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If you are reading this post on how to keep raccoons away from chickens let me be the first to say I am sorry. Because it likely means you had an incident and that is not fun to deal with. Racoons look cute and cuddly but they are far from it.
To say that chickens are easy meals would be an understatement. During our first month in our new house with our chicken coop newly built we lost five chickens and one night to a family of raccoons that we had no idea were there.
Raccoon attacks will happen when you least expect it. It’s not a matter of if but when. It’s kind of the fact of life with chickens to be totally honest. They are number one on pretty much every predator’s favorite meal list.
I don’t say this to scare you or cause you to just want to give up on chickens but to give you hope and encouragement that if you’ve recently lost chickens to raccoons you didn’t mess up it’s just a fact of life. There are lots of things you can do about it to prevent it from happening again.
Knock on wood we have gone over 2 years without losing chickens to raccoons. And I’m going to share the top things we’ve done to prevent them from eating our chickens. Also, some things that you need to keep an eye out for when you are setting up your coop to prevent a serious raccoon problem.
Chicken Coop Fortification
the first thing you need to know about how to keep raccoons away from chickens is how to keep your coop closed up tight. When your chickens are coming out of the coop early morning and at night right as your chickens go to bed is when you are most likely to get a coon attack.
Do you think I’m joking saying that you are fortifying your coop? Nope!
The very minute you think you have it all locked up tight some pesky little critter will figure out a weak point and cause some major losses that you didn’t think were possible.
We are going to fortify your coop, put up deterrence, and close your birds up tight so they can sleep without worrying about being a midnight snack.
Where To Use Chicken Wire
Depending on your coop design I would highly recommend that you use hardware cloth around the base of your coop building.
But also around the bottom of your chicken run area that is under the ground. The wire mesh will keep a determined raccoon from digging underneath the run.
There are a few options you have if you want to take a few extra deterrent measures to protect your flock.
Motion Activated Light
Depending on where your coop is located you could have a motion-activated light that would come on when obviously it noticed movement around the chicken coop.
The problem is this would have to be bright enough to deter the coon but also it could be annoying to people sleeping at night having this bright light turning on at random times. A motion sensor light will often trip on things like falling leaves and other small movements.
Nite Gaurd Solar Lights
Something we use instead is called a nite guard that runs on solar power. It flashes a red light which gives the impression that there is another predator out in the area that the raccoon is thinking of entering. You need to have the night guard facing the direction that you think is most likely to have a raccoon showed up. Very likely it is in front of the chicken coop door where they would go in to take the hens off the roosting pole right before dusk.
Once we got these nite guard solar lights up we did not have any more trouble with a single raccoon eating our birds.
Nite Guard Sollar Light
This is the thing that I attribute to keeping the worst chicken killers out of our coop. You can put them at different heights to deter all types of predators.
An Automatic Chicken Coop Door
This has been a game changer for us both for our sanity and for protecting the flock. This automatic chicken coop door will go up at the time we set it to come up in the morning. And it will also go down at whatever time we said it. We used to have a string connected to the chicken coop door and we would pull the string and tie the door open and close it every single night…
But this also gives us a little bit more freedom to where we are not concerned about being out late past dark having to close the chicken coop door in time. Because one raccoon might be watching and waiting to see if we goof up because they know where there is a supply of food they just have to be able to get to them.
These automatic coop doors are also much stronger and made of metal so these extremely intelligent predators can’t just get their finger underneath just right and lift it up to get it open.
Automatic Coop Door
We drug our feet for a little while because it is an investment BUT the $150 is so worth it! We don’t have to open and close the cop every night anymore and we know that the chickens are safe in the coop from dusk until dawn.
Most Likely Time To Attack
Raccoons are nocturnal their most likely chance or time of day to attack your flock of chickens will be right at dusk or right after dark.
They of course can attack at any time during the night but dusk is your most active time.
Seasons Raccoons Might Attack
Early fall and spring are going to be your most active seasons for raccoon attacks as well.
In the fall they know winter is coming so they start eating a lot. But also later in the winter right before spring because there is way less food than there used to be so they are looking for other sources.
Then in the spring, the Mamas have baby raccoons to feed.
If you have an attack that happens during the day or morning after daylight it’s likely a young dumb raccoon or predator that has not gotten skilled at getting food yet so they will try during the day.
The Issue With Free Range
If you want to keep your chickens protected being completely free-range is not the answer. Chickens are so vulnerable they can be eaten by almost anything. While being completely free-range seems like a nice idea that is all putting them in danger.
