Urban Chickens Fall Victim to Predators Too

This past year has been our worst ever for predator attacks. For twelve years, not a one, now, in 2016 we’ve had five. Three were by coyotes, one by a hawk, and yesterday, a bobcat. When the first attacks happened in February, we predator proofed all our coops better over a few months.

2016 Hatch 500 42816

We are finally done and everybody is safe. Then, yesterday I thought it would be nice to let the flock out for 20 minutes while I cleaned the coop.
They stayed close, no more than 20 feet away from where I was working. Sounds safe enough right? NO. Hard to even believe this, but, a bobcat jumped up from behind our 7ft block wall and snatched Peaches, my best mamma Silkie hen and took off with her. Seriously, what are the chances of that happening? I’m devastated.

So much for trying to be kind to my girls with a little free roam time. I never in a million years thought a bobcat or any other predator would attack with me out there, I was dead wrong. And… if you think because you’re in the city your chickens are safe, they’re not. Our little farm is located in the middle of the city, with mega traffic and high density housing all around us. There is however, 700 acres of state leased mountain range right behind our property. Nevertheless, you’d think a busy neighborhood with a maze of block wall fencing would keep predators within their natural boundaries, or at least somewhat discourage them. Wrong, trust me, there are no boundaries.

Although I’m embarrassed to admit I allowed my flock to fall victim to a predator when I should have known better, I’m warning you now to never assume your birds are safe. Beware, chickens are NOT safe unless they are in a predator safe enclosure at all times…  even in the city, and even if you’re right with them.

Below are pics of the predators spotted on our urban farm in the last year. A dangerous mix that most people probably assume are unlikely to be within the city limits.  Guess what… wherever you live, they’re prowling in your backyard as well. Keep your chickens protected, and remember, some predators will also go after a small dog. Today we bought a large 10x10x6ft high covered dog pen so our little dogs are safe when they go outside.  All this pretty acreage, and sadly they aren’t safe to run free and enjoy it anymore.

These predators have all visited our little urban farm at one time or another in 2016.

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Identifying Chicken Predators by the Individual Evidence They Leave Behind

Six Common Predators and the Clues Left Behind After an Attack

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Coyote

Coyotes will either tunnel or muscle their way into a coop. They’re smart, staking out the premises first to learn when the ideal time is to attack. A coyote is most likely to be seen at dawn and dusk, however, broad daylight attacks are not unheard of. Keep in mind coyotes are very active at night, and they can easily scale a 6 foot fence. When a coyote gains access to a chicken coop they’re known to kill all the birds, then taking a couple with them.
Signs a Coyote Leaves Behind After an Attack
• Birds missing
• Necks broken
• Feathers scattered everywhere in coop

Urocyon_cinereoargenteus

Fox

Clever as a fox, a saying we’ve all heard, and it couldn’t be more true. They climb better than you could ever imagine and can dig their way into a coop with ease.  Fox are smart and patient, they will watch your coop for weeks before they attack.
Every bird the fox can grab in the coop will be killed, often the entire flock will be completely wiped out.
They’ll take as many birds from coop they can with them.
Signs a Fox Leaves Behind After an Attack
• Many birds missing
• Feathers sprawled in the coop AND away from the coop
• Broken necks

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Raccoon

These smart egg stealing masked burglars leave significant evidence of their presence.  A raccoon rips open the crop and sometimes the breast to feast. You’ll find all the chickens still in the coop as a rule because coons have difficulty carrying them off.
One of the raccoon’s most distinctive features are their extremely dexterous front paws, in other words, they’re extremely talented at opening door latches!
Signs a Raccoon Leaves Behind After an Attack
• Rips open the crop and sometimes the breast.
• Dead chickens will most likely be left in the coop.

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Opossum

This little critter is after your chicks and eggs. That’s his primary agenda, but it may go after a small adult chicken at times. The opossum gains access usually through a small opening in the coop.
Signs an Opossum Leaves Behind After an Attack
• Doesn’t take birds from the coop.
• Tears open the abdomen.
Interesting Fact: The opossum is a Marsupial.  The adult females have a marsupium, or pouch where they keep their young while they grow up. Cool!

The Enemy, Resident Harris Hawk

Hawk

These predators usually attack when chickens are free roaming during the day. Hawks, like the fox and coyote are well prepared for their attack by staking out the premises beforehand.
There’s no mistaking the evidence of a chicken attacked by a hawk, the signs are quite different from all other predators.  Sharp talons and beaks are extremely effective in killing or injuring multiple birds.
Signs the Hawk Leaves Behind After an Attack
• Some birds will be missing.
• Some injured birds will appear to be cut up.
• Injuries look as though chickens were stabbed with a knife.

