Chicken nightmare: How three raccoons killed my chickens in broad daylight November 14, 2012

My girls, foraging

My girls, foraging happily

A couple of months ago, I dreamed my flock was destroyed. I bolted upright out of bed, fuming mad at those (!@*$) darn raccoons… and then, in a fog, realized it was just a dream. The coop in my dream was the wrong one–it was from a house we lived in years ago. The chickens were from our original flock… And, we’d recently predator-proofed our runI reassured myself everything was fine, and after some time, fell back asleep.

A few days later, Derek and I were up late, talking, with the windows open. Around 11 pm we heard a squawk. Any chicken owner will tell you that an 11 pm squawk is a BAD thing. We ran out there to find not one but three raccoons. One had made its way inside our reinforced “predator-proof” run (ha, ha, joke’s on us), and nabbed—of course—our daughters’ favorite chicken, “Piano,” the bantam Cochin.

Piano is the Silver Laced Cochin bantam of the far left

Piano is the Silver Laced Cochin bantam of the far left

The others, presumably, were waiting for their chance to pull her bits through the chicken wire.

We scared the raccoons away, buried our friend Piano, found the spot where they’d gotten in to the run, reinforced it with more zip ties, closed the door from the coop to the run, just in case… And our nightmare was over. So we thought.

Around 4:00 pm the next day, while pounding away on our respective keyboards, we saw one chicken cross the road. Literally. As everyone knows, chickens DON’T do that, especially on a busy road like ours. They’re far too smart for that. We should have immediately recognized that something was wrong, but instead figured we’d have some chicken-herding to do that night, shrugged our shoulders, and kept on working. (In eight years of keeping chickens, we’ve never lost a chicken to a daytime attack, so please forgive our being slow to catch on.)

An hour later, Derek went out to collect eggs. He found a bloodbath. Mangled corpses strewn about. Piles of feathers all over the place.

My nightmare come true: raccoons killed my chickens.

Our Aunt's birds; Lady Mary, Red, Blackie and Goldie, in happier times

Our Aunt’s birds; Lady Mary, Red, Blackie and Goldie, in happier times

Final tally: eleven chickens out of thirty-one killed.

The very worst part is that the raccoons took *all four* of our aunt’s birds, who we were taking care of temporarily. They were the friendliest, most tame birds we’d ever had the pleasure of caring for. (No doubt Auntie’s love and daily offering of freshly cut grapes had something to do with that.) She had entrusted them to us, and we let her down. It took us several days to even gather the courage to tell her. (She took the news well, like the classy woman she is–and hid her devastation from us.)

Our best guess: those three raccoons were TICKED that we stole their kill from them, woke up early, and tag-teamed to kill as many chickens as possible. We figure it had to be teamwork, because a few years back, a single raccoon chased our chickens around in the late afternoon, but it was too slow to catch them single-handedly.

The thing that makes me the angriest about raccoons is they kill as many chickens as they can—many more than they could possibly eat—before taking off. Birds of prey take just one. Most foxes will take one chicken and run for it. Skunks and opossums tend to take one at a time, too, in our experience. But raccoons kill wantonly.

Raccoons killed my chickens: the entrance to the raccoon's lair

The entrance to the raccoon’s lair

We’ve found out where the raccoons enter our yard—see the hole in the undergrowth above the stone wall? I’m a 20-year vegetarian, and a pacifist, too, but I’ve fantasized plenty about buying an automatic weapon and doing away with those creeps.

Losing a whole bunch of chickens served to remind us that there’s more we can be doing to protect our flock.  We plan to add electric wire toward the top of our run plus an automatic chicken door, so their safety doesn’t hinge on us remembering to close them in right at dusk, when most nocturnal predators start becoming active. Neither of these measures will protect against a tag-team daytime attack, but they’ll give us peace of mind. We want the best of both worlds for our chickens: freedom to roam and protection against predators.

While nothing short of full-time confinement would provide complete protection, we don’t have the heart to do that. They love free-ranging so very much… Instead, we kept the remaining girls in the run for a week or so, and now only let them out to roam four or five times a week. This balance suits us. I know many of you would make a different choice, as did MPC’s Shannon.

What would you do? What do you do to protect your flock?

