Predators  
This page is to help determine what kind of predator you have or protect from! I will be updating this page regularly with more specifics on predators  

Note: All of the animals listed below are known predators of Poultry 

Chart of Predator and Signs to look for, with Pics

Basic info about Predators and protection

Helpful Solutions

 
Predators of Australia

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Basic info about Predators and Protection

Predators are usually the "unexpected" death to poultry.

They come in when you least expect it and kill one or all of your flock. Knowing the signs and preparing for them is more than half the battle.

The time it take to discover what is killing your flock can be devastating. This page is designed to help educate you on the signs the individual predators leave as well as how they kill and hopefully how to protect them.  Many of us think we have protected our birds then low and behold we get some big predator in that rips the door off the coop or figures out how to get under the coop, and we wake up to an awful surprise.

There are many great ideas to help:

Netting over the top of the pen.
Electric Fencing around the pen
Good flooring where nothing can burrow through or around
Music is widely used to help deter predators (on talk stations)

Take the time to protect your birds from predators, Do Not blame animals that get your birds, when you have not taken proper precautions. That is natural instinct!

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Helpful Solutions

All predators avoid a strong security light, and it allows you the advantage of seeing them at night. 

Along that line I have found a terrific new device that is a self-contained, maintenance free, solar powered flashing device designed primarily for use against Great Horned Owls, it is called The Nite Guard check it out at: http://www.niteguard.com/

Radios tend to spook the would-be predator. Dogs and geese can be a deterrent against loss of poultry due to feeding frenzies. Utilize your local wildlife manager or game warden for more tips and suggestions. A well-constructed habitat for your poultry stock will help insure less losses to wildlife predation.

Interesting Facts: 
These are comments from Poultry owners.

A cat, fox or dog will leave feathers. Set some traps out see what you get. A mink or weasel can and will go thru a 2x2 wire, but they will usually just suck the blood out of a bird. A coon can't go thru it, but can eat thru the wire, if its a thin enough wire. Raccoons can climb a lot of things, stucco, wouldn't surprise me. Raccoons kill chickens just for fun. They would eat part of one then kill another. They can climb anything and dig under too. I put an electric fence around my chicken coop and no more problems. He would reach in through the wire and grab one and pull it to the fence and then eat the head off and then go after another one

We had 49 chickens and now, we are down to 12 hens! It took me 3 months to find out it was a Great Horned Owl. It is 24 inches tall and has a wing span of 5ft. It is against the law to kill them here in Worcester Co. in Maryland. I have told so many people of my ordeal I am now afraid to shoot it. I just know the law would come swooping down on us. I have secured the area, the Owl was breaking our chicken wire, the wire was old, but he is amazing. I now have chain link fencing around the entire coop. I haven't had any visits in a week, he came every 3rd night. He also came right after night fall. Between 8:30pm and 10:00pm I walked right up on him one night. I didn't have the shot gun then 

Coyote: My chickens were attacked in the night of April 30, 01. I lost 13 altogether, the turn latch was torn off the house and the cinder block moved two feet from the door. All hens/roosters were missing except two, which were found dead. 5 birds, including my ducks survived.

Sometimes the chickens put up a ruckus, but mostly they just let something eat them without puttin up a fuss

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BobCat     Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

There are NO predators of bobcats, however they feed on hawks, insects, rodents, opossums, owls, porcupines, quail/poultry, rabbits, skunks, and squirrels.

This North American wildcat weighs nearly twenty pounds, and is a fierce, powerful foe of many smaller wild animals. It stands approximately 15 inches high at the shoulders. The ears, usually pointy, have little tuffs of fur. Bobcats are pale to dark brown with black spots.

 

Cats    

They account for a great loss to poultry. Teach your animals at a young age to respect your poultry, and inform your neighbors that stray pets are unwelcome on your property.

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Coyotes     Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

The mountain lion is the only predator of coyotes, however coyotes feed on carrion (dead animals), fruit, lizards, rodents, rabbits, livestock/poultry, and squirrels.

