Protecting Your Flock: Dealing with Backyard Poultry Predators in Suburbia

Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you don’t live in the mountains or the woods that you do not have predators in your area. Urban areas have a long list of a number of deadly backyard poultry predators.

Most species of domesticated poultry don’t have a lot of natural defenses. They don’t fly, have a sharp beak or talons, or see very well at night and that leaves them vulnerable to a number of predators.

Each predator has its own signature hunting style and plan of attack. I recommend you pay attention to the local predators in your area so you can personalize your plan of action for a secure coop!

One of the most heart breaking calls Logan has ever made happened only weeks into our flock of ducks laying the most beautiful and delicious eggs I had ever tasted. While he slept and I gallivanted out of town with friends, the 2022 Duck Massacre erupted in our backyard.

“Baby, I am so sorry, something got the ducks. I am not sure what it was but I can’t find Ruthy and the other three are hurt… bad. I am going to need to cull them. Their necks are broken but they are still breathing and – Oh my god – yeah I am for sure going to need to cull them. it ripped off their wings! They have huge cuts! I’ve gotta go.”

Logan, 2022 Duck Massacre

It can be shocking walking out to a predator devastated flock. Often times there are feathers and blood everywhere, chickens missing, or bodies laying on the ground. It is easy to feel overwhelmed with the enormity of the clean up and all of the guilt and sadness. Trust me, you are not alone. It is truly heartbreaking.

So, what do you do when your flock is devastated by a predator?

First and foremost, snap a few wide angle photos or a quick video of the scene. Cleaning up after a predator attack is a highly emotional time – especially if there are children involved! You likely won’t have time to process everything rationally during clean up so while it may seem like the least important thing you could do at the time, the information you can learn from those photos can prove invaluable to prepare for the next attack.

Your wide angle photos should only take 30 seconds, though. They do not need to be extremely detailed or close up at this point, just make sure you back up as much as possible so you can get as much of the overall chaos in the frame. I like to stand in the corner with my back against the fence so I can get everything in one or two shots.

Now it is time to assess your birds and triage as necessary. Most of the time scrapes and punctures can be healed with proper treatment. We have found a lot of very helpful people in Poultry Facebook groups and other forums who are willing to physically help or talk you through treating your bird. (Poultry first aid article coming soon) Sometimes, however, their wounds are beyond repair and tough decisions need to be made.

Once the birds have been triaged and assessed you can take more detailed close-ups of any damage or entry points throughout your yard to determine what predator you’re working against based on the injuries and overall destruction.

Vets for backyard poultry are few and far between. If you do find one, they will likely be very expensive.

This is where mindset clarity comes in handy: Do you see your flock as pets or livestock?

In suburban circles backyard poultry are looked at like a pets. They are willing to do anything to save their feathered family member. In homesteading and agricultural communities, chicken are livestock, with a more defined line on what “drastic measures” they will take.

There is no right or wrong way to look at your flock – this is a decision you and yours have to make.

If you see your birds as pets, I recommend researching vets near you who will treat poultry or even put them down (usually a small animal vet) before bringing them home. That way, should something happen – you can get the bird treated right away.

Remember, it is inhumane to keep an animal suffering because you are unprepared.

If you view your poultry as livestock or just can’t afford major vet bills for chickens, learning how to treat wounds and humanely cull a bird are essential skills.

Predators and disease happen. While not all problems or diseases are a death sentence, sometimes it is the only humane option.

How to humanely cull a chicken article coming soon.

A Fox in the Hen House: Identifying Backyard Poultry Predators

Photo Credit:


Birds of Prey are cunning creatures that scout their prey for days before making a move. You’ll know your chicken was injured or killed by birds of prey if it has puncture wounds from their talons, just the breast is eaten (owls will sometimes take the head), or the feathers have been plucked clean off.

  • Day Hunting
    • Hawk
    • Falcon
    • Bald Eagle
  • Night Hunting
    • Owl

Interestingly enough, crows can be your friend or foe when it comes to your backyard poultry. Naturally territorial, crows will chase other large birds out of the area. If you watch closely you can see usually 2-3 crows surrounding 1 bird of prey. They will take turns attacking the bird mid-air and running it out of town.

