Signs of poultry predators
Anyone who raises chickens has to protect them from predators. But sometimes the unfortunate happens and you're left wondering what got them. Jesse Lyons is an extension poultry specialist at the University of Missouri. He says if birds are missing, there may be a fox taking dinner home to her babies. It could also be a two-legged thief. Look for shoe prints in the mud or snow for clues.
Most chickens are preyed upon at night. If you find body parts in the morning, Lyons says there are clues as to what attacked them. "Missing body parts around the intestinal area, that's more likely to be an opossum. If it's an area where they're in an enclosure and there's a leg or a wing missing, it might be a raccoon reaching through," Lyons says. "Their paws are very able to grab and pull the leg out through the wire and actually amputate a leg. Sometimes they'll reach and get the head."
A bird that's been gnawed on may have been attacked by a cat. If there's nothing left but feathers, Lyons would suspect a coyote. Missing eggs indicate rats, skunks, opossums, snakes, and occasionally raccoons.
Sometimes carnage in the coop can be blamed on a family pet. "The neighbor's dog has torn through the chicken wire and got into the building and had a delightful time of killing birds and leaving them lay because the chickens get excited, and the dog gets excited," Lyons says. "The instincts start working, and they kill and leave lay."
The easiest way to keep your flock safe is to lock them up in a secure building at night. Also check with state wildlife and conservation officials that deal with predation. They can offer information on legal control of predators, and methods to protect your poultry.
Learn more about livestock and animal predation identification from The Internet Center for Wildlife Management.
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