Thursday, 10 July 2014

Poultry Predators - A Quick Guide

While the sun shines continues to shine down on our corner of Dorset Elysium, Flyte so Fancy is a buzz with the workshop creating great clouds of saw dust at record speed, the despatch team zipping back and forth with parcels a-plenty and the office team answering all manner of poultry posers. Down in the chicken field the ducklings have taken to the pond, like a duck to water, the new arrival of some Gold Laced Hamburg chicks from the incubator have added to all the usual feathery fun on the poultry paddock

Incubating Chicks
New Chicks to the FSF Field
However, this week I had a rather long conversation with a lady who had just lost one of her much treasured birds to a poultry predator. She was however unsure as to which miscreant had done the deed in broad daylight. After talking through the options and suggesting some ways to help reduce the chances of it happening again, the FSF Blog turned its attention to a quick run down of poultry predators

  • EATS: Adults or Chicks.
  • HUNTING: Day or night really, although it tends to veer towards day time. 
  • SIGNS: Dogs tend to kill as part of playing. A bird which has been killed with little eaten and with bedraggled feathers has probably been subject to a dog attack. 
  • DEFENCES: The best way to stop dogs is to have a strong secure fence or back garden. If you have both chickens and a dog as pets it is unlikely that your own dog will attack your birds, it will most likely just ignore them. Other people are responsible for their own dogs and cannot allow them to just wander into your garden, the law is on your side in this case
  • EATS: Eggs or Chicks.
  • HUNTING: Day.
  • SIGNS: These birds are omnivores and will eat anything. Many people have the problem of them stealing their feed from chicken feeders already. They are known to enter chicken coops and steal eggs right out of nestboxes or to steal chicks. 
  • DEFENCES: An enclosed run is the best option. However the legal Larson trap exploits their territorial instincts to make them stay away. A treadle feeder will seal away your feed from the birds making it less likely to draw them to your garden in the first place, as they are not heavy enough to work the treadle system.
  • EATS: Adults, Chicks and Eggs.
  • HUNTING: Night. 
  • SIGNS: These animals kill their prey by biting the neck, so if they have visited your coop the signs of attack will be to the head of your bird. Usually they will kill several birds at once. If they are eating your eggs often small teeth marks can be seen remaining in the shell. 
  • DEFENCES: These creatures are able to slip through incredibly small gaps, so make sure your girls run is secure and that it uses a small strong weldmesh, preferably inch by half inch. Equally be sure to cover any ventilation gaps with mesh also
  • EATS: Chicks and Eggs.
  • HUNTING: Night, worse in winter as they look for somewhere warm like a chicken coop to seek shelter and food
  • SIGNS: More likely to go after your chicken feed than your actual chickens, rats are opportunistic predators and steal eggs and chicks, if not small birds. They tend to take anything back to their nests but tell tale signs are raided feed, rat droppings near the feed, signs of gnawing and lots of holes and burrows near your hen house
  • DEFENCES: Make sure your coop isn't located right next to somewhere rats would ideally live i.e woodpiles and compost heaps. Keep feed secure and stored in a strong feed bin. A long legged hen house can dissuade them. Finally either get a cat or baited boxes. By law, poisons needs to be in sealed locked containers to avoid other animals getting into them. Also make sure that your bait boxes are located in sensible places, their is no point leaving it in the middle of the lawn, rather position them along rat runs like hedgerows or around areas that they like to nest
  • EATS: Adults and Chicks.
  • HUNTING: Night.
  • SIGNS: Badgers are omnivores and will eat small birds. They don't tend to take the bird away, so often birds are found dead in the morning half eaten. 
  • DEFENCES: Badgers are strong so make sure your chicken coop is sturdy and well constructed. Good diggers, so either electric fencing or no dig skirts for your chicken run can be utilised for keeping these pests out.  
Poultry Protection Pens
Poultry Protection Pens

  • EATS: Chicks.
  • HUNTING: Day.
  • SIGNS: They are often seen hovering overhead before swooping in. A bird of Prey's sharp beak and talons leaves distinct deep, stabbing cuts on a birds body.
  • DEFENCE: An enclosed chicken run is the best defence. Equally the hanging of shiny things, like CD's or plastic bottles can help deter them. 
  • EATS: Adults or Chicks.
  • HUNTING: Active twenty four hours a day, more likely to be at night. 
  • SIGNS: A cat will eat a whole chick, but often leaves the feathers of larger birds. 
  • DEFENCE: Similar to dogs, birds are rarely attacked by your own cat. It is other people's cats coming into your garden which is the issue. Unlike dogs, cats have the right to roam where they like and so it is upto you to keep your birds safe, enclosed in a run or within the limits of your garden. 
  • EATS: Adults, Chicks and Eggs.
  • HUNTING: Usually at either dusk or very early in the morning, however they are becoming a more common sight during the day, especially during cubbing season and in towns
  • SIGNS: Foxes will often kill several birds at once and then carry them away just one or two away with him. Just because you've scared a fox away doesn't mean he wont already have devastated your flock. 
  • DEFENCES: Foxes are adept at digging and climbing. They can scramble over fences or walls up to 6ft high. Equally they are very good at climbing onto a ledge of some sort (bins, a low branch etc) and then leaping over a wall. A good sturdy poultry pen, with strong weldmesh and roofed in is the best defence. Foxes are also exceptional diggers, so a no dig skirt or an anti-fox electric fencing kit, which will stop them tunneling in is a must. 
FSF Ducklings Growing Everyday
Unfortunately for our lovely girls their delicious eggs, and themselves, are just as sought after in the animal kingdom. However, with a little planning and a good sturdy coop and chicken run there is no reason why poultry predators should ever be a cause for continued sleep interrupting worry. For more information on poultry predators have a look at our information page on the website HERE, leave a comment or give us a ring on 01300 345229.

Thanks for Reading


  1. Thanks for interesting post...we've been keeping hens in our garden for 7 years now and interestingly we get only the occasional nosey cat taking a peak (whereas we used to get lots!)..we have three hens at the moment and if a cat dares venture in, they gang up and chase it doesn't come back! Carole Z

    1. It sounds like your organised gang of chickens is the ultimate defence against cats in your garden.