If you keep backyard chickens and you also have raccoons in your area, your chickens are at risk. Raccoons are cute creatures - at least I think so - but they are also very dangerous, especially to chickens. Here’s why raccoons kill chickens:
Why Do Raccoons Kill Chickens?
The obvious answer is that raccoons are carnivorous mammals and will eat or kill just about any animal they can easily have their way with.
Chickens are one of the most preyed on animals in the world. The odds are stacked against them, too:
They can’t fly to escape predators, they aren’t very quick, they can’t defend themselves, and unfortunately for them - they provide a tasty protein-rich meal for other animals.
So, if you have raccoons or any number of other predators in your area, you better believe there is a good chance they’re eyeing up your chickens.
How Dangerous Are Raccoons?
Raccoons are very dangerous. To me, they look pretty cute and unassuming. Especially young raccoons, they look more like they’d be at home as a pet, not a fierce bloodthirsty predator - right?
Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are countless incidents every year of raccoons seriously injuring kids, adults, household pets like cats and dogs, and of course harming and killing chickens.
Raccoons have incredibly sharp claws and teeth. They can and will rip through the skin, fight other animals to the death if they feel threatened or are hunting, and use them to get into rubbish bags.
They are also known to carry diseases. So, more than enough reasons to take some steps to deter raccoons from even entering your yard. Getting into your chicken’s coop or run is an absolute no-no.
Why Do Raccoons Kill Chickens and Not Eat Them?
If you’ve been unfortunate enough to have raccoons attacking your chickens, you will have noticed they generally kill chickens and do not eat much of their meat.
Raccoons are destructive animals. If they get into a coop, they usually kill a lot of chickens. Typically, they will eat the undigested food in the chickens’ crops, and maybe a little of their meat.
They seem to be more motivated by killing chickens than they do eating them though. Unlike some predators, like large birds of prey or foxes, raccoons do not remove chickens to share with their pack.
This is one of the ways chicken owners can narrow down the predator in question is a raccoon. Few predators simply kill as many chickens as they can and leave them where they attack them.
How Do I Stop Raccoons From Eating My Chickens?
Prevention is always the best cure. If you know there any chance of raccoons frequenting your area, you should raccoon-proof your coop and run.
There are a number of things you can do to stop raccoons from getting your chooks. The exact tactics you use depends on your exact setup, but as a general rule, I recommend:
Use a child-proof lock - The thing that catches most people by surprise is how cunning, clever, and nimble raccoons are. They are able to lift up and figure out simple latches, you should use a lock complicated enough to stop a toddler.
Think about what might attract them - The number one thing that attracts raccoons into a yard is the smell of food and leftovers. They love scavenging in bins and will turn rummage through any bins containing food scraps.
Left out chicken feed or scraps of fruits and vegetables you’ve been giving your flock will usually be enough to lure them out. Lockdown all food sources overnight.
Don’t rely on chicken wire - Chicken wire is the material of choice for most backyard chicken owners. I can see why as it’s perfect for keeping chickens enclosed, but it’s not designed to keep predators out.
Most predators are either strong, cunning, determined, or all of three of these things. Some thin chicken wire isn’t going to stop them. Upgrade your run and enclosure defenses to something like hardware cloth or a much stronger metal.
Do Raccoons Eat Chicken Eggs?
Yes, raccoons will steal and eat chicken eggs given the chance. This is another reason why you need tight security on your chicken coop overnight.
The bigger issue is that if they’re able to get in and steal eggs, your chickens are at risk too.
If you’re currently noticing eggs are going missing and your chickens are unharmed, it likely means the raccoon is very young or it’s not actually a raccoon stealing the eggs.
Look for evidence that raccoons are getting into the coop. Such as the latch being tampered with, the door being ajar, wire or meshing bent out of shape, and so on.
Don’t be fooled by their cuteness, raccoons are ruthless predators when it comes to chickens. Deterring raccoons from your chicken coop, run, and anywhere else your chickens roam is crucial.
As I covered in this article, however, it’s not that difficult. Just be sure to put preventative measures in place, and I’m sure you and your chickens can sleep safe and sound.