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.

83 Comments

  1. Hi, we have been keeping chickens for the last 2 years and although we live in a rural area, we have never had any problems with predators. We do have buzzards & owls in the area & we own 3 cats ourselves but we only let them out at night once the chickens are in as we are worried about the bantums. We have a mix of very large orpingtons & little pekin bantums. Our chickens are let out in the morning and roam all day in our garden until they put themselves to bed & we lock them up. I am here most of the time as am currently at home on maternity leave. A couple of months ago our booted bantum was taken in the afternoon, there was just a clump of feathers & no sign of her body however 2 days later we found her remains at the bottom of our garden – my husband suspected a bird of prey did this? Today, my husband let the girls out earlier than normal (by half an hour) & when I got out of bed & looked out the window I saw a mass of feathers – one of our large blue orpingtons is no where to be seen, just her feathers. The other 3 large birds appear unfazed & normal. Our blue orpingtons are really aggressive compared to other chickens, they even attacked one of our cats!! I’m worried what it could be as surely if it was a fox, they would have killed the lot & not just one? Please help with advice.

    • I would say a fox or badger. When they are nervous, they will make a dash for a single bird and take it without touching the others. A fox kills by ripping the head off but a buzzard will rip the back of the neck and then take the breast off to eat if it can’t carry the prey off. It will leave the carcass on the ground where it killed.

  2. Sadly today a cat got in to my back yard with the chickens and killed my best chicken just as my wife went out to collect the eggs; the cat ran off scaling an eight foot fence with a climbing rose bush on the top with ease
    I am at a loss what to do as my chickens have the run of the back yard and I did not want to enclose then in a run as it is impractical in my case
    The chickens have not been bothered by cats before I have kept them for four years now, my wife is worried that the cat will come back again and kill the rest of the chickens
    As a chicken owner do you know what is my right if I see or catch a cat killing my chickens
    Many thanks Huw

    • I’m not sure of your rights, however chickens are classed as livestock so you may have rights regarding the worrying of livestock.

      A better solution might be to put an electric fence wire along the top of your fence and a ground wire on the actual fence so when the cat touches both, it receives a shock that won’t kill it but will deter it from trying to get in.

      It is rare for cats to kill fully grown chickens. Are you sure it killed your chicken or could it have been investigating after the event?

  3. I went out to feed the chickens and all have gone!! There is no evidence of foxes, there were eggs too – all gone. If a fox had taken them – would they be desacration? There were a few feathers from one chicken but nothing else. i think that they have been stolen……

    • Foxes kill by ripping the heads off so often there are heads and feathers left. Foxes will bury the birds too so you may find bodies in soft soil locally. Two legged visitors are a stronger possibility, especially since the eggs had gone too!

  4. I have been finding shells from stolen eggs scatters around my chicken enclosure and a good 30m away, outside the enclosure in various directions. Have ruled out rats, which we have had before, by putting poison down. None of it been taken and usually it goes straight away. So was thinking magpies. However today I had a hen I thought may be going broody so I shut her into the house to keep the others from pestering her for a few hours. The “door” is not secure (as the enclosure has very high fences). It is basically a tombstone shaped log leaned up against the gap with a brick leaning against it to hold it in place. When I went back a few hours later the hen was out and clearly not broody, the brick knocked over and tombstone rolled away. More eggs had been laid and stolen. Seems a magpie would struggle to do this. I guess the not-broody hen could have forced her way out but then I saw sitting right above me in a tree, a red kite. Could it possibly have been that? Either that or the hen is the next messiah.

    • I am not sure what it could be to be honest. Crows and magpies can be a problem taking eggs as can snakes in hot countries and rats as you say.

  5. We have three chickens, and At around 4am this mooring we were woken by the sound of our chickens.
    at first it sounded like when they are laying.However the the noise increased and we went to investigate.
    When we got to the run there were feathers all around the pen an one of the chickens was quite badly stressed and seemed injured. although there was no blood.
    At first we thought Fox but there was no sign of entry.
    The pen can be accessed from above via trees but we are a loss as to what could have got in.
    Are magpies or squirrels are threat?

    • If a fox has been outside the run, it will terrorise them running around. I remember seeing a light dusting of snow and fox prints all around a run once, I couldn’t fit a footprint of my own in the snow, there were no gaps. The hens panic and fly against the wire. Be careful they don’t fly out when this happens of the roof is open.

      Best bet is to get the hens into a secure coop at night where they can’t be disturbed as much by the fox.

    • Unfortunately yes, they can chew at their legs during the night and worse.

      Normally they don’t bother if they aren’t starving hungry.

      They do carry a lot of diseases though and will spoil feed very quickly. They should be removed as soon as possible.