The Coyote is a member of the dog family. In size and shape the Coyote is like a medium-sized Collie dog, but its tail is round and bushy and is carried straight out below the level of its back.
Coyotes love nothing better than cats and frequently take small dogs. Inform neighbors of your sighting and encourage them to take steps to NOT attract the clever little varmints. Remember: Make sure that no pet food is ever left outdoors.
Coyotes are territorial and will only leave their hunting range under duress. They are best known for their haunting songs at dusk Coyotes prefer larger quarry than chickens, but will rob a hen house, leaving the same sign as foxes, very little. The problem is they like to tell the whole coyote world after words. Wait about twenty minutes after a raid for him to bay about his deeds in your hen house. Although the Coyote has been observed killing sheep, poultry and other livestock, it does not subsist on domestic animals

Injuries caused by coyotes sometimes resemble those caused by dogs

Crows     Click the Chick to see pics and footprints
(young chicks/eggs/peck eyes)

The Common Crow is a big black colored bird between 17 and 20 inches long with a strong stout build and a compressed bill.  Crows are omnivorous, killing sick or dead animals and ridding the country of many carcasses. Frequently they raid other birds nests for eggs, particularly those of Black-headed Gulls. They also eat insects, young and small birds, small mammals and various fruits and vegetables when times are hard, they bury food to eat later

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Dogs 

They account for a great loss to poultry. Teach your animals at a young age to respect your poultry, and inform your neighbors that stray pets are unwelcome on your property.

Eagles  Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

Fox  Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

Fox - The predators of the Fox are the Mountain Lion.  The fox in turn is the predator of insects, Deer, frogs and toads, fruit, mice, opossums, porcupines, quail/poultry, rabbits, shrew, skunks, snakes and squirrel. 
Famed in story, fable, and legend as the king of poultry raids, the fox whether it's a gray or red, tends to strike fear in the hearts of chicken farmers. The fox is prone to hunt 2 hours after sundown and 2 hours before sunup. Foxes take their prey some distances (miles even) from the sight of the kill. Grays are famous climbers and will take the food up a tree to devour it. Usually the only sign of a fox raid is feathers and squalling hens. Foxes respect geese, but will stalk ducks for food Although most active at night, they are also seen by day. Coat color varies, but the tail is always tipped with white, and the legs, feet, and tips of the ears are always black They are known for their raids on poultry but are nonetheless very beneficial to farmers as destroyers of rodents. carnivorous mammal of the dog family, found throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere fox can and do take domestic fowl when the opportunity presents itself, particularly during the spring when there is a need to provide food for growing litters. Red fox do not chew their food, but tend to swallow whole. This accounts for the abundance of fur and crushed food bones found in fox droppings. They commonly kill more food that they eat at one time, and bury the extra food in caches.

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Hawks     Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

The predators of Hawks are, the Bobcat and the Owl. Hawks in turn feed on insects, birds, quail, rabbits, rodents, and snakes.

 

Mink   Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

Mink, is the aquatic member of the weasel family and is found throughout most of northern - North America and the most commercially valuable fur-bearer like the weasel, are also a vampire type predator at times, but tend to like hunting in waters where they live. Although they may travel up to a mile from water, this is usually during a hard freeze or drought condition. Mink are much larger than weasels, and often do remove their prey to a safe location before eating. They do find ducks a delicacy.

Mink are about the size of a house cat and semi aquatic in habit; general color dark chocolate brown, darkest on back, and nearly black on feet and end of tail; under parts paler than back, with considerable white on midline from chin to vent; neck long, head hardly larger around than neck; tail long and moderately bushy; eyes and ears small; legs short; pelage soft and dense, overlaid with longer, blackish guard hairs.

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Mountain Lion Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

There are no predators for the mountain lion however they feed on coyotes, deer, fox, frogs and toads, insects, lizards, rodents, opossums, rabbits, livestock/poultry, raccoons and voles.

An adult mountain lion may be either a gray color or a reddish or yellowish color called tawny. The adult has no spots, and the tip of its tail is black. A full grown animal may reach 4 to 5 feet in length, not counting the heavy tail, which is 2 to 3 feet long.

Where practical, place livestock in enclosed sheds and barns at night, and be sure to secure all outbuildings

Possums-Opossums Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

The predators of Opossums are the bobcat, the fox and the mountain lion. Opossums in turn feed on fruit, insects, birds, nuts, quail/poultry, and seeds.  

Opossums are not commonly seen because they are mainly nocturnal (active at night) animals. Spotting them out during the day could possibly be an indication that they are sick, or injured. Do not approach an opossum at any time, especially one spotted during the day.

