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Raccoons and Chickens


mom2bee
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Will wild raccoons harm pet chickens? We have a colony of raccoons on our land and I've been thinking about getting some chickens. However, I'm worried about the possibility of raccoons worrying the hens.

 

 

These raccoons have mastered the art of escaping live traps so I'm worried that they could easily break into a coop if they felt inclined to. me. I actually watched a mother raccoon demonstrate escaping a live trap to her young. oi!

 

These raccoons are suspected of having killed a few pet cats in the area but they killed the cats for food and territory reasons. Will they do the same to hens?

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Yes, raccoons will frequently kill and sometime eat chickens. What is worse is when they just kill them and then leave them uneaten. Such a waste.

 

If your raccoons have other food sources they prefer, your chickens might be okay, but I wouldn't count on it.

 

We are surrounded by woods and have many raccoons in our area. Usually, so long as the creek is running well and there are plenty of crayfish and other aquatic things for the raccoons to eat, they ignore our chickens. However, when the creek dries up during one of the occasional droughts, we start losing chickens right and left. We have had them kill as many as a dozen in one night, but eat only the heads, leaving the whole rest of the carcass behind.

 

We have also had sporadic problems with opossums, skunks and foxes killing our chickens. And a couple of times, stray dogs or the neighbor's pet dog.

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Yes, raccoons will go after chickens even if they have another food source.  Our neighbor feeds the raccoons (as in leaves food out everyday and night for all the critters that want it) and has lured huge numbers into our neighborhood.  His theory is that they aren't attacking our chickens because he feeds them but we've caught them in the act and pretty much lost our whole flock at one point last year.  We've rebuild and resealed our pen over and over but chickens and raccoons just don't mix.

 

Anyway, we started trapping them last summer and caught 15 in 16 days (in a row with one live trap).  This year so far we've caught three but they've also killed our rooster and three hens so they are ahead in the count.

 

My 17yods just started using some dog-proof raccoon traps last week and we've caught two right by our pen using those.  The advantage is that we don't accidently catch dogs, cats, skunks or anything else with this style.

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We also have coon (and coyotes, hawks, eagles, and cougars) issues here and have chickens.  A few things that have helped....

 

Use hardware cloth instead of chicken wire in your enclosed spaces/window screens of your coop. Chicken wire is to keep chickens in, but not predators out. We have a "porch" area that is made of hardware cloth.  We lock that in the evening.  The raccoons cannot enter this area. The hen doors and ramps from the coop empty right into this porch, so if we are going to be gone, we leave the porch area locked and they can go inside and outside freely.  This area is not the big run that they use in the day if we are home. The porch is small.

 

Keep them in a run instead of "free range".  We gave them a very large fenced area, so they are happy and are as close to free range as possible without becoming lunch. This is not fence of hardware cloth...so there is some risk of something flying into it or scaling or digging under it.  So far we have not had this happen. The run is made from basic metal farm fence.

 

Get them into the coop at night and lock them in.  Raccoons usually (not always though) come out when it starts to get dark, so it helps if the chickens are inside and locked in.

 

Use padlocks on the doors to the coop.  Raccoons can and will get into latches, but they cannot undo a padlock.

 

Have a very heavy lid to your nest boxes if you have them.  Our nests are built on the outer wall of the coop with a sloped roof lid. We lift the lid for easy access to collect the eggs. This lid is high off the ground and very heavy, so only something like a bear could lift it...and so far we dont have bears.

 

These are just some ideas.  Obviously setting up coop fort knox is more expensive, so you have to decide if it is best for you to just buy replacement hens when needed or just make it so the chickens are not accessible.

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