Top 10 Most Common Backyard Chicken Predators: How to Spot & Prevent

hawk perched in a tree

Birds of Prey (Hawks, Eagles, Owls, etc.)

This predator is the #1 most common culprit of missing chickens. Some hunt during the day, like hawks, while owls will do their hunting at night. They do not take all of your birds at one time like others on the list, but will take 1-2 at a time and slowly feed away at them over time.

Preventative Measures: You will more than likely notice if there are hawks circling the sky or eyeing your flock from the trees. For daytime predators, try using a scarecrow. Nighttime birds like owls can be easily avoided by locking up your chickens tightly in their coop when it gets dark.

Signs a bird of prey has gotten to your flock: It may be hard to tell – some disappear without a trace, others may leave behind a few feathers.

dog and cat laying in grass together

Cats & Dogs

Even if your household pets are well trained, there is still a risk of stray dogs & cats coming across your flock – and they likely don’t care for chickens nearly as much as your pets do! Dogs specifically will target an entire coop’s worth of birds, then take them away to eat elsewhere.

Preventative measures: Good fencing, keeping your coop secured through the night, watchdog.

Signs a dog or cat has gotten to your flock: Scattered feathers, blood.

coyote standing on the grass


These animals are expert diggers & jumpers (over 6 feet!), so it can be hard to avoid them through fencing if they become a problem. They’re nocturnal animals, but may stick around until early morning or start hunting in the evening if an opportunity presents itself.

Preventative measures: Look for easy entry points to block off, solar nite eyes, watchdog.

Signs a coyote has gotten to your flock: Scattered feathers, howling, scat with traces of bones/fur, traces of blood from the attack, paw prints.

close up image of a fox


Foxes are quick and sneaky, and do not have a preference for daytime/nighttime hunting. They’re also much smarter than coyotes, and may watch you and your flock for several days to gauge the best time to attack.

Preventative measures: Look for easy entry points to block off, solar nite eyes, watchdog.

Signs a fox has gotten to your flock: 1-2 missing chickens; but may leave several injured in an attempt to take all that it can get. Scattered feathers and blood are common.

raccoon hiding in a tree


Raccoons will work in pairs to corner your chickens – one will do the scaring and the other will be responsible for the catching. They will typically kill and consume your birds while still in the coop, but may run if scared off.

Preventative measures: Keep everything as secured as possible (garbage, chicken feeders, and even your coop) – raccoons are very capable of opening windows, unlatching doors, and even removing staples.

Signs a raccoon has gotten to your flock: Partially eaten birds, puncture wounds by head.

Weasel running on the ground


Weasels are mean little creatures and have been known to wipe out entire flocks in one night. They will wrap their bodies tightly around the chickens and then bite the back of the neck.

Preventative measures: Locking up your flock tightly in the coop at night, having a watchdog around to scare them off, and good fencing (if you are not free ranging).

Signs a weasel has gotten to your flock: Headless birds, scattered entrails.

snake slithering in backyard dirt


Most snakes are not interested in full grown chickens, but will gladly try to eat young birds, chicks, and eggs. They may be drawn to heat lamps if left outside.

Preventative measures: Collect eggs as often as possible, keep baby chicks secure until old enough to be less vulnerable, keep areas with heat lamps secured from wildlife

Signs a snake has gotten to your flock: It can be difficult to distinguish a snake infestation from other predators, unless you actively see the snake! Keep an eye out for missing/tampered with eggs

skunk standing in the grass


Similar to raccoons, skunks will work together to corner your chickens but will typically exclusively eat them in the coop.

Preventative measures: Like raccoons, it is easy for skunks to open windows & unlatch doors. Make sure your chickens are tightly secured in the coop at night to avoid predatory behavior.

Signs a skunk has gotten to your flock: Partially eaten birds, puncture wounds by head, awful smell.

Opossum sitting on a backyard fence


These lazy critters aren’t too much of a nuisance if you have a healthy, adult flock – although you may have to pay extra attention to sick, injured, or very young/old chickens. They may also try to steal and eat your eggs. The worst thing about these predators is that they spread EPM disease, which is deadly.

Preventative measures: Keep your trash closed & sealed in garbage bins, and use covered chicken feeders to prevent them from tampering with food & spreading disease.

Signs an opossum has gotten to your flock: Look for broken eggs scattered around your coop!

rat sitting on a table


Although rats are generally incapable of hurting your pullets or full-grown chickens, they are known for stealing food, as well as eating eggs & baby chicks.

Preventative Measures: One of the best ways that you can avoid rat infestations in your chicken coop is by getting covered or hanging chicken feeders.

Signs a rat has gotten to your flock: Keep an eye out for rat droppings, feed disappearing quickly, and eggs that have been tampered with.

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