They are relatively poor predators, in fact they are actually scavengers who will generally sleep-off a raid in the very hen house robbed the night before. They do pose a threat to all poultry from eggs to adults, and should be minded for their boldness. They will usually eat their kill right where they caught it or very close.

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Otters  Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

OWLS   Click the Chick to see pics and footprints           
Excerpts from a ©2002 article written by KelliAnn Neal

The predators of Owls are the Bobcat. In turn Owls feed on hawks, insects, rodents, rabbits, quail/poultry, skunks squirrel and voles. 

Owls are in a category call Raptors, they are at the top of the food chain with very few predators that kill them. Owls are basically nocturnal which means basically active during the late evening and early morning

There are over 212 different species of owl in the world and they are found on all continents except the Antarctica, In North America alone there are 19 breeding species the most devastating to poultry is the Great Horned Owl. 

Owls have two basic hunting methods

  1. The Perch and Pounce, which usually takes place from a low perch and is most common among forest owls.

  2. Quartering, which means flying low over the ground, this is most common among open country owls

Keep in mind with their large-extremely strong talons Poultry wire or netting will probably NOT keep them out. They can rip right through it, get your birds and be gone.

Normally, an Owl will grab the WHOLE bird and fly away, however if he has time he may, just eat parts of your poultry.

Comments from Poultry owners: 

WARNING: Many farmers and poultry keepers believe in the 'SSS' method to rid themselves of Predators (Shoot, Shovel & Shut up) however note the following:

Legal Status of Owls

All Hawks and owls are FEDERALLY PROTECTED under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16USC, 703-711).
These laws strictly prohibit the capture, killing, or possession of hawks or owls without special permit. 
No permit is required t scare depredating migratory birds except for endangered or threatened species.

 Note; In addition most states have specific regulations regarding hawks and owls. Some species may be common in one state but maybe on a state endangered species list in another.  Be sure to consult you local USDA-APHIS-Animal Damage Control, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and/or state wildlife department representatives for permit requirements and information.

 There are cases, in which owls or hawks can create public health or safety hazards or seriously affect a persons livelihood.  Contact your local USDA-APHIS-Animal Damage Control office if you are interested in obtaining a shooting permit, they may issue a permit for problem hawks or owls if non-lethal methods of controlling damage has failed or are impractical.

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Raccoons  Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

The predators of Raccoons are the bobcat, Great Horned owl, domestic dogs and the mountain lion, in turn Raccoons feed on earthworms, frogs and toads, fruit, insects, rodents, nuts/seeds, turtles, poultry/birds and voles. 

Members of the bear family, raccoons are VERY strong in relation to their size. There are seven species of raccoons in the new world, five live on tropical islands, one in the Yucatan. Raccoons are not commonly spotted because they are mainly nocturnal (active at night) animals. Spotting them out during the day could possibly be an indication that they are sick, or injured. Do not approach a raccoon at any time, especially one spotted during the day time. The Raccoon is intelligent and determined. It seems at times as if he can find his way into any closed container, or out of any cage Raccoon Feet –they are 5 toed and plantigrade, which means they walk flat footed.

Raccoon are omnivorous, therefore pose as much of a threat to the corn fields as to the chicken coop. Because of their large size raccoons will tend to remove the kill some distance before eating. They often travel in groups, and will fight over the carcass. If you find the remains with the entrails cavity missing and feathers strewn about, this may have been the result of a raccoon raid.

Spring is the time to be MOST Watchful
 In spring they eat primarily animal matter such as: crayfish, fish, arthropods, amphibians, a few small mammals, birds, and eggs. In the summer and fall they eat large amounts of grains, acorns, other nuts, and fruits

Raccoons can cause substantial damage. In rural areas, raccoons may feed on farm crops or raid poultry houses. A raccoon typically attacks birds by biting the head or upper neck area. The heads of adult birds are usually bitten off and left some distance from the body. The crop and breast may be torn and chewed and the entrails eaten. Raccoons have been known to mutilate poultry in cages by pulling heads or legs off. Several kills may be made during a single night raid with part of one or more carcasses fed upon. Dead fowl may be at the kill site or dragged several yards away. Raccoons are also serious predators of wild bird populations. Reports indicate that raccoons have been responsible for eliminating local populations of some nesting waterfowl.

