How to keep your chickens safe from raccoons
Protecting your chickens from raccoons may not be your first thought when preparing for predators. However, they pose a real threat to chickens. Raccoons may appear cute, but they’re also crafty. These masked mischief-makers are notorious for infiltrating chicken coops not only in search of food, but for eggs – and even your hens.
Raccoons have five fingers, but lack an opposable thumb. Despite this, they have extremely sensitive hands. Combining this dexterity with deftness, raccoons can unlatch, untie, and unscrew safety and locking mechanisms. This makes wooden chicken coops particularly vulnerable to raccoon invasions. Predator-resistant chicken coops are essential to outwit raccoons and keep your flock safe.
Where are raccoons found in the US?
Raccoons can be found in nearly every US state, with the exception of small portions of the Rocky Mountains, and southwestern states such as Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. The territory of this chicken predator also spans into Mexico and South America, all the way up into Canada. There are 7 different species of raccoons, but the most common is the North American raccoon. They’re members of the procyonidae family, and cousins to coatis, kinkajous, and ringtails.
Traditionally, raccoons make their homes in hollows of tree trunks or burrows, but throughout the years they’ve adapted to live in a variety of habitats. Raccoons now thrive in urban settings by taking up residence in attics, chimneys, and underneath houses or porches. In more rural settings, they will make their homes in barns, outbuildings, wood piles, or other opportune shelter options.
Why raccoons are a danger to your flock
Primarily nocturnal mammals, raccoons are most active at night. They’re incredibly crafty, capable of problem solving and can remember solutions to problems for up to 3 years. That means once they’ve learned how to break into your chicken coop, they’ll remember how they did it for years to come!
Signs of a raccoon attack
Crafty as they may be, raccoons often leave evidence of their presence. Their footprints are very distinctive: 5-toed, slender, with an almost human-palm shape. Their droppings can also be very telling. Most raccoons incorporate lots of seeds, nuts, or berries into their diet, which are usually expelled resembling how they were ingested. Clumpy or nodule shaped droppings with noticeable seeds, nuts or berries is usually indicative of raccoons.
Damage to your chickens’ enclosure may also be evident. Look for claw marks (particularly around gates or latches), gnawed material, or stretched wire. Raccoons will often reach for their prey, so chicken wire may appear bent, stretched, or even broken at the welds.
Check other areas around your home such as garbage cans, outdoor pet areas, or wild bird feeders for the signs of raccoons being present. Some chicken keepers place trail cameras or motion activated security cameras around their flock’s enclosure to monitor for predators, and to confirm what type of predator paid their coop a visit.
Do raccoons eat chickens?
Raccoons most certainly eat chickens. Their diet is similar to that of other wild omnivores such as coyotes, bears, or foxes, all of which are associated with preying on chickens. Raccoons can easily take down small breed hens, and if hungry enough, will make an attempt at standard or large breed hens.
While this small predator might not be the first that comes to mind when preparing your chickens’ area for attempts by predators, raccoons shouldn’t be overlooked. They’re more abundant and adaptable than many other chicken predators, and are patient and calculating when looking for a meal.
Predator-resistant chicken coops
The Eglu Cube Chicken Coop offers maximum security for your flock. The Eglu Cube has innovative coop access door t-locks that must be pressed down and twisted in order to unlock. It’s easily opened by older children and adults, but the lack of opposable thumbs makes breaking into the coop very difficult for raccoons. New for spring 2023, the Cube’s attached run also features a tighter mesh along the lower panels. The bottom 20 inches of the attached run will keep your hens safe from raccoon reaches. These features, along with its elevated and sturdy design, make the Eglu Cube the ideal hen house chicken coop to protect your flock.
Pair the Eglu Cube with an Omlet Walk In Chicken Run with anti-tunnel skirting, and your chickens will have predator-resistant measures in place both day and night. The heavy-duty wire of the walk in run extends from the skirting all the way across the sides and top for complete coverage. And, with stable-style doors with predator-resistant locks on the walk in run rather than simple latches, raccoons will be baffled.
6 tips to protect your flock from raccoons
The following actions will help make your chickens’ area less inviting to racoons. Many of these can be accomplished in a day, making sure your chickens are prepared by the following night.