40 Comments
Trase November 14th, 2012

I am so sorry you lost all of those lovely girls. :(

If the raccoons are out during the day, you have another concern to consider: they may be rabid. Nocturnal animals like coons typically only come out during daylight because of rabies infection. Now, it is getting dark earlier so perhaps it was already sunset and that’s not the case. But it’s something I’d think about.

WHATEVER the case I would consider setting some traps. We do not relocate nuisance animals because it simply makes it someone else’s problem. Those coons know to go to chicken coops now and will continue going back. I would put them down and help keep your flock safe!

Hoping for no more attacks.

steve fang November 14th, 2012

U need a mp15-22 lock n loaded

Beth Evans-Donohue November 14th, 2012

I have a metal shed on a cement plate that is well insulted. I close the doors at night and put a lock on it

Shannon November 14th, 2012

I’m so sorry for your loss! I lost my entire flock of eight hens, all beloved pets, this past May when my neighbor’s dog managed to work open the latch to the coop. You want to talk about wanton killing; pet dogs do it for the fun of it, as was clear when I caught the dog, wagging his tail joyously after having killed my last, and favorite, hen. I cried a lot, took a deep breath, reinforced the latch, and two months later picked up six new chicks.

My best advice – and I don’t know if it’s something you want to do – is to just not let them free-range when you can’t be out with them. This is what I do, since my property backs up to woods that are full of predators that will strike day or night. It’s not ideal, since my girls love free-ranging, too, but it works for them and for us. They don’t want to be out too much when the weather is bad, anyway, so they’re fine waiting for us to come out and spend time with them, and we’re fine with parking ourselves outside, or staying where we can see them, while they do their chicken thing.

Again, I’m so very sorry for your loss. Until a person has chickens he or she has no idea just how beloved they can be, or how devastating it can be to find them dead due to an attack. I’ll be thinking of you and sending safety vibes to your remaining chickens.

Carol werner November 14th, 2012

Its sad, I have been fighting the coons here in Florida, they have killed 7 of my 12 birds. I had one old fella tell me that wild animals will not kill more than they can eat. WRONG. And raccoons are the worst at tearing, ripping and shredding sacks of feed, or any thing else they can get. I wanted to mention that I had a FOX that killed and hauled off 56 12 week old pullets in one night. There may have been two, but they were foxes. They will take more than their fair share, given the chance.

Virginia November 14th, 2012

I was trying to think of a good idea to help you. We too lost many to raccoon. Our solution was to build what we lovingly refer to as either Chick-a-traz or The Death Cube. (because a spherical coop was too hard to build). It currently (which means I may go back and improve) has chicken wire on the roof, chain link on the sides and hardware cloth on the bottom. It is a totally fenced in 10 x 10 box. Inside away from the walls is our free standing coop. The girls are locked up in the coop at or around sundown. They go in when ready which is about that time. Then 7 am they are released into the pen for breakfast and to wake up/lay whatever. Then around 11 they are released to the yard to free range. We have only had one loss since we built this and that was only because she jumped the fence into the back yard where my dogs are. However I really think Trase has hit the nail on the head. Sounds like a plan to me. Tractor Supply has decent priced traps and you could check to see if you could borrow some from someone. Hope something in all this helps.

Jean Castle November 14th, 2012

Unfortunately, raccoons are NOT just nocturnal. I have had them in my garage after catfood and stalking my ducks at all hours of the day and night. – even though they are out most commonly in the evening and early morning. My only solution to them has been to use semipermanent electronet around the area where I let my birds be and to only put out catfood when the cats are securely locked in the garage. I also have to use a raccoon proof bird feeder on my porch as they have destroyed two others.

Maranda Everson November 14th, 2012

I used live traps and then called animal control to remove the coons. They will come back.

Cheryl November 14th, 2012

How heart breaking, I lost three chickens and my best pal, PEEK the duck this past spring to a daytime raid. Poof they were just gone, a small pile of feathers here and there but not a trace of my loved ones. The other night I pulled up the drive to find a fox standing next to the coop, I chase the thing through the hay field in my mini van bound and determined I was going to run it over, I dont think mini vans are meant to go where I took mine. Then when I cased the fox into the wood I drove back to the house for a gun. Something snaped and I wanted that chicken killing creep DEAD!!!

