Do Woodchucks Kill Chickens? [Are They Dangerous to Chickens?]

The woodchuck, also known as the groundhog, is a common critter seen in and around gardens. They are notorious for their impressive underground tunneling system and their desire to have your prized sunflowers for dinner. 

While they may be a pest, the woodchuck is not a dangerous animal for the most part.

Because the woodchuck is a herbivore, they do not kill chickens. But while they don’t remain a physical threat to your flock, they can be damaging in other ways.

This article will take a good look at woodchucks and what kind of threat they may pose to your flock of chickens.

What Exactly is a Woodchuck?

The woodchuck is a member of the rodent family. It is commonly referred to as a groundhog and is native to North America. While they can be a problem for gardeners, the woodchuck plays an essential role in our ecosystem by maintaining soil health.

The woodchuck is a very smart critter that can understand social behaviors and make great mothers to their young. In addition, they can understand threats and communicate with other groundhogs through sound.

Are Woodchucks a Threat to My Flock?

A little bigger than the common squirrel, the woodchuck is not a threat to your flock of chickens. They share much the same diet as chickens and are not interested in hurting or eating them. 

However, woodchucks can be a big problem for the average gardener and chicken keeper and can pose a threat in other ways. 

How are Woodchucks a Threat?

Let’s take a closer look at how woodchucks can be an indirect threat to your hens. 

  • They can carry disease
  • They can steal your chicken’s food

Woodchucks Can Carry Disease

Woodchucks can carry diseases and parasites that can be passed onto your flock if precautions are not taken to keep them at bay.


Woodchucks may not be a considerable source of infectious disease, but Rabies does happen and can be transferred to humans and their flocks. It is a contagious neurological disease that affects all mammals, and it is transmitted through saliva only and most commonly through bites.

An animal infected with Rabies will often seem aggressive or agitated and can be seen snapping at objects that arent’ there. In addition, excessive drooling or wobbly walking is commonly seen in infected animals.

For the most part, Rabies affects mammals, but there have been cases of chickens believed to have died from Rabies. In any event, chickens are prone to infection at the bite site if attacked by a woodchuck or other mammal that is rabid.

Ticks and Powassan Virus

Ticks carry many diseases, but one of the more common ones seen in woodchucks is Powassan Virus. It can cause weakness, altered mental state, and seizures. 

Powassan disease can be spread through the bite of an infected tick to most mammals, but cases in avian species are extremely rare.

Chickens may have the advantage here as they are excellent tick control.


Fleas seem to be happy hosting anyway, and woodchucks are no exception. But unfortunately, fleas can be passed to your chickens and can also carry parasites.

Summer is the height of flea season, and chicken fleas can wreak havoc on your flock. Fleas can cause skin irritation, anemia, malnutrition, a general feeling of malaise, and a decrease in egg production.

The Western Chicken or Black Hen Flea is found in the Pacific Northwest, and it is most commonly found in the droppings of chickens. 

Commonly found in warmer, more tropical climates, the Strickttight Flea likes to attach itself to the vents and heads of chickens. The bites of the Stricktight Flea can cause irritation around the vent of your hen and can also cause serious problems for her eyes.

They Can Steal Your Chicken’s Food

It’s no surprise to anyone that woodchucks are scavengers. But like everyone else, they do need to eat, and unfortunately, they don’t discriminate when it comes to meals.

 Most of the foods that we give our chickens are on the menu for woodchucks as well, whether it’s fruits and vegetables or chicken feed. 

This can be a huge problem not only for chicken keepers but gardeners as well. My in-laws spent two years dealing with a woodchuck who was destroying their eggplants! The little bugger would come back every year!

When woodchucks decide to help themselves to your chicken’s feed, it’s not only an expense for you, but it can be detrimental to chickens if their main source of food is suddenly decreased.

How to Keep Woodchucks Away From Your Chickens

Yes, they are awfully cute, but you’d rather not have them as a long-term guest in your chicken coop if you are like me.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to prevent woodchucks from hanging around. These things will protect your flock and keep your gardens from being stripped clean. 

  • Keep Grass Cut
  • Build a Fence
  • Use Food Bins
  • Use Automatic Feeders
  • Get a Dog
  • Compromise Their Burrows

Keep Up on Lawn Maintenance

By nature, woodchucks try to avoid places where they can be easily seen, so you will often see them in long grass or foliage.

By keeping the grass short in and around your coop, you decrease the risk that woodchucks will show up. Thankfully, chickens are pretty good at keeping the grass trimmed for you in the run!

Put up a Fence

One of the easiest ways to protect your flock and your garden from woodchucks and other pests is by constructing a fence. 

Chicken wire makes an excellent choice, especially if erected to about four feet high. You will want to be sure you bury the fence panels roughly 18 inches in the ground to keep critters of all kinds from burrowing.

Use Food Bins

Keeping your chicken’s food bags in sturdy bins decreases the chance that woodchucks will hang out. Make sure you get a sturdy thick plastic or metal bin because woodchucks will chew through a flimsy material in no time.

Use Automatic Feeders

Automatic chicken feeders are a great idea if you are trying to control wasteful food. Automatic feeders will reduce uneaten pellets all over the coop, making it less inviting for pests. 

Get a Dog

While this is easier said than done, keeping a dog around your coop is a great deterrent against woodchucks and other critters. With a dog consistently around your girls, woodchucks may reconsider making your coop their next buffet.

Compromise Their Burrows

I consider this option a last resort, and I’m not a huge fan of it myself. However, I understand that some people are desperate.

As long as you are not harming the woodchuck in any way, compromising their burrowing system may convince them to go elsewhere. 

You can do this by digging up any entrance holes in your yard. You can also pour offensive substances into the holes. Use only harmless things such as pepper, garlic, or used cat litter. 

Several gardening stores will sell fox urine that you can spray around a woodchuck’s borrow, which will alert them to the presence of danger. 

Final Word

Woodchucks, as a whole, will not do anything to hurt or kill your chickens. However, there are other indirect ways they can be a problem.

By understanding these problems and taking the proper measures, you can greatly decrease the chances of woodchucks taking up residence in your yard. 

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