Chickens and the Animals that Love Them

In a previous post, I mentioned some of the advantages of raising chickens in the Roanoke valley. As I wrote, I was reminded of one disadvantage of chicken owning: it allows you to encounter the Roanoke valley’s range of predatory animals up close. There are effective ways to protect chickens from each of these predators, but chicken keeping certainly gave our family a new perspective on Roanoke’s diverse wildlife population.

Skunks: while skunks won’t usually hurt mature chickens, they will steal eggs. I never knew how many skunks we had hanging around until we got chickens. Although we never witnessed it, skunks can climb fences, so don’t forget to close up your chickens in their coop every night.

Possums: these crazy nocturnal marsupials can easily scale chicken wire fences. Although they are only the size of a cat, they can kill adult chickens as well as steal eggs. Well do I remember having to chase a possum out of our chicken coop in the middle of the night. Soon thereafter I stapled wire mesh to the bottom of our movable coop to make it a truly six-sided enclosure (something I should have done earlier)…   

Raccoons: these crafty and bold creatures are one of the worst threats to chickens. Although we didn’t lose any chickens to raccoons, we did see them around the neighborhood. They can apparently cause a very gruesome end to an entire flock (think multiple dismemberments in a single night). Raccoons can dig under fences (which is why we buried the bottom of our fence underground), and they can even unlatch some coop doors. 

Hawks: as if chickens didn’t have enough to worry about from the ground, they also are susceptible to air assaults. We once witnessed a hawk attempting to make off with one of our chickens. The hawk was unsuccessful, partly because the chicken put up a surprisingly good fight. Their section of the yard had plenty of brush for them to take cover in, so hawks were not a worry most of the time.

Coyotes: the last of our chickens met their end due to these wily canines. Yes, coyote packs inhabit even Roanoke city… we periodically hear them whining and screeching at night. While we were away one day, our neighbor witnessed the last of our flock carried off by a coyote – in broad daylight, no less. 

Yes, the deck seems stacked against chickens. (And this certainly wasn’t a comprehensive list – I didn’t mention the snakes or the foxes, which are plentiful in the area.) However, with the proper precautions – chiefly strong fences, secure coops, and conscientious egg-collecting and coop-latching – your chickens can still live a long and prosperous life, even surrounded by the salivating predators of the Roanoke valley.

Tim Carr

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