When Chicken Predation Peaks
Kevin Felts 01.31.17
Late January and into February is when chicken predation peaks. This is when skunks, opossums, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, rats, and hawks are looking for a quick meal.
Winter is in full swing, foliage has died back, hawks are migrating, so where do predators and other pests go for a meal? Your buffet bar of a chicken house, that’s where. As food sources deplete in the winter, pests look for new food sources.
In a previous article we talked about pest control for the chicken house. Knowing when predation peaks can help you know when to keep an eye out.
Opossums, Raccoons, and Rats
All three of them love chicken feed, and raccoons eat eggs.
Opossums eat a wide range of food: insects, worms, fruits, seeds, and dead animals, just about anything they can get their hands on.
During the dead of winter when fruits, worms, insects are gone, the opossum will raid the chicken house. A lot of times the opossums may gorge themselves on chicken feed. When no chicken feed is available, the opossums may kill a chicken.
Raccoons are more selective than opossums. Rather than kill a chicken, the raccoon will usually steal eggs. However, raccoons are not above killing a chicken.
A wildlife camera and live trap will help deal with these opossums, raccoons, and other unwanted pests.
Rats will kill chicks. The problem with rats, they may make a nest inside the chicken house. You will need a small live trap to deal with rats.
Coyotes and bobcats are always looking for a quick meal. A game camera will help determine if there is one in the area.
Red Tailed Hawks (also known as chicken hawks) deserve special mention as they are protected under various laws.
Twice a year hawk predation increases. This is during the early spring and late fall.
What do birds do in the fall and spring? They migrate.
Hawks are predators. As such, hawks follow the flocks they prey upon. While migrating, hawks will sometimes kill a chicken. January 22, 2017 one of my Rhode Island Reds was killed by a chicken hawk.
There is nothing you can do to trap or otherwise harm a hawk. What you can do however, is provide your chickens shelter to get under or keep the top of the chicken run covered with wire.
If your chickens free range, expect to lose a couple in the early fall and mid to late winter from hawks.
Chicken Predation is a Fact of Life
Chickens are native to Asia. They were domesticated around 10,000 years ago and introduced to the rest of the world. This means chickens are not the natural prey of raccoons, opossums, coyotes, or anything else in North America. They just happen to be in the wrong place and at the wrong time for a hungry predator.
If you have chickens, keep an eye out as the dead of winter approaches. As winter sets in, chicken predation increases.
Keep a wildlife camera around the outside of the chicken yard and some live traps handy.