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Do Coyotes Eat Chickens? [How Vigilant Do You Need To Be?]

Coyote populations are soaring. They can be found in virtually every US state, and they have even started to move and find homes in cities. As such, any chicken keeper will naturally be concerned about their presence. But do they typically go after chickens and are they a significant danger to your flock? I spent a lot of time researching these descendants of wolves, to find out exactly how concerned we all need to be.

So, do coyotes eat chickens? Coyotes do eat chickens if presented with the opportunity. They are mostly nocturnal, meaning they are most likely to attack your chickens at night, although if hungry enough may strike during the day. They tend to hunt in pairs, go for the neck, and will typically take a chicken away to eat if successful.

Coyotes have gotten quite the reputation.

As omnivores, they will actively seek out and eat range of plant based an animal foods. In fact, they will eat pretty much anything.

They have been known to eat smaller animals, such as rodents and rabbit, while also taking on deer, lambs, calves and other livestock.

In fact, they have even been known to eat cats in desperate times.

Add this to fish, frogs, insects and snakes and you do not really have much of a picky eater!

It comes as no surprise that they are considered a menace and that they can be very destructive pests.

With a long history and reputation for being clever, with Nature even describing them as the “new top dog“, they certainly need to be taken seriously if you own a flock of chickens.

So, let us now take a closer look at whether keeping chickens can attract this predator, what a coyote attack would look like, and perhaps most importantly; how to keep them away, and your birds protected.

Do Chickens Attract Coyotes?

Chickens can attract coyotes, if they are vulnerable and an easy target. However, if they are well secured, protected, and difficult to get to, coyotes are more likely to seek food elsewhere.

Sure, they may come for a visit and for an inspection, but if they decide the challenge ahead is too much; they should move on.

Here is why.

Coyotes are opportunistic eaters.

They actively seek out the ‘low-hanging fruit’; food that is easy to acquire and is the least challenging.

They do not want to expose themselves to any unnecessary threats, or situations that could get them hurt, or worse. Killed.

That being said, for chickens that are roaming, are unattended, and are open (especially during the darker periods of the day/early night), a coyote attack is certainly more than possible.

One thing to take into account is that coyotes mostly hunt during the night.

This is one particular reason why if your birds do free range, they need to return to the coop at night.

Thankfully, chickens usually know that this is home and it is safe from these kinds of predators. So, they should retire come the onset of dawn.

One final thing to consider is whether you have any other pets that could entice a coyote. It could be a cat, it could be a small dog.

It has been known for many owners to lose their smaller dogs to coyotes (or those that can easily be overcome).

Whereas other owners have reported that when owning larger breeds, they suspect coyotes may have be deterred.

So, whether coyotes are attracted to your property is all about temptation. Can they envision being fed on your property? Is such food easily obtainable?

These are the kind of questions you need to ask yourself.

In doing so, and seeing your property from the perspective of an opportunistic coyote, you’ll be much better prepared, and your flock, less susceptible to an attack.

What Do Coyotes Do To Chickens?

Coyotes will predominantly kill a chicken with a bite to the neck. They will also shake them aggressively to ensure they collapse; if the neck was not successfully broken. They’ll then drag the chicken away from the coop or the site of kill and to a safe area where they will eat them.

However, it has also been known that particularly hungry coyotes; or ones hunting in larger packs, may stay in the hunt. It has been known for them to decimate entire flocks!

While the neck is perhaps the most common style of attack, they have been known to go for the flank, or hindquarters – especially in situations where a chicken has made an attempt to escape.

Identifying an attack as an attempt by coyotes can prove a challenge, however. They do not tend to leave much evidence.

Besides, they can drag a chicken up to a mile away to consume them and they do tend to eat the lot!

Chances are – you’re not going to find your hen if they are taken.

Instead, you will need to look for any signs of struggle, such as a significant number of feathers on the ground, or perhaps even blood.

Depending on the season, the climate and the terrain, you may even be able to look for coyote paw tracks in the ground.

Here are the differences between a coyote print and a dog. This is especially important if you own a dog, as it is easy to confuse the two:


Its the hind foot that you should actively be looking for.

How Do You Keep Coyotes Away From Chickens?

Keeping coyotes away from chickens may take a little effort, planning, and consideration – but it is essential to keep your flock safe.

What you decide to do will also differ depending on where you live, the size of local coyote populations, how many chickens you keep, and of course the layout of your property.

All the while, its important to consider this quote by Stan Gehrt – wildlife ecologist at the Ohio State University and the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation:

“They have this amazing balance between being bold enough to hunt, attack, and kill something and being shy or savvy enough to avoid being killed themselves

Stan Gehrt

So, first and foremost, you need to do all you can to make your property as least attractive to coyotes, and other predators as possible.

Keep Your Property And Land Clean

Coyotes have survived challenging times by living off the land and what they have been able to find and overcome. This includes the hunting of small animals and seeking out berries, and other fruits.

The reason in why they have turned towards humans is in the pursuit of food.

So, you need to do all you can to ensure there is no food on your property.

And it can come in quite a few forms.

Garbage bins are a common offender; you’ll want to keep these inside, where you can. You’ll also want to ensure they are sturdy and secure, with a tight-fitting lid that cannot be knocked off.

From there its important that you store any chicken feed in appropriate containers, again keeping them inside.

You’ll need to partake in good husbandry – so this means that you should quickly be cleaning up any scraps or food your chickens have not eaten.

Consider that rodents and other pests can be a meal for coyotes; all of which can be attracted to your property in this way.

