there's a lot of sad threads on BYC about, 'something killed my duck, can anyone tell me what it is?' or 'i think a fox attacked my chicken but I'm not sure, HELP!' so i decided to make an article about predators. mind, I'm no expert on these things, but maybe i can help a little. I'll start off with ways to identify what predator attacked you:
CLUES: POSSIBLE PREDATORS:
1 several birds are killed
a: Birds mauled, but not eaten dogs
b: Birds killed by small bites on body-neatly piled mink or weasel
c: Heads and crops eaten on several birds raccoon
2 one or two birds killed
a: Birds mauled, abdomen eaten Opossum
b: Deep marks on head and neck, some meat eaten Owl
3 one bird gone, feathers remain fox or coyote
4 one or several birds gone, no clues human
DOGS: dogs kill chickens for sport, and they rarely visit at night. several dead birds with a lot of mauling on the carcasses is usually evidence of a dog.
MINK-WEASEL: birds usually show attack marks on the sides of the head if a mink or weasel has visited your chicken coop. the back of the head and neck are commonly the only parts of the bird eaten. they usually kill several birds and pile them neatly together.
RACCOON: if you lose a bird roughly once a week and the head and crop are eaten, it's probably a raccoon. occasionally they'll kill more than one bird per visit.
OPOSSUM: usually the opossum go for the abdomen, and they generally attack only one bird each visit. they might also be after the eggs.
OWL: usually if it's an owl bothering your birds, it's a Great Horned owl, which will occasionally attack poultry. one or two birds are generally killed, with the talons used to pierce the bird's brain. they commonly only eat the head and neck. feathers found on a fence-post near your chicken coop or poultry pen may also provide a clue.
FOX-COYOTE: the old saying about the sly fox have rung true many times over. the fox and coyote are very smart and very hard to catch red-pawed. usually the only way to figure out if a fox or coyote is bothering you is to do a head-count. if you're missing birds and there's a pile of chicken feathers nearby, it was probably a fox or coyote. they take the whole bird to their den or hole and leave behind only feathers and sometimes a little blood. they usually attack early morning.
SNAKES: i don't know as much about snakes, so i can't help as much with them. they usually are after the eggs, not the birds, which is why they're not in the key for finding a predator above. the best way to get rid of a snake problem is to put plastic Easter eggs in your bird's nesting places. when the snake goes to eat the eggs, usually they'll eat the plastic egg too, and that will kill them. also, pigs eat snakes. just saying.
also, if you're missing eggs or chicks it might be skunks, rats, cats, opossums, snakes, or birds of prey. groundhogs will eat turkey eggs days from hatching.
by the way, roosters can make very, very good guards. this is a picture of a hawk a fellow BYCer's rooster killed. of course, roosters might consider you a threat and 'protect' their hens from you...
i really hope this article helps all you fellow backyard chicken raisers!! if i missed anything, feel free to send me a private message about it!
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