Earl HAndy November 14th, 2012

I would hunt down and kill the coons! I have a powerful crossbow with a scope, silent but deadly to predators. Traps or poison are bad ideas because your chickens will wind up in them. Having a herding type dog that will look after the chickens and take out any attacker would be ideal. You could invite local hunters on your property to have some sporting fun taking out these problem animals with little effort on your part. I do not like killing anything but if it’s a choice between my chickens or another animal then my chickens will win every time!

Brandy November 14th, 2012

My run is mostly predator proof, but recently some areas around the bottom have washed out. I have been lucky not to suffer any losses in a long time, when coons killed six of my eight babies. I assume though, that if a predator were to enter, that my Samuel would die fighting it and probably do some damage.

Earl HAndy November 14th, 2012

landmines which require a certain amount of weight to trigger ans well as razor wire around your property’s perimeter would be an extreme measure!

Paulette Douglas November 14th, 2012

So sorry to hear of your loss, I too just lost 9 of my girls and my rooster Ricky to a daytime attack. Unfortunately I didnt not see what it was but from reading your story Im going to assume it was racoons because of how many I lost.

Heather O'Brien November 14th, 2012

I’m very sorry for your loss, I know it’s a hard one. We live in the middle of rural Virginia and I thought maybe I could offer some suggestions to help. Our predators around here come out day or night. From above and below. Predators, except for a single bird of prey, will take multiple animals and most do it for sport. The person that suggested being concerned about racoons in the daytime is absolutely correct – they carry rabies and they are naturally nocturnal. If you see them out and active during the day, trap them and then, if you don’t want them dead, call animal control or wildlife services to come get them. Just so you are aware, animal control will kill them usually. Some are fine with that, some are not – I just wanted you to know and you can ask your local department how they handle it. Raccoons have “thumbs” and can operate most latches and easily scale a fence. Consider adding a top to your run that is hinged with a padlock on the end. Try to use hardware cloth instead of chicken wire. Much tougher and it’s sold in rolls just like chicken wire. Aim is out at the bottom so predators have to step on it. Add a few motion lights so they come on even before it gets dark. You don’t have to buy the fancy ones – ours came from the discount store and work great. I hope this helps, sorry for the long response :)

Dick Elliott November 14th, 2012

I lost 9 birds this year to racoons. The racoons work as a tag team. The oldest learned to open the automatic coop door with its nose to let in his buddies to do the deed. They also came back for a day time early diner. Blow three away and over the next two days trapped and drown the others.

But I had created my own problem by getting rid of 7 coyotes the year before which let the racoons back in the neighborhood.

Christy Hand November 14th, 2012

Consider getting a livestock guardian animal. I bought an anatolian shepherd to protect my flock and it has helped tremendously. You have to either carefully train a puppy or get an older dog with ample poultry experience or you could make your situation worse. I have also heard of using a goose. I’m not sure if it works but it could be investigated? Make sure you get a good breed if choosing a puppy. NOT a herding dog, a livestock guardian dog. Like anatolian or great pyrenees.

Sarah November 14th, 2012

So sorry to read your story. Raccoons are nasty and relentless! We had one particularly mean raccoon come after our chickens one day and ended up killing about three or four of our chickens. It came back a few times during the day and in the middle of the night. I think I finally scared it away with a broom handle… We tried using a have-a-heart trap, but the raccoon had already vanished.

Deborah November 14th, 2012

I, too, lost most of my girls to a raccoon. We put a trap inside the hen house and caught it. Yes, we killed it. I don’t feel a bit bad about it either. It slaughtered 14 chickens before we could catch it. We put more chicken wire all around our house and pen. However, the sad fact is, if a raccoon wants in, it will find a way to get in the house.

George Castonguay November 14th, 2012

A friend lost eight young chickens in one night to a racoon and more the following nights until he managed to trap and kill them all. I am a fairly peaceful type of guy but if I even see a fox/coyote/racoon on my yard it’s shotgun time.

