Predators

Keeping chickens safe from predators has to be top on your list of priorities. There are several animals around the World that will prey on chickens and it’s your job to keep them safe and not letting them become part of the local wildlife’s food chain!

Foxes

In the United Kingdom, the number one predator for chickens is of course the fox but did you know that some people also have badgers killing their chickens? Most inexperienced people will think a fox has visited however this isn’t always the case.

A fox is opportunistic, he will visit your garden regularly (a little tip, if it snows, go out and have a look for paw prints to see if foxes are visiting and how close they get to your chickens – you might be surprised!) and the one night you forget to lock up your chickens… he’ll visit.

There is more information about foxes and how to tell if it was a fox that took your chickens on the Foxes page under the Pest and Predators menu.

Fox-looking-for-chickens

Badgers

Badgers are incredibly strong and if they are hungry, they have been known to tear off wooden panels of chicken houses that aren’t secure and tear open pop holes to get to chickens. They will usually kill and take one bird but might come back for a second. They usually work alone.

Mink, Stoats and Weasels can all be a problem but are far less common in most parts of the UK.

Domestic Cats

Cats aren’t generally a problem to fully grown chickens and mine have never bothered with young ‘growers’. They seem more interested in chicks though and shouldn’t be trusted. Some people have had problems, usually with a specific cat in the neighbourhood and with smaller bantam chickens. It’s very difficult to keep cats out completely.

chick looking at cat

Yikes… I won’t be trusting you in a hurry.

Rats and Mice

Pests such as rats and mice can be a problem as they spread diseases, eat valuable feed supplies and (rats) can steal eggs and gnaw at doors, wires and even chickens feet. Usually only one or the other are present and rats can be quite discreet so if there are no mice then be suspicious of rats!

There is more detailed information about Rats and Mice under the Predators menu.

80 Responses to Predators

  1. Suzy mclean says:

    We had 6 chickens in a run with wire around one afternoon we were in the house sitting with friends and I went out earlier than usual , still day light to put them into the secure coup for the night but I could not find any chickens then noticed one dead chicken and few feathers around the run , I could not believe that this had happened as we heard nothing and it was well before dusk time , we were well and truly caught out . This happened a couple of years ago and now we have saw a pine marten at different times around the garden since , we are in a rural spot 2 miles from callander Scotland and are thinking of trying again making the area as secure as poss. any ideas

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Oh that’s a shame – I haven’t any experience of Pine Martins I’m afraid but I would think about using an 3 or 4 electric wire around the fence making sure that it runs close enough to stop the Pine Martin running up the fence behind the wire.

      I would also call UK Countrystore (in Scotland) and speak to Andy Martin who I’m sure will give you some good advice and identify the right type of products for you.

  2. William A. Pellow, O.D. says:

    I just had a rooster show up this morning with blood and feathers removed from its shoulder. A little later I spotted a Martin looking around the chicken yard. I don’t know if our Martin is the same as your Pine Martins as I live in North Eastern Washington State in the USA. A Martin is a very small weasel-like creature, maybe as big as 1 1/2 or 2 chipmunks, and I didn’t think that they would attack a chicken, which is many times larger, but I read that they will kill a snowshoe rabbit. Luckily my rooster is only bloody, but who knows about next time. He is obviously weakened and spends his time pecking at the bloody wound. I hope he will be OK. I set a homemade live trap for him and put a dead Columbia Ground Squirrel in it as bate. I found almost nothing on the internet about Martins and Chickens; your site and the above story is about all. I hope this adds to the discussion. Yes, an American Martin will attack a chicken! Yes, we have coyotes, cougars, bear, skunks, ermines, wolves, badgers, eagles, and even an account or two of wolverines, but I have never seen a wolverine in thirty years. I have a horse-high, hog-tight, bull-strong fence with 5 strands of electric fence to discourage the bear around my little 1 1/2 acre family orchard and i am sure that none of the above could have penetrated it, but a Martin is small enough.