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Rats..yes they can kill

Rats, can attack and kill young poultry, and do so much in the manner of weasels, proper management and waste disposal, as well as proper storage of feeds should eliminate this risk. Owls, and hawks both pose a threat especially to free range flocks, Runs built with netting on the top, or hanging pie tins in trees may thwart flying predators. 

 

Ravens    Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

There are ten species of Ravens in the world. Ravens are considered scavengers

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Skunk -  Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

The predators of Skunks are the Fox, Bobcat and the Owl. Skunks eat the eggs and young of ground nesting birds additionally they eat insects, fruit, rodents, snakes, turtles and voles. They may damage vegetable gardens, kill and eat domestic poultry and their eggs. Skunks pose little threat to adult birds, but do prize eggs as a tasty treat and will often break up a nest when the opportunity avails itself. Skunks are very shy, with very poor eyesight. Primarily a nocturnal creature, skunks will usually respect a farm with geese, a good dog or farm cat. Let your nose tell you if a skunk has been in the hen house. Both striped and spotted skunks can raid chicken houses. The worst offender is usually the spotted skunk because it can climb easily to gain access.

Striped skunks suffer from poor vision at a distance of more than 2 or 3 feet. A keen sense of smell enables then to easily locate foods, which vary with the season. Not a particularly swift animal, skunks don't need good distance vision to locate prey species which have little or no mobility. The ability to see a predator at a distance is not necessary either, as the threat of spraying its musk will usually deter all but ignorant predators, who soon receive a lesson.

Because the skunk is classified as a furbearer, you must contact your local conservation agent after capturing or killing a skunk so as not to be in conflict with the Wildlife Code. Skunks captured in a live trap can be moved safely if the trap is kept dark by covering it with an old rug or burlap and then is handled gently.

 

Snakes     Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

The predators of snakes are the fox, hawk, shrew and skunk, in turn snakes feed on insects, frogs and toads, birds/eggs, rodents, and quail.

There is only one North American poisonous water snake - the Cottonmouth Water Moccasin. The copperhead is a small hemotoxic reptile classed closely with the water moccasin. The Broad-Banded subspecies is found in western/central Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas living in both lowlands and hilly areas. These snakes even at birth are equipped with a well formed advanced venom delivery system which causes very painful bites.

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Weasels, Ermine   Click the Chick to see pics and footprints

Most people don't realize just how small weasels are. The largest weasel I have heard of was in Britain it weighed less than 200g. Most males weigh about 120g and females weigh about 65g. 

One reason why weasels have such a bad reputation is because they eat the eggs of domestic poultry and wild game. One of what I would  call the vampire predators, weasels are literally blood-thirsty. If a weasel gets into a hen house, they can get into a frenzy with all the hens flapping around. This results in a large number of birds being killed. The weasel would then carry the birds off to be eaten later if it could, but unfortunately the hen house door usually doesn't allow it. Despite their small size they can kill quite a few chickens in a single night. Because of their high-metabolism, their nature is to kill all prey in a den, then eat at their leisure. Although they may fall asleep after the slaughter, in the henhouse, they are stealthy hunters, and are instinctively elusive. If the dead are numerous and the heads have been decapitated this is your culprit. 

This has given rise to the belief that the weasels are killing for fun or out of "bloodlust". This is not the case, its just an adaptation for making the best use of food when it is available.

Appearance
The short-tailed weasel is a tiny animal, only 15 to 23 cm. long. In winter it is white and in summer it is brown. The weasel has a tiny face, sharp teeth and claws, and a tail with black fur at the tip. The weasel's coat changes color. The brownish summer coat turns white for the winter. Just the tip of the tail stays black.

Weasels are thought to use a wild, cavorting dance to mesmerize their prey and bring it within their reach. Some scientists, however, believe that this dance is brought about by the pain caused by parasitic worms that live in the stoat's skull!

Babies
In April, two to ten babies are born in a burrow. The nest is lined with fur from animals that the weasel has killed.

Food

It looks for rabbits, rats, birds, frogs, ground squirrels and mice. It eats hundreds of mice. If it li
ves in the north it also feeds on arctic hare and lemming.

But weasels are useful animals. They eat many rats and mice.

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