, starving, sick, and young raccoons may conduct attacks out of this window.
You will also notice exceptions to this in the spring and fall when they are hungrier and may not be sustained by their normal routine.
One of the best ways to keep raccoons away from your birds is by watching the calendar and flock and using their behavior to influence your routine.
You should only let out your chickens late in the morning and make sure they get back in long before dark.
In addition, you should conduct a thorough examination of your coop before winter arrives. Look for openings and any other weaknesses and address them as needed.
Secure Your Coop
Raccoons have dexterous fingers and are incredibly smart, which makes breaking and entering the coop an easy task.
They can dig beneath barriers, climb over fences and walls, and even open latches. Once a raccoon figures out how something works, it will remember it and repeatedly return to the coop.
They can still get inside the coop even if you have a slide lock on your coop door. The best thing you can do is to install a lock that will take two or more steps to open.
You will easily keep them out if the system is more complicated. In addition, you can shore up the coop permanently and at night.
You will have to ensure that there are no gaps and that the door closes tightly since a raccoon can easily slip through cracks.
Besides, you will need to make sure that the bottom and top of the coop are secure too.
Lock-In Your Birds At Night
You can also keep your chickens safe from raccoons by locking the birds in at night. If you are frequently away in the early mornings and the evenings.
If a manual chicken coop door is not working, you can consider installing an automatic door opener. Although these doors are a bit expensive, they will work well for you.
They will work on timers so that you do not worry about closing your coop at night. The birds will go inside on their own, and the door will automatically shut right behind them when it gets late.
Keep An Eye on Young Birds
Although raccoons usually go after chickens of all ages, young pullets and cockerels are more vulnerable to raccoon attack.
This is because young chickens tend to lie on the ground at night, and raccoons can easily get to them. In addition, it can be difficult for young birds to defend themselves against raccoon attacks.
Keep Chicken Feed Out of Reach
This method will not only help to prevent raccoon attacks but will also help to eliminate the possibility of other predators going after your birds.
It will also prevent various issues such as the attraction of pests and loss of chicken feed. You should keep the feed out of reach of any animals.
In addition, you should avoid leaving chicken feed hanging out in the coop at night as chicken feed can easily attract raccoons.
You can consider keeping food inside a locked or enclosed barn in sealed drums. If you leave chicken or pet food outside overnight, you should also avoid it.
Raccoons will constantly roam around your yard if they realize that there is plenty of food around.
Check Your Fences
As mentioned earlier, raccoons can easily climb up trees and over a fence. Therefore, you should be sure of checking your fences from time to time.
The fence should be sturdy and keep out common chicken predators such as foxes and dogs. The fence should keep out the predators and keep in your birds.
Since raccoons are good tree climbers, you should consider building a covered run. This will ensure that raccoons are not able to get inside the pen even when they scale to the top of the fence.
You should also not forget that these predators like to dig. Therefore, you can consider burying hardware cloth about five feet deep around the run and the coop.
They will find it hard to dig and get underneath the fence with this.
Be Present and Noisy
One of the best ways to keep raccoons away from your flock is to be there. You should also be noisy.
Raccoons are not fond of strong odors, flashing lights, and loud noises. They are usually afraid of humans, and your presence will scare them off.
They are also less likely to approach your flock if a dog is around. If you have a canine friend on your farm and a known raccoon problem.
You will have to make sure that your dog is vaccinated against rabies since raccoons are known carriers.
If you have been asking yourself whether or not raccoons eat chickens, you are now answered. They eat chickens and can be a big threat to your backyard flock. You can follow our tips to keep your birds safe from raccoon attacks.