Identifying your Chicken’s Backyard Predators

Protect your homestead chickens by knowing what predators could be coming after them, and what you can do to stop them.

  • The surest way to identify a predator, aside from seeing it in action, is to find a clear set of tracks.
    Photo by Pixabay/lushtk0
  • “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens” by Gail Damerow has helped over 2 million people begin raising their own chickens.
    Cover courtesy of Storey Publishing

Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens (Storey, 2017) by Gail Damerow helps readers through the ins and outs of rising their own chickens. For more than 40 years, this book has been the go-to guide on everything about chickens, from choosing your first chicken to fending off parasites and illness from your flock. In the following excerpt, Damerow discusses how to identify possible predators to your chickens.

“What are you building there, a bunker?” My visiting uncle was referring to the concrete foundation of an under-construction chicken house on our new farm. Looking at it through his eyes, maybe it was overkill. On the other hand, a neighbor had told us, “Chickens don’t live long out here,” and nothing we could do would stop predation.

Well, as long as we kept our flock in that bunker, we never lost a chicken, except for two that disappeared one day when we let them out to forage and they wandered into the woods to scratch in the dry leaves. That first (and last) time we allowed the chickens to roam from their bunkered yard, two hens fell victim to a pair of foxes with hungry kits.

Later we moved the hen house to one end of our barn, some distance from the house, and soon learned that our chicken bunker had lulled us into complacency about the local predator population. Plenty of critters out there enjoy dining on home-grown poultry as much as we do.

Identifying Predators

The first step in deterring a predator is to identify it. Each critter leaves its own calling card that lets you know which animal you’re dealing with. Having raised chickens for some 40 years, I’ve seen quite a few of these signs, but every now and then I get stumped, largely because the predators haven’t read the books and don’t always conform to their own standard operating procedure.

One sure sign, of course, is tracks. If you’re having trouble finding tracks, spread sand on the ground where the predator will likely step, smooth out the sand, and confine your chickens until you have a chance to look for tracks in the sand after the prowler may have visited. This method requires persistence if you’re dealing with a predator that comes around irregularly.



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