Terry Golson November 14th, 2012

Raccoons will watch to see what time is best to attack. I know this because a raccoon went after my flock at the time that my dog came in everyday to eat dinner. This was the same raccoon that brought her kits to teach them to hunt chickens. She was fearless and had no qualms being out in daylight. They were trapped and disposed of, as they are also a threat to young children (which I had at the time.) BTW, raccoon feces carry diseases very dangerous to people, especially children. It looks like dog poo, but is flat at the end, as if cut by a knife. Be careful removing it from your property.

Evelyn Qualls November 14th, 2012

I am so sorry for your loss. We have only had our chickens for a little over nine months, and my children tell me I have gone “chicken crazy”! I admit, I am pretty fond of the girls and would be devastated if anything happened to them. We have seen a fox in our driveway, and had already predator proofed our run and built a new coop for them. As my husband is a retired builder, you can bet the coop is predator proof!
We have hawks also so have their run covered. We lock the coop every evening after they go inside to roost also, as we are surrounded by woods. As of this date, we do
not free-range our girls. My husband said he still suffers from the memory of seeing a fox running through the yard with one of his favorite hens slung over its shoulder.

Tom Neill November 14th, 2012

I too felt comfortable with a daytime romp for my girls. However, about 3pm, I had them out while I was gardening, and as soon as I went inside our house, a bobcat took the opportunity and killed four of my girls. So sad and lesson learned.

Sondra November 14th, 2012

I have been so lucky. I have coons around but in the past 4 yrs they have never bothered my chickens. I feed a bunch of semi-feral cats, and there is no way to put food for cats where a coon can’t get it. I’m wondering if maybe the cat food just seems easier to eat than the chickens… My chickens are in a coop/run, but I’m sure a coon could break into it. Sorry about your hens. It’s a horrible thing to find. Years ago a neighbors coy-dog killed over 30 of my 50 pullets that were just about ready to start laying. Total carnage. As luck would have it there was snow on the ground, and the dog took one home with her. We followed the tracks and blood trail about a mile to the house. The owners were decent and paid for the hens. But that really didn’t make up for loosing all those babies!

Jen Coghlan November 14th, 2012

Whoa! I see a piece of me in every post here! I, too, have driven my suburban down the field trying to squish a fox or a raccoon! We trap predators in a live trap and then use them for long range target practice. I have no problem at all doing that. We have had an owl get in our coop, many possums and raccoons and just a week ago lost two chickens to some type of hawk (Cooper’s Hawk?) right in front of our eyes!!! A few years back foxes were so thick they came in the middle of the day, or they shoot out of the corn field, grab a chicken and are gone before I can even blink! But, alas, when these things happen we weigh the pros and cons of free range and just know that they are happier and we enjoy them more when they are out loose. If I could build a huge aviary for them I would but my husband says they don’t make us enough money to do that! I am sorry for you loss and know that we all sympathize with you!

Marsha Elliott November 14th, 2012

My husband built our coop with galvanized fencing. He also installed two doors, both open in a different direction. He also put solar lighting that comes on at dusk. the feed box is up three feet in the air. It is easy for my girls to get up, but harder for rodents and raccoon’s. They got into a fight with my two dogs and the dogs won. They fought my Papa’s dog and almost killed her. I have absolutely no hesitation in killing one, but we always call animal control. they usually put them to sleep. I hate raccoons with a passion. My Papa had to have seven shots because they bit him. Also, my vet said she was standing under a tree and a raccoon sliced her forehead from the tree. They are very mean. My sympathies to you on the loss of your girls. Keep your gun loaded. I can’t do that because I live in city limits.

LindaG November 14th, 2012

*hugs* ♥

Jade November 14th, 2012

A few weeks ago I lost an almost 2 month old pullet to a hawk. I came home from work to see the hawk perched on a garden trellis. I’ve never seen a hawk around the house before and definitely not this ugly speckled one. I live in the city where predators are just stray cats. I guess it’s getting cold and they’re migrating? Well anyway, I went over to see what the hawk was staring at and on the ground was my pullet Nanny. Head and guts missing. I quickly buried her and found my other pullet Noodle shaking in a dark corner in the patio. My remaining chick was traumatized and would only stay inside her coop for 2 weeks. Now she can come out to peck at the ground and whatever but mostly stays in dark corners. She comes out and free range in the garden when people are at home only.

