Last week I had my first close-encounter with a predator… Even though I allow my flock to free range during the day and I live among a slew of predators (fox, raccoon, hawk, etc..), I’ve not had to deal with an actual predator attack until now.
I do realize that by allowing the hens full roaming freedom that I’m creating the prefect scenario for an easy attack. That’s something for all chicken keepers to consider if they choose to free range their flock. The best set-up (for safety) is a secure coop and run that has been predator proofed from attacks from the side (reaching in), below (digging under) and attacks from above.
However, I still set my flock free every morning. It’s the risk I take because I appreciate their foraging for bugs and weeds – and I love the live entertainment they provide!
The predator – which was an opossum – was found going after my Henrietta, who is an old lady in chicken years, and did manage to tear her wattle a bit and grabbed a few handful of feathers. There was a lot more blood than injury and she looked awful at the time of the incident, but in the morning (much to my relief) she seemed fine! We did humanely put her attacker out of commission and I’m comforted to know it won’t be returning to the coop, but I know there are thousands more opossums to take its place.
I really didn’t expect an opossum to be the greatest threat to our flock. I expected a hawk during the daylight or a raccoon at dusk. I decided to go to our Facebook page and ask the Community what was their most prevalent predator. I was thrilled to have 123 responses to my inquiry and I thought I’d share the top 10 predators the Community listed and a few tips to prevent attacks…
Question for the Community!
Last night we didn’t have the hens secure in the coop early enough at dusk and an opossum was able to get in and attacked my oldest Buff Orpington, Henrietta. Fortunately we heard their cries and saved them from what could have been a tragedy. This morning it looks like Henrietta is fine – with only a few scratches! I was wondering – what is the most frequent predator you’ve encountered? Raccoon, Opossum, Fox, Hawk ??
I tallied up your comments and came up with the Community’s top 10 predators:
A few additional predator encounters included bears, snakes, rats, ravens and a mountain lion, rabbit, mink, badger and an armadillo…
Here are a few tips offered by the Community to protect your flock:
Nancy B. – I have an electric fence surrounding the 6 ft. stock fence (which is buried 6 inches under ground) along with deer netting covering the yard. So far, the coyotes, hawks, foxes, and bears have been thwarted. I have seen them around, a heard a coyote yelp upon getting zapped.
Jill R. – Our killer llama keeps all our girls and goats safe!
Deana H. – (Hens) are kept in a covered enclosure except when I am outside with them, so they were safe.
Pam H. – My trusty lab killed a possum in the barn just yesterday thank you Clareybell!
Lena H. – I only let them run free when I am home, they have a 6 ft fence with chicken wire topping and fencing along the bottom.
Julie H. – I’m careful to be sure they are secure in their coop at the end of the day. Although when out foraging the hawks can be a problem. The roosters sound the alarm when the hawks are overhead and all the hens heed the warning!
Michelle M. – (Rats) the best thing I found was to use peppermint oil…sprayed on the inside of the coop. In the spring I planted mint all around the coops and let it grow wild around the house as well.
Will L. – Dog down the block tries. Now we have a sling shot.
Al M. – I have an electric fence around the chicken run and house so I have had no attacks.
Evelyn D. – My Pug is out patrolling enough they now stay out of the yard. Barkleigh (Pug) thinks my two Americanas are his to protect.
Liz W. – My LGDs patrol the poultry yard at night so it’s unusual for anything to try getting in.
Ethel E. – I lock mine up way before dusk, when I know many start looking for food, and I check the hen house for anything that may be hiding in there for them, before I do lock them up. We have a very secure coop/run…
Northern Roots Farm – I had fenced and double-fenced to protect them from ground predators… and then I added netting to the top after the owl got 7 turkey poults and 1 duckling in one night!
Thanks for your comments and advice! If you have a predator not mention above or an additional tip to prevent attacks, leave a comment below or join our Facebook page to get all the Community’s updates!
To view what else is happening at our Southwest Missouri property visit: the garden-roof coop