General Information and Description

Skunks (also known as polecats in the USA) are medium size mammals, probably best known for their ability to spray a liquid with a strong, unpleasant odour. There are four species of skunks: the hooded skunk, the striped skunk, the spotted skunk and the scarce hog-nosed skunk. The most common of the four being the striped skunk. Skunks' eyes and ears are small and though their vision is bad, they have a keen sense of hearing. Skunks are members of the weasel family and spotted skunks look similar to weasels because they are much smaller and have narrower faces than the other skunk species. Adult skunks measure around 2 feet long, including a 7-10 inch tail. They weigh between 3 and 12 pounds, depending on age, sex, physical condition and season. Males on average are 15% larger and heavier than females. Although the most common fur colour is black and white, some skunks are brown or grey and a few are cream coloured. All skunks are striped, even from birth. They may have a single black stripe across their backs and tails and two thinner stripes, or (in the case of the spotted skunk) a series of white spots and broken stripes. Some also have stripes on their legs.

Range

Skunks are widespread in the United States and can also be found in southern Canada and northern Mexico. They are found in a wide variety of habitats including woodlands, grasslands and agriculture lands and are very common in urban areas. Both the spotted and the striped skunk can be found across the Great Plains.

Method of Kill

Skunks are mostly nocturnal and begins it's search for food at dusk. At sunrise, it will retire to it's den, which may be a ground burrow, beneath a building, or a rock pile. If skunks gain access to your coop, they will normally feed on the eggs and may hurt or kill your chickens.

Prevention and Treatment

To protect your flock from skunks ensure they are kept in secure coops and runs with proper fencing. Small chicks should be kept in a secure brooder. Skunks are normally not inclined to break through fences, but will try to gain access through any weak spots and loose places in fences and buildings. Skunks are excellent diggers and may try to gain entry by digging under fences. Skunks are attracted by food, water, and shelter, so don't leave any pet food, windfalls under trees or any other feeds outside overnight that may attract them. Place paving slabs around the perimeter of the coop and run or bury a few inches of hardware cloth or welded wire along the bottom of fences to stop them digging their way in. If you have an existing skunk problem or suspect you may have one visiting you can set a baited live trap.

For more information and discussions on skunks and how to protect your flock see the Predators and Pests section on the forum.