Mellissa November 15th, 2012

I lost a 5 week old chick to a skunk and 3 days before that the same skunk ripped the head off a Millie Fluer d’uccle Bantam hen I had given the neighbors kids to get started in chickens. They were devastated and their teen daughter was so distraught she refused to leave the coop all night in case it came back for more. Needless to say, that skunk is no longer living….a .22 revolver solved that problem (it had taken up residence under our shed that let out into the chicken run, we live in Arizona and it gets VERY hot so the shicken had access under the shed to combat heat). A week to the day I go out ot feed the chickens and I see that a few eggs I had left on the coop floor (on purpose, I use this to discover if something has broken in and hopefulyl give a skunk an easier meal to take instead of my chickens) were missing. Another Skunk! This one was monsterous big! So…we pulled the remaining trim off the shed and there he was, so (Annie oakley here) I laid down on my side and my trusty .22 revolver and I put 2 bullets in his head…no more skunks since then. I am an Environmental Scientist by career and a definite animal lover but I protect mine (even though I felt a little guilty about this one as he had not killed a chicken, just stole eggs). Since those incidents we have double fortified everything, all trim is off the bottom of the shed so there is no dark hiding places and its fenced with 14 gauge hardware cloth…no more issues so far other than a hawk taking off with a young frizzled cochin rooster recently.

Kevin November 16th, 2012

I had a raccoon problem when I first started my flock 2 years ago. I tried scaring them away but after chasing the same raccoon away 2 times in 30 minutes I decided if he came back I would put him down. Well he did and I did. After that I set a trap and caught 5 more raccoons and 1 opossum in a month. Since that time I have not had 1 raccoon around my coop or yard that I know of. I had 1 fox kill 10 hens last summer but I stopped him before he could do anymore and now I have 63 happy hens and roosters and I haven’t had a predator problem in over a year

Dave Reed November 18th, 2012

I’ve lost a few of my free range chickens to stray dogs over the years and maybe raccoons…but always remember that caged chickens are depressed and need to roam free during the day even if the price is a shortened life.. compared to a factory chicken that has never had a dirt bath of felt sunshine.. every day in the open is an incomparable luxury so don’t coop them up…they would prefer to run free..

roberta November 20th, 2012

Of course chickens, as well as dogs, cats, canaries, and any other creature on earth want to be free. But if they had a second to think about it as that racoon, snake, mountain lion, coyote or hawk ripped their throat open, I bet they’d take a roomy, safe enclosed tractor with fresh grass, bugs and sunshine in a heartbeat. If not, at least we caretakers would not have as many nighmares.

Kim March 19th, 2013

The most horrifing thing I ever saw was a fox, loping after my chickens. Luckily, it didn’t get any, as the whole family charged outside before it had the chance.

Angel Perkins April 13th, 2013

How devastating. When we (okay, when I) decided that we were getting chickens, I was determined to make our coop/run predator-proof. We made a huge run (8×25), and covered it top to bottom in hardware cloth. The hardware cloth is buried a foot into the ground on all sides, and is also the roof of the run, additionally covered by a tarp to keep out rain/snow. My husband groused endlessly about how costly the hardware cloth was in comparison to chicken wire, but we have yet to lose a single chicken. Now he gives other people advise on how to keep a flock safe. Even though the initial expense is fairly steep, we have found it to be well worth it. I’m sorry you lost so many sweet girls. Stupid raccoons.

Natalie June 27th, 2013

I started out with 16 chickens, including a rooster. I have had them just about a year. I started losing chickens last summer, one at a time, with no trace of them anywhere. I was then left with 11 chickens. This summer my rooster disappeared sometime during the day, which was a huge shock because he was pretty mean and always protected the girls. I just lost 4 chickens on saturday night, and 2 chickens on sunday night. I was so devastated to find the remains of the chickens this time. It was a massacre! It not only made me cry, but it angered me. Something was big enough to bust through a hardwood door, and a glass window just to get to the chickens. I used to be the type to not kill any wild life. But when something that viscous brutally killed my girls, I promised myself I would kill it, not caring what it was. So I have been setting traps every night. Somehow it takes the bate and gets out of the trap. It is a huge trap. All I can think is it has to be a huge raccoon and the hatch doesn’t shut completely. So this morning I let my last four chickens outside to play and hooked my border collie up on his lead to watch the girls. I then heard my dog barking crazy and saw him standing on his hind legs looking at the backyard. Sure enough, that coon was out in broad daylight hunting my chickens!!! I took off running out the back door not caring if I wasn’t completely dressed. The raccoon was shot out of the tree. Unfortunately I don’t think he was the only culprit. He was quite small and I had slight hesitation not to shoot him, but then thought of my girls and how scared they have been. Then had no problem shooting it. I’m sure that big raccoon will be back soon, and I will be waiting!!!

