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

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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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Resident Predators

Although this magnificent owl is a predator and totally unwelcome in my chicken yard, I can’t help feeling honored by it’s stunning presence. We have two owls that are regular visitors at TBN Ranch. They are usually seen at dusk.

Owl, Arizona

This rattlesnake is definitely a predator I could live without…  unfortunately Arizona is home sweet home to them. With a little a lot of respect we manage to live together in peace. There have been probably 6 rattlesnakes found on the property over the last 10 years… not too bad. None of our chickens or chicks have ever been a victim.

rattle snake

Photos by friend Laura

Predators in the Sky

Looking for a Chicken Feast

Last night a giant owl discovered my chicken yards. Camped overhead and intently scouting the property for a feast. Fortunately, all my hens are in fenced enclosures with aviary netting atop.  I do have one bird at slight risk, my new little Sizzle hen. She lives in the barn with our burro, Beamer.  Jojo sleeps in a box on top of the hay pile, and during the day stays close to her donkey pal. For once I’m glad Beamer’s opinions concerning intruders are so obnoxiously LOUD.  I can only hope the ruckus by a crazy ass in the barn will discourage the owls quest.

The Harris Hawk Also Visits TBN… Again

These beautiful unwelcome birds of prey are not strangers to the ranch, but this is the first time they showed up in numbers. Perched high above the chicken yard, they watch, then circle, and slowly move in closer.  Once they see the aviary netting they diligently look for an entry. When their efforts prove unsuccessful, they get extremely agitated and vocal.

Harris Hawks, Actual Birds

They’ve been easy to photograph because they aren’t the least bit intimidated by me. They stand their ground by making loud squawking noises, then spread their 3-4 ft wing span in an attempt to scare me…  it works.

Harris Hawk, Actual Birds

Two years ago this Harris Hawk grabbed my 6 lb. Rhode Island Red hen, Martha. Luckily, we were able to rescue her. Thanks to our house cat Eddy who witnessed the near catastrophe from a bedroom window. The hawk swooped down from the roof and landed on top of Martha, Eddy had such a fit we looked out the window to see what was going on.

If the hawk wasn’t alone that day we never would have had time to save Martha, it must have struggled with the hen because of her size. Considering Harris Hawks usually work together, it was only a matter of time before the family would be invited to the feast. This is when the grueling task of hanging aviary netting began.

Martha’s Predator, a Harris Hawk