And its important to think outside of the box here.

Make sure you do not have any bird feeders or pet food left outside. At least for long.

It’s also a good idea to trim back any bushes, fruit trees, or other sources of food that could be growing on your property. Remember they are omnivores and are not just interested in animals and chickens!

Secondly, you want to make it as challenging as possible for a coyote to access your property or get anywhere near your flock. Here are some effective suggestions:

Predator Scents

An interesting, yet effective one nonetheless.

You can actually purchase urine scents of much larger predators that coyotes are instinctively afraid of – preventing them from proceeding any further.

Wolves and mountain lions are perhaps two of the main threats to coyotes, so seeking out scents from either of these two animals have been reported to work well.

This particular scent on Amazon has amazing reviews. In fact, its worth checking out for as its so interesting.

There are many reports of people having success with that product in regards to keeping coyotes away.

All you would need to do is line the perimeter of your property with a few sprays; it even works to prevent foxes and other predators too!

Also dont forge to spray around the outside of your coop, just in case they got that far.

Fencing

Fencing is one of the most effective ways to secure your property and keep coyotes and other predators out. But it needs to be done right.

It needs to be sufficiently tall, strong, and sturdy – being at least 6 feet in height above ground and buried at least 8 inches below ground to stop a coyote or other predator from digging underneath.

You’ll want to ensure that the fence is made of a durable and resilient material; galvanized hardware mesh is good, but better yet would be chain link fencing if you can afford it.

Either way, you need to ensure a slim and nimble coyote cannot squeeze through, climb over or dig underneath.

In erecting sufficient fencing, coyotes should learn that chickens are not a potential food source – because they cannot physically get to them.

Coyote Rollers

For added security, you can install coyote rollers onto the top of your fence.

These are relatively simple to fix, but they essentially prevent a coyote from gaining any grip or leverage on the fence – if they were to make it that high.

This Amazon best seller is the one to buy if you are interested in this deterrent.

Motion Sensor Lighting And/or Sprinklers

Both motion-sensor lights, or motion-sensor sprinklers can work particularly well.

As already mentioned, coyotes are mostly nocturnal and are most likely to strike during the night.

Setting up some motion-sensor lights that detect movement and shine bright can quickly scare off any predator.

You can even double up, with motion-senor sprinklers, which work in very much the same way. They sprinkle water however, instead.

But, doubling up also offers you the ability to deter predators, such as coyotes, come night or day.

Remember, while it is unlikely, coyotes can and still will strike during the day if hungry enough!

These Dimunt lights from Amazon seem to work very well, at a very good price.

The best way to install them would be at different heights, or at different angles/areas of your property. Better yet, the most vulnerable spots.

Dogs

While not a suitable solution for everyone, large breeds of dog can be a great strategy and solution.

But, this is an important caveat – small dogs will not work.

In fact, they could even contribute to the problem and could be equally vulnerable to coyotes as your chickens.

So, if you have the property, time, finances and the desire to take on a dog. They can help look after your flock.

A Great Pyrenes, for instance, can stand at 25 to 32 inches in height and can weigh up to 160 pounds.

Quite the deterrent.

Animal Control Centre Support

Of course, its always a good idea to know about the real level of threat, in your area.

Calling your local animal control centre can help you to understand the number of coyotes in the area.

They’ll also be able to help and advise you if you did have particularly high numbers, or were after more advice on how to approach minimizing their potential impact.

How Do I Protect My Chickens From Coyotes?

Protecting your chickens from coyotes will generally involve better security and safeguarding for your flock.

Prevention is always best, and there is certainly some overlap between keeping coyotes away from chickens and protecting them. They do serve the same purpose, after all.

However, there are important nuances between the two and a couple of additional steps can make all the difference, if a coyote (or pack) was to stop for a visit.

And, they were capable of overcoming an deterrent.

And at this juncture it’s important to state, that according to Humane Society of the United States, killing coyotes does not work in reducing coyote populations and trapping is not seen as a viable option.

So, what is there left to do? Fortify the defenses!

Appropriate Areas

Firstly, it’s imperative that you think about the placement and location of the coop and run, in relation to your property.

You need to ensure it is being kept in an appropriate area; not on the fringes of your property, near woodland areas, or too far from your house.

It cannot be secluded; coyotes and predators need to know this would be a risky and dangerous ploy.

Secure Coop

Securing the coop, and regularly inspecting it for weak points are encouraged.

Depending on your coop, this could mean installing galvanized hardware mesh liberally to secure it. Whether this is on the floor, or for areas around the walls, windows, vents, and doors. It should always be secured with heavy duty staples.

You may want to cover the floor entirely, or create a hardware cloth “skirt” a few inches around the outside perimeter – extending around 20 inches away from the sides. This will prevent digging predators from gaining access.

From there you will want to consider any locks and bolts; ensuring they cannot be picked by the most cunning of predators. Gate latches and slide bolts secured with carabiners are reported to work well, as are weather-resistant padlocks.

You may need to consider upgrading your coop altogether, or at the very least, making some DIY improvements.

Finally

The coyote is a very capable and formidable predator to chickens and the growing population statistics suggest that they are becoming more of a risk and danger to any chicken keeper.

While this is not to worry you, it instead should make you aware of the risk, and vigilant in your approach.

Thankfully there are a range of things we can do to protect our flocks and deter coyotes and other predators from our properties altogether.

At the end of the day, don’t make your chickens an easy meal.

Cayotes will kill and eat them; but as opportunistic eaters, if they are not accessible are likely to look elsewhere.