      • In the wild, a rat will be far more likley to be going for eggs and chicken feed than chickens themselves – think of the size difference! Rattus Norvegicus, which are the wild population in the UK, are also interested in worms, small insects, etc.

        Do remember that rats are wild animals, ‘pests’ only in the same sense that wild rabbits are, and are not a special magical disease bringing species. They will carry Weils’ disease, which is hard to catch unless you lick their urine…foxes and badgers, as well as feral cats, are more likley culprits for carrying more serious diseases but then, they’re not ‘terrifying!’ like those fubsy little rodents.

        After studying both wild and domestic rats for nearly twenty years, I can assure you that they are not alien to the UK, they are not different than any other naturalised species such as rabbits, and have a perfect and important place in the eco system.

        Just lock your feed in the garage and, if you provide an opporunity for these gregarious and intelligent little onmivores, they will take it. They’re not persecuting you – they’re just getting on with life. Extermination is not really the answer and is, frankly, rather a repellent approach to creatures roughly as intelligent as large dogs.

        • Some good information thank you. I had a smile when you said about locking food in the garage – I did just this once but Rattus chewed a semi-circular hole in the bottom of a 2″ thick wooden door to get to it!

          He couldn’t munch through aluminium though when I added a sheet of this to the bottom of the door 😉

  6. Hi, we lost 4 bantams last night to what we believe to be a badger . One has survived and we are obviously distraught but would like to get some more. We have a chance of getting our dead cockerel (Colin) brother with some 12week old hens. Would this be a problem? Also would the one bantam left bully the young ones?

    • It’s hard to say, they should be OK when they are older – the bantam may be bullied due to the size difference.

  7. I’ve kept chickens in my garden for several years without incident, but saw a cat today stalking across the roof of my garden shed, then leaping down into the chickens “compound” and trying to catch one of my light sussex (big birds!). It wasn’t even frightened off by my shouting and clapping hands together as I ran down to it and only scrambled up the fence when I go really close and started pelting stones at it (had to be careful to avoid the chickens). If it comes back it’s going to get shot.

  8. I’ve kept bantams for 5 years in my backgarden. I live on the outskirts of Brighton. During this time I have lost 2 chickens to foxes. But yesterday around dusk (while the coop was still open) all 14 of my chickens disappeared. We were in the house and heard nothing at all. Just came out to find there were feathers in the coop and in the garden. No bodies or heads. Do you think this was a fox? My thought it someone may have stolen them. I’m just surprised we never heard anything, although if that was the case I imagine there would be less feathers. If a fox did kill them would it be hard for him to take 14 chickens away? Very sad 🙁

    • I’m very sorry to hear you’ve lost them like this. Sadly, it does sound like a fox. I came home from work one night (some years ago) and had 6 ducks outside the back door in a run that wasn’t secure. I went inside and unpacked my things and by the time I went out again (5 minutes, no more) 4 of the ducks had gone, the other two were huddled up in their house. I looked and followed some feathers to find all 4 of them, necks broken in a neighbours flower bed laid out next to one another. The fox had gone in and was killing them and carrying them over the fence and lining them up to carry off, one by one. They are quick, very smart and of course killing machines when it comes to chickens.

  9. I have kept chickens in Fife, Scotland for about 12 years. I decided to add to my current 9 adult hens so hatched 15 chicks in my incubator at Easter. I transferred them to a fenced off section of my coop at 3 weeks then let them mix with the adults a couple of weeks later which allowed them access to an extensive, uncovered run enclosed with 6 feet high chicken wire. I thought I had perhaps mixed them too soon as 2 were found dead but intact, I suspected attack by an adult but since then 10 have been killed over a few days (6, 2, 1 and 1) but only the heads have been eaten, the bodies were left behind.
    My coop has a built-in run which the chicks seldom left although a full height gate is left open to give access to the very large, main run. The first 9 bodies were found just outside the gate but in the main run while the last was inside the coop’s built-in run.
    There is a buzzard’s nest in a tree overlooking the main run, could a buzzard be the culprit or is it something else?

    • Buzzards can kill chickens and your set-up sounds perfect for it to be a buzzard. They like open spaces – attacks are common in Wales and Scotland. A buzzard will however normally rip the back of the neck out and the tear away the breast to eat. They only kill for food and will pick off one bird at a time.

      I would question if there is a river or waterway within a few miles of you – if so, it is much more common to find Mink doing this. They will kill by ripping out the back of the neck and will keep on killing without feeding until they are exhausted. If you are a long way from water, a Stoat could be to blame – especially if the predator is only killing the smaller of your birds. They can just about manage small chickens / bantams and wildfowl but can devastate a flock. Both of these predators are covered (including how to trap them) on the poultrykeeper.com website. Have a look at this section towards the bottom: http://poultrykeeper.com/pests-and-predators/

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