Ensure your chickens’ space is clean
Raccoons have excellent olfactory senses, and are drawn to anything that smells like a meal. Chicken feed, scratch and treats are very tantalizing to a raccoon. If you notice recurring raccoon visits, feed your chickens at specific times and pick up any uneaten food. Scratch can be served in Chicken Peck Toys, and fresh fruits and veggies in a Caddi Chicken Treat Holder to cut down on waste.
Clean your chickens’ coop regularly to cut down on scents. Chickens themselves aren’t odorous, but their droppings are. An easy-to-clean chicken coop that can be pressure washed and disinfected will reduce odors that will attract raccoons and other predators.
Make sure garbage and pet food is secured and out of reach
Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores, and will feast on just about anything they can get their paws on. They’re especially fond of the buffet that your garbage has to offer! To keep from attracting raccoons, be sure that all trash is tied up in garage bags and kept in a bin with a lid. If your trash cans don’t have a tight seal, you may need to bungee lids down or fit them with a locking mechanism to keep raccoons out.
Food for outdoor pets is also appetizing for raccoons. Be sure to keep pet food in air-tight containers and pick up any uneaten food at the end of the day. Keep bird feeders out of reach of raccoons to prevent that temptation as well!
Collect eggs regularly
Eggs are a favorite snack among humans and omnivorous animals alike – and raccoons are no exception. It’s always best to remove eggs from the nesting box daily, even though chicken eggs can stay in the coop and still be edible for an extended period of time. By removing eggs before nightfall, you’ll prevent them from becoming a raccoon’s midnight snack.
Use an Autodoor to ensure chickens are safely tucked in at night
To keep your chickens safe from raccoons, it’s vital that they are locked in their coop overnight. Since raccoons are nocturnal, they do the majority of their hunting under the cover of nightfall. A chicken coop with a strong, predator-resistant latching mechanism on its door is your flock’s best nighttime defense.
The Omlet Automatic Chicken Coop Door adds an additional layer of safety through its unique horizontal closure on metal gears. Raccoons can lift traditional pulley style vertical chicken coop doors, but the Autodoor closes on a screw-style mechanism without gaps along the side for predators to get their claws into. Best of all, the Autodoor can be programmed to close at specific times based on the amount of daylight or a time that you set. That way, your chickens get tucked in safely each night – whether or not you’re home to oversee flock curfew.
Closing your chicken coop’s door overnight is one of the best practices to help keep your hens safe from predators of all varieties. Most animals that seek out chickens (like raccoons), are nocturnal. For your peace of mind and your chickens’ safety, your flock should be closed inside their coop shortly after dusk.
Using scents to repel raccoons
Since raccoons have a sophisticated sense of smell, some scents may cause them to turn their nose up. There are multiple DIY natural raccoon repellent mixtures you can try, but common ingredients that are offensive odors to raccoons include:
- Black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Epsom salt
Deterring raccoons with scents is only a temporary solution, and requires frequent reapplications. You should also use caution when spraying anything around your flock, as these ingredients can also irritate their respiratory system. Spray a wide perimeter around your chickens’ run and coop to avoid making your hens ill.
Hardware cloth may be used to surround existing chicken coops and runs, but its effectiveness is dependent on the integrity of the structure. Raccoons are very persistent and will pry mesh loose if they are able to. Any wood that hardware cloth is attached to should be solid enough to hold staples or fencing nails firmly in place. You’ll also need to run hardware cloth down the sides of your chicken coop turned at a 90° angle to act as anti-tunneling protection.
The anti-tunnel skirting on Omlet chicken runs helps prevent persistent predators from digging in. Additional security can be added along the bottom panels of the run in the form of hardware cloth to help keep prying paws from reaching through to your chickens. Nylon ties can be used to affix the cloth to the wire of the walk in run.
How Omlet can support city chicken keeping
Omlet has taken predators, including raccoons, into account when designing our chicken products. We’ve taken great care to create and research methods to protect chickens against predators, allowing you to enjoy a stress-free chicken-keeping experience. Sleep in peace knowing that your hens are safe in a chicken tractor at night, and that you’ve done your due diligence to keep your flock safe from raccoons.
This entry was posted in Chickens