    • Bj says:

      Beware a Martin can kill everything you have. We had a mink come in our farm and the first night kill 5 12 pound roosters. Just dead looked to be not a wound on them. Next night he came again killed our rabbit, 6 adult ducks and 5 hens. My son and I spent all day hunting . He came again and we were able to shoot and kill him. So sad the worst. Mink and Martins hunt and will kill everything, they never eat the meat just suck the blood. This mink came from a mink farm 3 miles away. Beware we are in the process of building a larger coop, and have secured the one we have. Very very sad!

  3. Jane says:

    I have had a Stoat take my flock of chickens during daylight hours, a most prolific killer! Does anyone have any ideas of how to prevent this predator

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Hi Jane,

      Please take a look on the poultrykeeper website – under the pest / predators section, there is an article on stoats and some advice on how to trap them. They are not easy to catch!

  4. polly potter says:

    have a strange problem – something(not humans) are taking my hen eggs and i am finding some of them in the duck pond when it was drained – none on the surrounding ground, 42 eggs in all and i only have six hens, but its been going on for a long time. Recently found my large cockerel and two hens dead, one hen with no head, looks like the cockerel put up a fight as feathers everywhere. We have a high fence around the land and nothing has gone under. I dont live on the site and this does happen during the day so difficult to find the culprit. I set a humane trap with various food but not found the culprit. HELP please – Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Foxes will remove the heads / break the necks but also Mink can cause problems if you are near water / streams.

      Feral ferrets have also been a problem that people don’t often know about. The trademark of the feral ferret is to hunt singly or in pairs, so you may lose one or two birds at a time if the pair are successful. The impact on the bird keeper is that at the end of the day, one or two birds fail to return It rarely happens every day and folk will often mistake this for what the describe as a cunning fox.

      There is one way in which you can find out if a ferret/polecat has struck and that is if the dead bird is either too heavy to be dragged away or the kill has happened in a place where the dead bird can not be taken out.

      The best way to see what is taking the eggs is to set up a camera and catch the culprit on film so you know how to tackle them.

      Let me know how you get on – I’m wondering what it is too…

      • Jo cumming says:

        Stoats take eggs. We often find the eggs with a hole in them when we get to the bottom of a woodpile. They roll them and I’ve heard one will lie on its back holding the egg while a second pulls it to shelter but I’ve never seen this. We had a very low shelf in the hen house and when we moved it we found a cache of eggs with holes .

  5. Keith ianson says:

    My hen are going one a night. Today the hen was still in the coop, dead with its insides taken out and just the carcasses left. A paw print was in the mud about one inch across with about four nail marks any suggestions how to catch the culprit or what it could be?

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Hi Keith,

      Firstly, you need to secure your remaining hens of course, but after that, I would set a cage trap, placing a left over body in it. It might take a week or two for the animal to go into the trap. I’m wondering if it’s a Mink. You could also take fish left overs (try a fish counter, ask them for some guts) and put these into the trap too. It will stink but worthwhile if you can catch the culprit.

      Let me know how you get on…

  6. karen bartholomew says:

    just found all 3 of my chickens dead in their pen, I thought it was a kite but after reading others experiences Im thinking it may have been a fox as all their heads were missing.

    • Keeping Chickens says:

      Yes, I’m pretty certain it was a fox. That’s exactly how they kill, breaking the neck, often removing the head.

      It’s that time of year when they are feeding young….

    • Amy Figueroa says:

      If their heads were missing it is more likely a mink or weasel, minks and weasels are vicious and many times will kill several at a time and they can fit through very small places. They will usually eat the heads and leave the rest of the chicken

  7. bronwyn says:

    i have a pine-martin killing my chickens have secured my coop but this is not stopping it. should i tell my landlord so it can be relocated or is it protected?

  8. Jenny says:

    We have a problem here in Dumfries & Galloway. A few weeks ago we lost a chicken every few days and then some ducks and a big drake went and this was during broad daylight hours. This morning we lost a beautiful Magpie call duck that had only been out for half an hour. There are never any feathers, blood or clues. We are in farmland and the flock is free ranging just outside the farmhouse and in the field at the back. We are at a loss to know what is taking our hens and ducks. Any help would be appreciated. Also we know a farmer has lost some of his newborn lambs and he said this has never happened before.

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