The main goal for backyard chicken homesteaders is to keep their flock happy, healthy, and safe. Unfortunately, chickens are a prized possession to many predators, including that of raccoons.
Raccoons are rather intelligent little mammals, having adapted well to urban and suburban environments.
Raccoons are known for being able to get into anything; therefore, if enticed, backyard flocks can be at risk. They pose a potential threat as predators, for their sharp claws and teeth that can cause fatal injuries.
Raccoons also carry several diseases and parasites that can harm poultry, including avian influenza, salmonella, and parasites like fleas and mites.
Raccoons are pesky little mammals. Therefore, It is essential to know the signs of predators and how to protect your backyard flock before any predators can cause any harm to your backyard flock. In this article, we discuss the potential threat raccoons pose to backyard flocks and suggest effective measures to minimize the risk of harm.
Contents and Quick Navigation
- Raccoons and Chicken Predation
- Signs of Raccoon Attacks
- Protecting Your Flock from Raccoon Attacks
- Other Strategies for Protecting Chickens
Raccoons and Chicken Predation
As we previously mentioned, raccoons are very intelligent creatures. They are known for their incredible problem-solving capabilities and for overcoming several challenges to access food sources. Therefore, if they see feasible options for food, they will tend to do whatever they can to attack.
Backyard chicken flocks are a very enticing food source for raccoons, not to mention eggs; if not protected well, baby chickens and smaller chicken breeds tend to be easy targets for raccoons.
Unfortunately, chicken flocks can be prone to raccoon attacks for several factors, including raccoons being nocturnal, having an omnivorous diet, and having easy access to coops.
Due to their nocturnal nature, raccoons sleep through the day and are active throughout most hours of the night. Unfortunately, this is the opposite for chicken breeds, who are on high alert during daylight and sleep at night.
Where there is one, there are many. While not always, it is not entirely unheard of for raccoons to travel as a family.
Raccoons are omnivores, they eat both animals and plants. Therefore, it is common for them to eat small animals like chickens, eggs, and chicks. Once they know there’s food accessible, they are more willing to keep trying for it.
Raccoons are rather sadistic; they will leave a mess by eating off only a bird’s head or other parts.
Raccoons are known to be little problem solvers, doing anything they can to overcome obstacles to get to food. If eggs, chicks, and chickens are easily accessible, they are more likely to attack.
Without proper protection, Raccoons can breach the safety of your chicken coop, potentially causing great harm to your flock. By ensuring your chickens are put away each night and securing your coop with locks, fences, and or wire, a raccoon will most likely look elsewhere to find food.
It is crucial to build your coop by using sturdy materials, reinforcing doors and windows, and considering adding locks or latches that are predator resistant.
Signs of Raccoon Attacks
One of the most common signs of raccoon attacks is randomly disappearing chicks or dead chickens. A raccoon is the most common predator when chickens are left with messed up feathers, scattered bodies, or puncture wounds.
Raccoons are brilliant animals; once they know they can get into something, they are more likely to return. If there is a way to breach chicken coops, they will find a way to do it. Some of the most common signs of breached entry include compromised wire mesh, doors, and windows. It only takes one small mistake in coop design for raccoons to gain access to your flock and cause irreversible damage. A real tell-tell sign is looking for scratches and bent wire, suggesting entry attempts.
If you’re able to, look for distinct tracks left behind. Raccoons are very likely to dig; therefore, a raccoon might be the culprit if there are random holes next to your chicken coops. Raccoons have an easy footprint to identify, with a distinct five-toe print.
Below is a picture of what raccoon tracks will look like.
Scattered Feathers and Blood
Unfortunately, raccoon attacks are relatively common in backyard flocks. If they can gain access to your birds when you’re not around, they typically leave quite a mess. Raccoons are likely not to consume all parts of a chicken; therefore, if there’s a mess of feathers, egg shells, or bird parts, it is likely that the culprit is a raccoon. Setting up cameras outside your coop can help identify what predator is after your birds.
Protecting Your Flock from Raccoon Attacks
Secure coops and enclosures
Raccoons will not give up easily. If there is a food source in front of them, they will do whatever they can to gain access to it. Therefore, when it comes to safety, it is best to invest in higher-quality materials when building your chicken coop. Ensuring a sturdy structure with no gaps for entry is crucial in the chicken coop design.
One of the most common ways of entry into a chicken coop is through doors or windows that are not properly latched. Remember, double-checking never hurts!
When it comes to wire meshing, you will not want to go too cheap; if it’s easy to manipulate, then it is easy for raccoons to get through. The more protection, the better.
Reinforce Doors and Windows
I cannot stress this enough, double checking latches and hinges on doors could be what keeps your flock safe. Check often for places that might be entry points for raccoons.
