Having and keeping backyard chickens can be such a pleasure. There is nothing quite like those fresh eggs and the delightful sounds of your hens going about their business.
But unfortunately, when it comes to keeping backyard chickens, you always have to be on the lookout for predators. One of the many predators to be aware of are skunks. If given a chance, skunks will kill and eat chickens.
This article will talk about skunks and what makes them dangerous to your hens, and I will also discuss some ideas for preventing skunk attacks.
What is a Skunk?
It’s safe to say that most of us can recognize the skunk with its black body and white stripe that runs from its head to its tail. The skunk is a mammal that is part of the weasel family.
Where Are Skunks Found?
These adorable stinkers are found throughout North and South America, where they make their homes in woodlands and grasslands. They usually set up shop in abandoned burrows, old buildings, hollow logs, and sometimes under large rocks.
What is a Skunk’s Diet?
Skunks will eat both meat and vegetation, including insects, plants, fruit, small mammals, and fish. Their meat consumption often comes in the form of chickens and rodents.
Other Than the Smell, How Else Would I Know a Skunk is Around?
The skunk’s most notorious trademark is the smell, other than his striped tail. When skunks are frightened, a foul-smelling, oily substance is shot out from a gland under their tail.
It can sometimes reach up to ten feet, and though it’s not harmful, the smell can last days. However, skunks are fairly docile and will not spray unless they feel threatened.
There are a few other ways to tell if skunks lurk around your property.
- Unique Marks in the Ground
- They Come Out at Night
Hollow Marks in the Ground
When skunks search for food, you will often see little crescent-shaped marks on the ground. This is a good sign that skunks are in your yard.
Their paws are about the size of a cat’s, and the prints generally look the same.
Identify the Droppings
The droppings of a skunk are also about the size of a cat’s, and they often contain undigested feathers, seeds, berries, and insects.
Keep an Eye Out at Night
Skunks are nocturnal, and you will usually see them from dusk until dawn. But it isn’t uncommon to see them during the day either, and it doesn’t always mean they are sick.
Will Skunks Kill My Chickens?
As mentioned earlier, skunks are one of the predators that will kill backyard chickens. So while coyotes, raccoons, and foxes are more of a threat, don’t underestimate the skunk.
Most often, it’s the eggs that the skunk is after, but they also won’t pass up a good meal. So if they can have a bite or two of chicken along with their eggs, they will do so happily.
However, skunks are also aware that chickens have claws and a decent-sized beak to protect them. Therefore, skunks will sometimes take a chick or pullet over a full-sized bird.
How Does a Skunk Kill a Chicken?
Skunks have very sharp claws and razor-like teeth, which gives them the advantage over many predators. A skunk will often only attack if they know there is a good chance of getting a reward.
Skunks realize that a chicken isn’t the best defender, despite those sharp claws and beaks, in cases where a skunk has attacked a chicken. You may notice that the head and neck of your chicken have been torn from the body of the bird. And skunks will eat as much as they can from that point on.
Skunks also have the advantage of their potent spray. If a skunk sprays its victims before, the liquid can almost immobilize them. Their eyes will water profusely, and they will lose sight of where to attack.
Will Skunks Eat Chickens?
Because chickens are relatively easy prey for skunks and other predators, they are pretty tempting. Not only because chickens won’t put up a huge fight, but their meat is nutritious to skunks.
Chickens are an excellent source of protein and fat for skunks, which helps to build their muscle mass. In addition, chickens have soft meat that is easy for skunks to digest, making them a favorite on the menu.
How to Tell if Skunks Have Been in My Chicken Coop?
If you think skunks may be breaking into your chicken coop, there are some signs you need to be vigilant of to take care of the problem.
- Eggs and chicks are missing
- Adult birds are inured
- Your yard is dug up
Eggs and Chicks are Missing
The skunk is somewhat of a lazy hunter, so eggs and defenseless baby chicks are an easy target. If you come across missing eggs, there is a good chance a skunk has taken what they think is theirs.
Baby chicks should not be left alone in a coop, especially with full-grown hens. However, if you are doing this, don’t be surprised if they disappear quickly.
Adult Birds Are Inured
If you come out to a mess of feathers and chicken remains in and around your coop, it’s most likely a predator was there. It may not be easy to tell if it was a skunk, but any smell left behind is a dead giveaway.
Your Yard is Dug Up
You’ve walked out early in the morning, only to see your yard surrounding your chicken coop in disarray.
Skunks are notorious for tearing up lawns, especially when looking for food. They will happily tear up your property looking for grubs or digging their way into your chicken’s pen. Even in just one evening, they can do a lot of damage.
How to Keep Skunks Out of Your Chicken Coop
The harming or killing of any skunk or other animal in and around your coop is highly frowned upon. However, there are many ways to deter skunks without hurting them or your chickens.
Keep a Clean Coop
Skunks especially are attracted to the smell of a dirty chicken coop. So always keep it tidy by removing eggs regularly and keeping all chicken feed stored correctly.
Secure the Coop
It’s one thing to have your girls in a chicken coop but not securing it properly is another. Even though they don’t have great eyesight, skunks will easily find the weak points in your enclosure.
Surrounding your coop with a fence made of hardware cloth is ideal and make sure to bury it at least 18 inches underground as this will deter skunks from digging.
Sprinkle Cayenne Pepper Around the Coop
Cayenne Pepper is an excellent way to fend off predators without bothering your chickens. This is because chickens do not have the receptors that pick up the heat and spiciness of various foods.
However, skunks do, and by sprinkling cayenne pepper around the coop, you can help to fend them off.
Use Ammonia or Fox Urine
Wetting rags that have been soaked in ammonia can work well at keeping skunks away. The scent is very strong to them, and it is also similar to the smell of urine.
If skunks smell the urine of a larger animal, such as a fox, it will make them uneasy. You can also purchase fox urine at local hunting stores and use this as well to keep those pesky critters at bay.
The fun of backyard chicken keeping does come with its risks. Unfortunately, skunks and other predators are one of those risks. But by recognizing signs of them and knowing what to do to prevent their return, you have a much better chance of not having to worry about them.
- Do Weasels Eat Chickens & How to Keep Them Safe?
- Can You Leave A Chicken Coop Open At Night?
- Do Chickens Play Dead When Attacked?
- Will Roosters and Hens Kill Baby Chickens?
- 23 Animals That Steal Chicken Eggs and Kill Chickens