Julia June 28th, 2013

I’m so sorry for the loss of your girls. I just got my first little flock of 5 cochins not even 3 weeks ago. I have a coop inside of what I thought was a secure run. I worked late yesterday and did not shut up my coop. When I went out this morning I was missing 2 girls. No sign of struggle. No feathers or parts to be seen. I was scheduled for 2nd shift tonight and got home at 11:30 to find my other 3 girls missing. No sign of them at all. The outside feeder was knocked over as well as the ramp into the coop. I lost all 5 and am terribly upset. I don’t know what could have gotten to them. No sign the run was breached but obviously it was. I will not be deterred and will try again. I wish you the best.

Tesa September 13th, 2013

This was my first summer, early this spring I brought home a couple baby ducks, and baby chicks. Did not have a problem till now. The summer isn’t even over. I went to feed, and my ducks were multilated, and parts were scatterd. It was so horrible. I was trying to figure out what animal had done this. Finally figured it out that it was raccoon, cause I had stayed up until 4 in the morning, to find that they came back, and I saw them. I let the dogs out to scare them away, I can hear them trying to get in the coop, every night since this happened. I have them locked up in their house like a little prison. I am so scared that the chickens are next. My poor girls. I cant keep them in forever its not fair to them. It has been almost a week since they killed the ducks. I am just waiting for animal control to help with some traps. Hopefully this will be over soon.

traci September 13th, 2013

I’m so sorry to hear it! Have you ever tried using predator pee? It is supposed to work really well. Wolf pee should do the trick for your raccoons and other, larger predators.

maggie me January 7th, 2014

I had a grouse hawk dive down and take a juvenile chicken about 5 feet from me. There was nothing I could do, it was over before I knew it started. All you can do is provide a solid structure for safety. For two weeks after I was outside with a broom making large swooping moves to scare it away. Eventually he gave up. It was one of my bantams, a butternut and a beautiful bird. I have three pit bulls that didn’t intimidate that hawk in the least.

deeannam June 12th, 2014

One of my 9 week old cochins was ripped apart from inside her 10×10 heavy wired pen last night as I was on my way to put them in the garage. Last week it was six ducklings with heads pulled off through the pen, 3 dead in the yard and one devoured. These predators are winning this war and I am mad as hell. We tried calling in coyotes with no luck. I am devastated and can’t stop the tears. I get so attached to these adorable little things. They are secured inside their pen in the coop for added protection, but I was not quick enough last night and feeling so guilty. I am out to kill anything that wants my pets. Chickens and ducks have absolutely no defence; its so sad.

Cynthia July 4th, 2014

I lost my two Golden Comets today to what I think was a raccoon. It left one of them and took the other with it. Even though it was daytime (about 10:30am), the reason I think it was a raccoon is because they are known to just go for the crop and leave the rest of the carcass intact (which was the case with my sweet Cleo), and to take multiple chickens if they can. I let my girls free range in my yard, and for two years have never had a problem. But one of the girls, Athena, figured out how to fly over the fence to the neighbors’ yard. Today her sister followed her. And that’s where the attack happened. I’m hoping the predator doesn’t now enter our yard (we have a cat and a dog, which I thought were helping), but now that they know there are chickens running around, I’m afraid for my three surviving girls. I’m really devastated, as one of the ones killed was very bonded with me. She’d sleep on my lap and often wait for me to carry her to the coop at bedtime. I like the idea of a raccoon trap (I’ve also heard, btw, that they can be out during the daytime especially in suburban areas), but don’t know what else to do to keep my girls safe short of locking them in the coop, which I can’t bring myself to do. We have no place to create a run because we are on a hill.

Leave a Reply