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Owl

Owls attack  similar to the Hawk. They also stake out the potential of meal by watching the chickens for a spell before they attack.

Hawk or Owl? It’s not entirely impossible to tell the difference between a hawk and owl attack. Raptors usually poop when they kill, fortunately the poop of an owl and hawk are slightly different. You’ll find their poop near the feathers of the victim.
Owl: White streak with clumps
Hawk: Just a white streak
Signs an Owl Leaves Behind After an Attack
• Neck and head eaten.
• Deep knife looking cuts on the abdomen.

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Coyote Visits, Ends in Disaster at TBN Ranch

Dead, missing, and terrified chickens. A scenario more disturbing than any horror flick could ever portray. Some of my birds were just killed, others eaten with nothing left of their existence but a pile of feathers. Coyotes, no doubt. They don’t just take what they need to satisfy hunger, they kill just to kill, and often in large numbers.

So how did this happen? I’ve written time and time again how to protect a flock from predators. Unfortunately, I failed the simplest and most important step of all… to close the coop door at night.  I was tired, fell asleep and just plain forgot.  My fault, and I’m fessing up because I want everybody to remember that it only takes one time of neglect for something like this to happen.

All my young Silkie pullets, one hen, and Wilson, my rooster are gone. So sad, this will never, never, never happen again.

Guinea Hens Stories

guinea hen
Photo from: anopinionatedpalate

I don’t know much about Guinea fowl, but because my neighbor raises them we have been introduced. I found one on my roof last summer that escaped an early morning coyote attack next door.

It was big, LOUD, and I had no idea what it was… I woke my husband up and informed him there was a turkey on the feed shed roof. lol.

The scared guinea hen didn’t leave for a week, giving me plenty of time to identify this odd looking creature on Google. She joined my flock of hens and every night at dusk I found her up on the fence near the chicken coop.

On trash day,  I was moving my cans curbside when I saw an elderly couple walking down the road. Both used a cane and the woman was shaking a can of grain while making the weirdest noise I’ve ever heard.

Ah… “Are you looking for a guinea hen by chance?” I asked. The old woman’s eyes lit up, she told me her entire flock was wiped out by a coyote attack, except my new flock member who she saw escape over the fence. She also informed me that although her flock of guineas lost their life, they managed to kill that coyote first… that’s pretty impressive!

The old woman was confident that in another few days the guinea hen would come home on her own. That was fine by me, after learning this prehistoric looking creature was capable of killing a coyote, I was quite happy to leave her be. Sure enough, my turkey guinea friend returned to her own coop a week or so later when she felt it was safe.

 

Top Chicken Predators in Urban Phoenix

Here in urban Phoenix there are two major enemies occupying the top spots on the list of chicken predators. The Coyote and two hawks in specific.

coyote

Coyotes aren’t usually seen during the day, sundown seems to be when they’re most active. They’re rather greedy too, seldom  stopping at one bird. It’s not uncommon for them to wipe out half the backyard flock. Not only should the chicken yard be secured with a fence buried at least a foot in the ground. Concrete around the bottom as well would be ideal.  Don’t assume that a six or seven foot block wall perimeter fence will keep out a coyote, it won’t.

If at all possible, having a raised chicken coop that can be completely closed up at night is the best way to protect your birds. The top of your chicken yard or run needs to be enclosed with aviary netting, because in-flight predators are next on the list of chicken enemies.

The Red Tail Hawk is not fussy about what time of day they snatch a chicken from the flock. These birds are very intelligent, so you’ll need to be creative if you’re going to outsmart them. They are indeed capable of carrying off an average size chicken.

Red Tailed Hawk

Below is our resident Harris Hawk, smaller, and not capable to carrying off an average sized chicken. However, be aware that these birds work as a team. Where there is one, there is usually two more. They are patient and relentless towards their goal, give them the slightest invitation and they will take it. Once they find a flock, they will circle over head, then sit on a nearby roof, or fence. This could go on for days while they intelligently calculate their plan of attack.

Harris Hawk in Phoenix, AZ

Don’t Forget this Guy…

There is at least one Bull snake slithering around our ranch. These predators are more of a problem with chicks or very young birds. Keep in mind when reaching to collect eggs that they have the same agenda! Look before you reach! They are harmless to humans, but they can be quite startling just for their size alone!

Bull Snake

Remember, respect predators for their place in society, your job is not to prove where your place is on the food chain –  it’s merely to prove you are smarter.