We live a few miles away from a birds of prey mating ground. It is full to the brim with red tail hawks, bald eagles, and other birds so we keep a close eye on the skies. It is always a relief to see the crows on patrol.

That being said, crows will attack a flock if desperate.

Best Protection Against Aerial Predators:
  • Roof on coop run
  • If you want to free range your birds, keep a rooster or LGD to watch and defend your flock. If your family dog is calm enough around the birds while they are loose they can be a huge deterrent to birds of prey – trained to defend or not.
Photo Credit: The Guardian


Grabbers and diggers hunt day and night. They will wait for your birds to be unattended before making their move. Often there will be a flurry of excitement as the birds try to escape and defend each other.

  • Fox – very sneaky, will take a lot of chickens over a few hours, usually burying them near their den for future meals.
  • Coyote – dig into the run and drag their kill to another location to eat. look for signs of blood and holes around the perimeter of your run.
  • Racoon – pull pieces of the chicken through the wire, love the breast meat, leave a mess.
Best Protection Against Grabber and Digger Predators:
  • Buried wire along the base of the run 1-2′ deep
  • If you want to free range your birds, keep a rooster or LGD to watch and defend your flock
Photo Credit: The Hens Loft


Thrill killers are the worst because they just kill for fun. Often you will find your yard strewn with multiple mutilated carcasses. It is always devastating.

  • Weasel – Don’t even eat the kill and leave all the meat behind.
  • Family dog – mans best friend still has a prey drive after all these years. Dogs can jump over or dig under fences to get to your flock and will.
Best Protection Against Thrill Killers:
  • Fully enclosed coop and run
  • Fenced yard
  • If you want to free range your birds, keep a rooster or LGD to watch and defend your flock
Photo Credit: Quora


These predators are more likely to steal your eggs or chicks than the older birds – though they still pose a threat when desperate.

  • Skunk – their scent gives them away and the birds guts will be missing
  • Opossum – mostly nest robbers of your precious eggs but will turn to adult chickens eating some and leaving the rest behind
  • Snake – will swallow chicks or eggs whole, so no mess to ID.
Best Protection Against Robbers:
  • Fill gaps in the coop larger than 1/4″
  • Enclosed coop and run in 1/2″ wire
Photo Credit : Ring Youtube


More prevalent in the mountains and foothills, smashers and team killers can reek some of the most devastating destruction possible on a chicken coop. Not only do they get your flock but they can destroy the coop in the process.

  • Bears – incredibly destructive, hence “smasher”. Often smashing their paw through the side of your coop to grab the chickens in their sleep. Check out the ring camera video in the photo caption above.
  • Big Cats (mountain lion, bobcat etc) – often hunting with their litter, big cats are especially dangerous to a flock of chickens often burying their kills like a house cat with litter
Best Protection Against Basher and Smasher Predators:
  • Enclosed coop and run – minimal to no free ranging
  • Electric Wire around the coop and run
  • Unwelcome Mat
  • An LGD to watch and defend your flock
Photo Credit: Merck Veterinary Manual


The worst part of chickens are bugs. They are sneaky, small, and can kill a chicken fast. Look for lack of appetite, fading comb color, or lack of energy.

  • Mites
  • Lice
  • Flies – lay their eggs on messy/poopy feathers and when the larvae pupates the maggots use the chicken as their nutrition source (i.e. they eat the chicken). This happens VERY fast. Usually by the time you catch it, the most humane thing to do is cull the chicken. If you catch it early you may be able to clean the wound and isolate the bird to heal
Best Protection Against Bugs:
  • Have multiple fly traps around your property to keep flies in check
  • Paint all wood inside the coop to seal cracks and grooves from bugs laying their eggs
  • Treat your coop and run with DE or hydrated lime

Don’t let predators scare you off…

Understanding the threats in your area will help you prepare better and with proper planning for a safe and secure coop your chickens can live a happy, healthy life.

No matter what you decide we love to see and hear about your adventures on your property, big or small! Please leave a comment or tag me on Instagram with @TheFryFarmette and #TheFryFarmette so we can cheer you on!

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