Humans like chickens. Originally this was because they tasted good, laid eggs, and didn’t require a lot of maintenance. We still like them for these reasons, but now a lot of people keep them as pets too. The problem is humans aren’t the only ones that like chickens (or birds in general). Here’s a list of predators and the signs that one is operating in your area.
-Dogs-A stray dog will often grab chickens (or any other livestock for that matter) and can cause hundreds of dollars of damage. Dogs are often pleasure killers and won’t stop with just one animal. Be aware that (in Florida) it is within your rights to shoot dogs that are endangering yourself or your livestock. By the same token be sure to keep your own dogs in the yard, they could be terrorizing someone else’s flock and you would never know it.
Mode of killing: multiple and messy. A LOT of feathers and many injured/dead birds. Dogs tend to grab at the animals throat and wings, and sometimes will flip a bird over to get at their underside. If you have a hutch, the dog may go after the bird’s toes.
-Cats- All sizes of cats (wild and tame) will stalk small livestock. I personally have had to deal with a Bobcat in the past, not fun. You usually won’t notice if a cat is in your area until birds start disappearing without a trace.
Mode of killing- Day or night. Silent, clean, probably no feathers. The bird just doesn’t return home. There’s no carcass because the cat has dragged it away and hid it.
-Raccoon/Possum- Similar methods to one another. Hall marks of an attack is that they will pull animals (or parts of animals) through relatively small wire. Coons are more likely to kill multiple birds, while possums tend to wander through ever few days and pick birds off one by one. Can be extremely messy if the bird gets pulled through wire. If the animal can’t get the whole bird through it will pull off any limb it can grab. Mode of Killing: Nighttime, pulling birds through wire, killing birds and only eating part.
Images courtesy of Google
Flying Predators-(hawks, eagles, owls)- flying predators can be a pain. Unlike land based predators, fences don’t keep birds of prey out; which means that if you have one after your flock you need extra precautions. These include bird scarers, roofing your pen, and allow only supervised free ranging.
Mode of Killing: Daylight (for hawks and eagles), night (owls). You may find a ring of feathers (if they can’t carry the chicken off) or nothing at all. If the hawk can’t carry the carcass off you may walk up on it by accident. I had a hawk after my hens once that came every morning around 6:30 am. This particular hawk was frustrating because it only came when I wasn’t watching the coop.
Images courtesy of Google
Predators can be frustrating because many times you don’t have clue to what is actually taking your birds. A good way to solve the mystery is to get a cheap trail cam. Even if you don’t currently have something taking hens it’s always nice to know who’s poking around your coop at night. Another option is to invest in a motion sensing light. All of these are optional and it all depends on how much you want to spend.
This is in no way a comprehensive list of poultry predators in Florida. Hopefully you’ll never have to deal with predators but you’ll probably be pestered at some point. Do your research, check with fish and game, and build a coop your birds can be safe in.