Automatic chicken coop doors are great for preventing raccoons; they are usually very sturdy so that nothing gets in or out. We have a great article here on the best automatic chicken coop doors.
Install Electric Fencing
If your area is prone to raccoons, looking into extra outside protection, such as electric fencing, might be ideal. Electric fences are a physical and psychological tool for predators against your birds.
Electric fencing is more of a humane approach to deterring predators against your flock. They are easily customizable to your liking.
To adequately deter raccoons from your flock, removing anything that might entice them is essential. Things Such as spilled feed, water sources, or eggs being left out will attract unwanted predators. Even if all your birds are safe inside their coop, having raccoons around can cause stress to your flock, reducing the overall morale of the birds.
Raccoons are most commonly known for getting into trash. Therefore, it’s good to ensure all trash cans near your chicken coops are properly sealed. This goes for trash cans and bins that hold feed as well.
Use Motion-Activated Deterrents
Another great strategy to prevent raccoon attacks is by using motion-activated equipment. Motion-activated lights, sound-emitting devices, or sprinklers can deter raccoons and startle them enough to avoid coming near your chicken coop.
Motion-activated lights around places such as garbage cans, your chicken coop, and where you keep chicken feed can deter raccoons from disturbing your flock. There are several inexpensive options for light sources; some are even solar-powered, thus reducing the cost of batteries. This option would be a great durable light source. Although a little pricey; these lights are weather resistant and solar-powered.
Setting up night-time surveillance cameras is an excellent idea for keeping a watch out for raccoons. Several night vision surveillance cameras are motion detected and can even alert your cell phone. Ring surveillance camera is a widespread wifi-based camera that alerts you when any motion is detected.
Other Strategies for Protecting Chickens
Spices and Aromas
There are several aromas that raccoons dislike and will try to avoid. Raccoons dislike mothballs and ammonia. If you can tolerate it, soaking rags in ammonia and placing them in highly visited areas will deter raccoons. You’ll have to ensure your chickens cannot access the ammonia or mothballs.
Garlic, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, and vinegar are other natural aromas that deter raccoons. Soaking cotton balls in any of these and placing them around your chicken coop can help prevent raccoons from disturbing your flock.
Cinnamon, black pepper, or cayenne pepper can bother a raccoon’s sense of smell. Often, raccoons will even relocate to avoid these scents. For this method to be effective, you will need to spray your yard twice a week.
If your chickens are free-range birds, it is ideal to have an enclosed run to protect your flock. If this is not the case, supervising your flock is ideal. Removing areas with lots of brush and fallen fruit from trees can also help minimize the problem.
Secure Night-time Housing
Due to raccoons being nocturnal, we strongly advise you to lock up your flock into coops at night. This way, with proper structure, you can ensure your birds are safe from all outside elements, including raccoons. Covering windows and doors with extra mesh wiring is an excellent step in assuring your birds’ safety.
Regarding chicken runs, remember that raccoons are excellent diggers. When installing secure fencing around your coop and chicken run, burying the fence at least a foot underground will help to deter them from digging under the fence and getting in that way.
As good as they are digging, they are the same if not better climbers; therefore, you’ll also need to cover the overhead of your chicken run with wire mesh to ensure that the raccoons cannot get in by climbing over.
If it is a feasible option for you; guard animals are a great way to deter raccoons. Roosters are typically very protective of their flock; unfortunately, they may not be the best defense in this situation.
The most common type of guard animal is a guard dog. Livestock-guarding dogs, such as Great Pyrenees or Anatolian Shepherds, are naturally great protectors. With proper training, you won’t have to worry much about predators with these guys around. Of course, raccoons are smart; therefore, guard dogs should only be an additional protection method on top of everything else.
Believe it or not, geese are a common guard animal for chickens. Geese are naturally very territorial, and their aggressive behavior, as well as their honking, can scare away raccoons from approaching your chicken coop. Their loud honking will also alert their owners to possible predators.
When using guard animals, the first step is to properly introduce them to your flock to ensure that they don’t counterintuitively harm your birds in any way. This is why dogs are a great resource; with proper training, you won’t have to worry much about them harming your birds.
Raccoons are intelligent, stealthy, and resilient. If there is a way for them to get access to your chicken flock, they will find it and attack. Several preventive measures can be implemented to ensure your birds’ safety, including sturdy hardware around your coop, surveillance cameras, and or guard animals.
In the end, the main goal for backyard chicken homesteaders is to keep their flock happy, healthy, and safe. Implementing one or several of these preventive measures listed in this article will significantly reduce the risk of raccoons attacking your chickens.
It’s crucial to regularly check the integrity of your safety measures to ensure your flock’s well-being. For information on other predators check out this Chickens and More article. Wishing you all safe, healthy, and happy flocks!
As always, if you have any questions or tips for reducing the chances of raccoon attacks, let us know in the comments below.