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Do Raccoons Kill Chickens? What You Should Know

Could that omnivorous trash panda running around the yard truly be a coldblooded killer? While raccoons are often seen eating marshmallows and cereal on social media, they are wild animals with feral inclinations. But do raccoons kill chickens? They certainly do. Because raccoons pose a large threat to your flock, you’re going to need to know how to protect your chickens from them.

Today, we’re going to explain why raccoons kill chickens and how to stop them.

Why Do Raccoons Hunt and Kill Chickens?

As mentioned earlier, raccoons are omnivorous, meaning that they will eat everything they can find, just like chickens. Be it fruits, vegetables, fish, or meat, raccoons will eat, kill, and scavenge.

Unfortunately, chickens are a considerably easy target for raccoons. Not only are the chickens housed in a coop overnight, the birds are also weak. Most chickens can’t fly to escape, either. So raccoons find them to be an appealing meal.

Also, raccoons love the same things that chickens eat. In short, a chicken run and coop is like a smorgasbord for a group of raccoons.

How Do Raccoons Kill Chickens?

trash panda
Photo credit: Flickr

Some predators will attack chickens in broad daylight while the flock is roaming the backyard. Others swoop down from above and carry chickens to their nest. Raccoons, however, are smarter than that. Being nocturnal and intelligent, raccoons will visit a coop and harass the chickens inside while you sleep soundly. They might not kill all the chickens on the first visit. They will save a few and come back again for a second or third round.

If there is an opening, a raccoon will exploit it. Sometimes that opening is created by them pushing open a latch and walking through the front door. The raccoon (or family of them) will then kill chickens and steal eggs to eat later. Sometimes the predator reaches through a ventilation hole, grabbing the chicken and attacking whatever is exposed.

Do Raccoons Smell Chickens?

While raccoons do have an excellent sense of smell, they can’t smell when a chicken is close by. Instead, they smell chicken feed and are attracted to that scent. Anything that you put out, be it regular chicken seed or scraps from fruits, vegetables, or your breakfast, can summon ravenous trash pandas to your yard.

This is why you should always tidy up after giving your chickens a treat.

Why Do Raccoons Kill Chickens But Not Eat Them?

Chicken keepers often stumbled upon a horror house scene after a raccoon attack. Rather than killing and removing the body, raccoons leave half-eaten chickens in the coop. Usually, only the breast, head, and comb are missing from chickens attacked by raccoons — another sign that you’re dealing with a raccoon and not another predator.

What About Chicken Eggs?

raccoon licking a broken egg
Photo credit: Flickr

When given the chance, raccoons will steal chicken eggs. Younger raccoons often steal eggs from the coop but leave your chickens unharmed. However, this doesn’t mean the eggs and chickens aren’t in danger. Raccoons love eggs and chicken meat, so they may be tempted to eat their fill of chicken then snatch up as many eggs as they can carry. This can be devastating when more than one raccoon attacks.

How to Know if a Raccoon is Killing Your Flock

You’ve found dead chickens in the coop. Now you need to figure out what did it. Raccoons are one of the hardest predators to ward off, because they are intelligent and can open and close coop doors and latches easily. But there is one definitive clue that they are the culprit behind the death: The bodies of the dead chickens remain.

A whole chicken, especially larger breeds, are too big and heavy for a raccoon to carry off. That is why they might eat a small portion of the chicken but leave the rest. That, or they came for the eggs and seed.

Here are some other signs you have a killer raccoon on the loose:

Raccoon Tracks

raccoon tracks
Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

Check the dirt around the yard for any tracks. You will be able to tell a raccoon’s tracks apart from a fox or other predator easily. When moving, raccoons use their whole foot, so you see the complete impression of their five digits and claws. If you notice these kinds of prints around the coop, it’s time to use childproof locks and wire.

Raccoon Noises

When you go searching for raccoons, you are bound to hear them before you see them. Raccoons are rather noisy. Their chattering vocalizations are distinct. When angry, they may even growl and hiss. You will hear them at dusk, when the raccoons become most active and go on the hunt.

Raccoon Scat

Many predators have pungent excrement, but raccoon droppings are less noticeable. Still, you might find scat about 1-3 inches in length around the coop and wonder if there’s a cat nearby. Assume that it’s a raccoon and remove the poo immediately.

There are a few reasons why raccoon scat can’t stay. Their droppings often contain roundworms, which could affect your chickens and you. Don’t try to remove the waste by yourself. Call a hazardous waste professional to do the job.

Ways To Keep Raccoons From Killing Your Chickens

Having a raccoon decimate your flock once is enough. It’s time to build up the fort, so to speak, and protect your flock from raccoons. Here are some ways to keep raccoons away from your yard and chickens:

  • Do not feed the raccoons, as this can encourage them to keep coming back and exploring your yard
  • Avoid open feeders and make sure you clean up any bird seed and food before heading inside for the evening
  • Have a dog on the property to alert you of intruders and chase the predators off; also, raccoons don’t like the scent of dogs
  • Install flashing lights or motion sensor lights, as this will scare the raccoons away
  • Increase visibility around the coop to keep raccoons and other predators from skulking about
  • Install a childproof padlock on the coop door and lean a cinder block against the door for the night
  • Make your property an unwelcome place for raccoons
  • Predator-proof the coop with hardware cloth and buried fencing
  • Make a homemade raccoon repellent by boiling 3-4 cayenne and jalapeno peppers, garlic, and onion into a gallon of water for 20 minutes. Spray around the coop in the evening.

There are two things to take away from this list: removing ways into the coop, and making your yard as unappealing as possible.

Also, you can look at this useful video:

The Importance of Childproof Locks

Once thing that people continue to do is underestimate the intelligence of raccoons. They are extremely agile, acrobatic, and clever; so a regular sliding latch isn’t enough. Raccoons can easily puzzle out the kind of locks that lift and slide open and closed. If you want to raccoon-proof your yard, go about it as if you were toddler-proofing your home.

A childproof padlock, or a padlock that locks into place with a key, is your best bet for keep the coop door closed. Furthermore, you should look at the coop from all angles, even above.

Making Your Yard Unappealing

The main thing that attracts any predator is the scent of food. If you put scraps of food in the trash bin then leave the lid off, for example, the chances of raccoons ambling into your yard increases exponentially. The same with bears, wild dogs, foxes, coyotes, wolves, badgers, and so on.

Keep your yard clean and seal up any garbage, so the smell doesn’t summon chaos.

Don’t Rely on Chicken Wire

Lastly, while chicken wire is an excellent tool for keeping chickens contained and creatures at bay, it’s not a be-all-end-all solution. Chicken wire isn’t designed to keep predators from getting in — it’s for corralling your flock. When a predator is determined and hungry, a little bit of wire won’t stop them from breaking through. Raccoons, for instance, will dig under the chicken wire or try to climb it.

This means you’re going to have to utilize lighting, fencing, and visibility in concert to keep your chickens safe.

And finally, a video from a home night camera, where you can see how raccoons catch chickens:

The Takeaway

Do raccoons kill chickens? Yes. Raccoons might look cute, but they can also be ruthless. In order to get food, raccoons will kill chickens brutally then scour the coop for leftover feed. In short, you need to keep them away. You can prevent raccoons from offing your entire flock by following the tips in this article. There are many preventative measures that will keep your chickens safe from predators — raccoons included.