At a minimum, you should have a chicken run that is fenced in a smaller area where they are protected. This will keep chickens from going out in the brush right into the area where Coons like to hide. But having a run with a top on it will also help protect the chickens.
Look For Natural Hiding Places
Like I said raccoons are nocturnal animals however there are some spaces where you can spot where they would likely come out into the open at dusk or in the evening.
Thick brush is the perfect hiding spot for raccoons to hide out watch the habits of your chickens and learn when the best time to attack will be.
If you are able to completely clear brush next to your Coop and the surrounding areas this is a good idea. However, it’s not possible for everyone so keeping your birds away from those areas is the best idea. Or putting up a night guard like I had mentioned before that face is those areas to keep the raccoons guessing.
Close Any Gaps
Raccoons are amazing at ripping open a small hole in something if they think they can get in. They will move small bricks and trashcans if they need to in order to get to where they want to go. Especially if there is food on the other side.
Regularly check for gaps or loose boards in your coop both the walls and under the floor if your coop is raised.
Get Rid Of Any Atractents
Don’t leave things that will attract raccoons out in the open or on your backyard farm.
Compost And Trash Cans – Things like garbage cans or compost piles that have food that raccoons could access are like putting out a welcome mat for them. Either make sure that the food and trash have something heavy on the trash cans so they can’t be opened.
If you have a compost pile put some fencing around it to help keep predators out of it. You can use a compost bin instead or cover the newly added food scraps with existing dirt instead of leaving it out on top of the pile for any wild raccoon to come and find it.
Chicken Eggs – Make sure that you collect the eggs often. This is also something that wild animals like to snack on.
Also, things like rotting fruit that has fallen from your fruit trees will also be something you might not think will attract these pesky wild animals.
Cat Food – This is EXTREMELY attractive to other animals. Don’t leave a lot of cat food out for wild animals to get.
Keep Chicken Feed Locked Up
Having automatic feeders can be a nice way to save on daily feeding time. However, this can also attract all sorts of chicken predators because they are going to eat what is left.
Having extra feed laying around can also cause a lot more expense than you realize if you are feeling wildlife.
You Have The Right To Defend your Property
This may not be the answer for everyone. And if you are a “trap and release” type of person this section isn’t for you.
For everyone else. You have the right to defend your property. Your chickens are your property. If someone was threatening your family outside in the yard you wouldn’t be like “oh well” you’re not in the house. I can’t do anything about it. No, you would defend your family no matter where they were on the property.
When all else fails if you have the skill set to do away with a raccoon that is eating your chickens do it.
It’s not wrong to shoot something that is attacking your animals. In fact, you owe it to your chickens that you do have to protect them against predators. If you are in the city and you can’t use a small caliber rifle I totally understand.
A 22 or an air rifle is the best way to insure that your hungry raccoon will not be back.
Is A Guard Dog The Right Option
A guard dog is okay however you also run the risk of the dog attacking the chickens. You need to be careful of the breed that you.
Do not. I repeat do not get a hurting breed and expect them to protect your chickens. A herding animal is meant in bread to nip and boss the species it is hurting. You cannot be mad at a dog for biting out a chicken when it’s doing its job.
A dog like the Great Pyrenees is a guard dog, not a herding dog these will do okay. However, getting a guard dog is quite an expense. And for something like chickens when you can close them up tight at night even if the first expense is a little bit high you do not have the continual price of dog food and care that a guard dog would require for 12 to 15 years.
How To Know If You Are Dealing With A Coon
There are about 5 main predators that you will deal with that attack at night in the United States. Raccoons are one of the most populated.
If you still have the dead bird you can look at a coon will often bight the neck and then eat the midsection. If something ate the head and didn’t disturb the body much then it is something else.
- Get a trail cam. – These are great to put up at the coop entrance to see what is getting into your birds.
- Look Like Large Cats On Short Legs – they are about the size of a cat BUT they do have shorter legs. So if you think you see something like that then you probably saw a coon.
- Raccoon Tracks – They are widespread toes and have their own unique look. You should also be able to see the nails at the end of each toe print. They are about the same size as a cat but the cats you don’t see the nail prints.
Some Things That Can Help Denture Raccoons
If you are in urban areas these things can help you if using a small rifle isn’t an option.
- Homemade raccoon repellent
- Scent Of Ammonia
- Cayenne Pepper
- Peppermint Oil
Remember to do what you can and know that accidents happen. Losses are part of the package and while its hard to handle the first time or two it will get easier with time.
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