Keeping chickens is truly one of the happiest pastimes for anyone who has enough space in their backyard. However, depending on where you live, you may face some hurdles with your poultry keeping.
In areas where the chickens have many natural predators, even a fence might not be enough to keep them safe. From time to time, you may find a dead chicken in your coop. And as difficult as that is, you need to figure out what happened to it.
For example do raccoons attack chickens during the day? Furthermore, do they eat chickens at all? Don’t worry, we’ll answer all of it right here.
Chickens and Raccoons
So do raccoons attack and eat chickens during the day? Unfortunately, the answer is a definite yes. Raccoons are one of the most common chicken predators, in areas where they are frequently present. And although they are typically nocturnal, it isn’t unheard of for them to be seen during the day, so a daytime attack is certainly possible.
Make no mistake; wherever you are, chances are that you will have to deal with at least one type of chicken predator. While you may adore your chickens and treat them with kindness; don’t expect the rest of nature to share your point of view. There are many animals in the wild that view your hens as nothing more than food. In fact to most carnivorous predators, they represent a hearty meal.
So you mustn’t have any doubts about the fact that chickens will indeed be consumed by raccoons, should the chance present itself. The question is – what can you do about it?
Dealing With Chicken Predators
Before you can focus on reducing the risk of your chickens being attacked by predators, you need to have all of the right information. In other words, you need to know what kind of predators your chickens are in most danger from.
Obviously, this is important because different predators require different countermeasures. Which defensive strategy you adopt will differ depending on whether you are dealing with hawks, coyotes, raccoons or whatever it might be. If your dogs aren’t trained to live with chickens, even a domestic pup could present a potential threat to them.
Chances are you’ll find yourself in this situation – you’ll go out to feed the chickens in the morning, only to find that one of them is missing or dead; without a clue as to what exactly happened. In that scenario, it’s important to keep a cool head, and assess the threat rationally.
Spotting a Raccoon Attack
So, the question now is, how do you recognize a raccoon attack? And more importantly, how do you distinguish it from other predators, in order to mount an adequate defense? Just like most other predators, thrifty raccoons have a couple of tell-tale signs which signify their presence.
In fact, you can spot the presence of raccoons far more easily than that of other chicken-feasting predators. When it comes to animals like hawks, dogs and coyotes, most of them are prone to carefully stalking their prey; only to quickly snatch it and take it out of the backyard. They then proceed to feast on it far away from prying human eyes that could interfere with their victory.
On the other hand, raccoons have a very different approach to chicken-hunting. Instead of retreating once they’ve attained the chicken; they will eat it right there in the coop, at least partially. Indeed, there are few sights more grizzly than the remains of a raccoon attack on a chicken coop. You will see pieces of a chicken (or multiple chickens) strewn all around the coop, or even your front yard and porch.
While this sight is definitely a gruesome one, there is a silver lining – it’s quite conclusive. The raccoons’ approach to a coop attack is something that helps them stand out among other similar predators.
This approach most closely resembles that of opossums and skunks. These creatures will also eat the chickens in the coop itself, where they’ve attacked them. But unlike raccoons, they will not string the chickens across the entire yard; you’ll only find the remains in the place of the attack.
On the other hand, the devilish raccoons will simultaneously eat the chickens and leave the premises; leaving behind a fairly awful and unpleasant trail of blood and chicken innards.
Identifying Raccoon Presence
Once you suspect that a raccoon is at fault for the tragedies happening around the chicken coop; you’d do well to confirm this before you make preparations for a defense against them. But how can you be sure that raccoons are the menace of your coop?
It’s fairly simple – apart from the chicken entrails strewn about, you’ll also find raccoon footprints. And compared to other animals, their footprints are pretty unmistakable. When you see tracks hinting at two pairs of small paws with five toes – you’ll know you’re probably dealing with dastardly raccoons.
If you have any neighbors who also keep chickens in their backyard, you’d do well to ask them if they know how to identify raccoon poop. Unlike some other predators, raccoons commonly leave their excrement on their hunting grounds (in this case, your yard) . Should you not be able to attain the information in your vicinity, ask a veterinarian or do a bit of googling to get an idea of what to look for.
Keeping Raccoons Out
If you’re going to stop raccoons from entering your coop and wreaking havoc, one thing is crucial – you mustn’t underestimate their intelligence. These are creatures capable of extreme cunning, and they can get around more complicated defenses than you can imagine.
After all, there’s a reason why cartoon raccoons are always portrayed as skillful little thieves. For example, did you know that raccoons can actually figure out simple sliding door locks with relative ease? It’s imperative that you don’t view them as raving predators; these animals are able to use sophisticated motor skills to get into your coop and snatch a chicken.
So, how do you take this into account when you’re designing the defenses of your coop? It’s quite simple; you need to have a lock that a toddler would have difficulties figuring out. That’s about the level at which raccoons can bypass security. You may also want to take a look at the height of the average raccoon, and keep the locks above their reach. That will make breaking and entering a lot more difficult for them.
Speaking of which, locking the doors isn’t the only thing that matters. You need to make sure that the doors also leave no gap when they’re closed; they need to be tight. Otherwise, any small gap could be utilized by a cunning predator like a raccoon to slip through and take a chicken.
Take Every Precaution
If you have young chickens, you will need to be extra careful regarding raccoon threats. Remember, cockerels and pullets won’t roost until they get somewhat older. And when they’re young, they’ll spend their nights lying on the ground. In turn, this means that any raccoons could easily get to them, because they’re not perched up on a roost where they’re harder to obtain.
Also, if you think that raccoons are a constant threat to your area; make sure you don’t leave anything lying around that might attract them, before they decide to make a move on your chickens. For example, you don’t want to leave any feed outside your chicken coop; or in its near vicinity. Raccoons could smell it and then investigate; only to find chickens as a surprise bonus. Eliminating such raccoon draws should always be your first line of defense.
Apart from that, you may want to use a mesh wire around your coop. If you do go down this route, make sure it’s at most around one quarter of an inch in hole diameter. Anything wider than that, and the raccoons may get their little paws through it and try to break it apart. Even worse, once they realize they can’t do that; the raccoons might pull your chicken through the hole – which is certainly a gruesome fate for anyone, let alone harmless and defenceless poultry.
Chronic Raccoon Problem
If you find that raccoons attack chickens in your backyard or farm on an alarmingly regular basis, this will obviously be an issue for you. And if none of the abovementioned defenses make a difference, you’re probably dealing with a raccoon infestation.
In this scenario, make sure to contact wildlife rescue, or another type of animal service; and with any luck they will be able to help relocate your pesky neighboring raccoons without harming them. Whatever you do however, don’t try to get rid of the pests yourself, as that may be against your local animal regulations legislation.