As rewarding as it is, owning chickens can be stressful because, unfortunately, many lurking predators would love to have a yummy chicken dinner. One of those predators is the raccoon, as cute as they may be.
Raccoons can and will kill chickens. They are smart and deadly and pose a major threat to your flock.
This article will go over what makes a raccoon, how they are dangerous, and what you can do to prevent an attack.
What is a Raccoon?
Most of us can identify a raccoon by its cute little bandit face, fluffy body, and ringtail. They are medium-sized mammals native to North America and can weigh anywhere from 10 to 50 pounds!
Raccoons are very intelligent and, with their dexterous paws, can easily get themselves in and out of many situations.
Where Do They Live?
Raccoons aren’t terribly picky about where to set up shop, and they will make their dens almost anywhere that food is available. They prefer trees or in between large rocks but will make use of what is available to them.
Raccoons are nocturnal, meaning you will usually see them at night or towards dusk. However, during this time, your chickens are at their most vulnerable. And because they are vicious, determined, and deadly, they can be a major problem for chicken keepers.
What Do They Eat?
Raccoons have a wide variety when it comes to diet. They like fruit and nuts, insects and worms.
Raccoons also like meat, which is often in the form of rodents and chickens. Raccoons are also notorious for going through garbage cans in search of human food.
How Do I Know if a Raccoon Family is Nearby?
Primarily, raccoons are active during later summer and early fall as they are stocking up on food for the long winter. Babies are born in the spring and are usually ready for independence by summer. There are several ways to tell if a family of raccoons is nearby.
- You will see tracks
- Be Able to Identify Their Sounds
- Lookout for Scat
You Will See Tracks
Because raccoons walk on their whole paw, their prints are fairly distinctive. They are very much like a handprint with five long fingers with claws.
These long fingers with a separate thumb give the raccoon the ability to grab and hold onto objects quite easily and open latches.
And those sharp claws are like tiny daggers.
Learn to Identify Their Sounds
Thankfully, raccoons are pretty vocal with distinct voices. You’ll notice their voices around dusk when they are out hunting.
Most commonly, raccoons make a high-pitched chatter and a low-pitched growl.
Look Out for Their Droppings
Raccoon droppings, known as scat, are usually about ¾ in around and a few inches long.
What makes raccoon scat an issue for chicken keepers is that it commonly contains roundworm. Raccoons tend to form stations or areas where they will frequently go, making scat easier to identify.
How Do Raccoons Find Chickens?
Not only are raccoons smart, but they are also curious. And they are excellent at remembering the fine details of things, which means they are skilled at finding your chickens.
Raccoons can easily smell your chickens, eggs, and feed and stop at nothing to get to them.
With their unique little paws, latches on the chicken coop are usually no match for them. However, even more, complex locks can be figured out by raccoons.
How Do I Know if a Raccoon Has Been in My Coop?
- Attacks usually happen at night
- They will leave a mess
- You will see blood
Attacks Happen at Night
Raccoons are creatures of the night, which is when they will go after your chickens. Sadly, this is when the hens are most vulnerable. Roosting hens tend to go into a very deep, trance-like sleep.
Because of their deep sleep, chickens most likely will not hear a predator breaking into their coop, and they won’t try to get away either. And because raccoons are so smart, they know sleeping chickens are an easy target.
They Will Leave a Mess
Raccoons do not clean up after themselves whatsoever, especially after they eat. And after attacking your chickens, you will find a terrible mess, and you will most likely encounter a mass of feathers, remains, and egg yolk.
There Will be Blood
Besides feathers and egg yolk, you will probably discover a lot of blood. If they can’t get inside the coop, raccoons have no problem pulling your chicken through the fencing.
You will probably notice blood in and around the coop and possible remains of your hen, such as wings, legs, and even heads. As awful as it sounds. Coming across this is almost a sure sign that a raccoon has been in the coop.
How to Prevent Raccoons From Getting into Your Coup
- Protect Chicks and Pullets
- Collect Eggs Regularly
- Keep Chicken Feed Contained
- Have a Solid Coop
Protect Young Chickens
Do not put baby chicks in the coop until they are eight weeks old. Putting pullets outside before they are able to roost with the other hens leaves them very vulnerable to predators.
Sadly, baby birds are at the top of the menu for raccoons.
Collect Eggs Regularly
Check the coop twice a day for eggs once your chickens get on a regular laying schedule, especially in the summer. Doing so will make it less tempting for raccoons and other predators.
Keep Feed Contained
Raccoons are very strong and will have no problem tearing into a feed bag, even in the dark.
Using a strong plastic or metal storage container with a tight lid to store it will help to keep raccoons out of your chicken feed. You may even want to put a brick on top of the cover.
How to Have a Solid Coop and Enclosure
Having and maintaining a solidly structured coop and enclosure will aid you greatly in protecting your precious hens and their home.
Make Sure the Coop is Secure
Having your girls sleep in a coop that is well made is very important to protect them from predators. Something with gaps in the good or open areas makes it easier for raccoons to break in.
Think more along the lines of a small shed when building a coop, with secure corners and solid walls.
Have a Good Latch
Raccoons are extremely crafty, and several studies have shown that they can easily open latches or bolts on gates.
It’s best to use a padlock or even a lock with a keycode. Raccoons may be smart, but they won’t remember your password.
Use Chain-link Fencing or Hardware Cloth
Because raccoons are so big, it’s hard for them to fit through tight spaces, especially hardware cloth.
Buring the fencing for your enclosure 18 inches under the ground and building it at least six feet high is ideal. Raccoons are excellent diggers, so the more challenging for them, the better.
Install a Motion Detector
Installing a motion detector and bright light is also helpful in keeping raccoons away. It’s possible they may get used to it because they are so smart. However, it can at least alert you to something going on near your coop.
Raccoons are a huge risk to the chicken keeper and will gladly have your chickens for dinner. But being vigilant about what to expect. And how to prevent attacks can keep you ahead of the game in protecting your hens.
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