It’s groundhog day. Quite literally. Today we are going to be taking a closer look at whether these rodents, native to the squirrel family and otherwise known as woodchucks, pose any significant risk to your flock of chickens. Besides, while most squirrels are harmless, groundhogs are a little different and they are certainly a lot larger.
So, do groundhogs eat chickens? Groundhogs do not eat chickens, are instead mostly vegetarians and plant-eaters. While they have been known to eat small insects at times, they will not go after or hunt your flock.
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That being said, groundhogs are pests and are a real nuisance to any chicken keeper. And while they will not kill your chickens, they still can pose a threat.
And it can be quite a significant one depending on where they have been and what they are carrying.
So, they do need to be taken seriously.
Especially if you know they are residing on your property, there is evidence of them, or if you know you have quite a few in your area.
They are commonly found in North America, after all.
There is not a saying, or a film, for no reason. In fact, the meaning of the term relates specifically to when these rodents come out of their holes at the end of hibernation.
Let us now take a closer look at how dangerous these large wild ground squirrels can be to your birds, before looking at exactly how to keep them away.
Are Groundhogs Dangerous To Chickens?
Groundhogs are not directly dangerous to chickens. However, they can dig burrows, potentially compromising chicken pen security and allowing actual predators easier access. Monitor burrowing activity to protect chickens and their environment.
Although groundhogs will not attempt to kill or eat your chickens, their risk is twofold:
- They can compromise your chicken pen security
- They can steal your chicken’s feed.
- They can carry diseases.
Compromising Chicken Pen Security
Their desire to burrow can unintentionally pose a risk to your birds.
- Burrow Entrances: Groundhog burrows often have multiple entrances and exits. These can inadvertently provide access points for predators such as foxes, raccoons, or even stray dogs. Such animals, if they discover these openings, can easily sneak into a chicken pen and wreak havoc.
- Pen Stability: Continuous burrowing near or under the chicken coop can weaken its foundation. Over time, this could cause structural issues, making the coop less secure against larger, more determined predators or even leading to its collapse.
- Chicken Injuries: Open burrows can be hazardous for free-ranging chickens. They might accidentally step into a hole, potentially causing sprains or broken legs.
- Resource Competition: While not a direct threat, groundhogs might nibble on the same greens or food sources you provide for your chickens, leading to competition.
Stealing Food and Feed
Groundhogs can be quite the scavengers. They are wild animals that need to eat, after all.
Many foods that we offer our chickens, whether it be pellets, fruits and vegetables, are also quite enticing. Besides they are vegetarians.
And like many wild animals that rely on their senses to remain safe and live off the land – they have a very keen sense of smell.
So, if you leave any food out regularly or your feeders can easily be accessed – chances are local groundhogs will stop by to visit.
And they’ll eat a lot of food.
Not only can this be immensely costly, but it can also leave your chickens without enough food.
Especially when we consider the pecking order, and those at the bottom tend to eat last.
So, we certainly should allow it. Even if the thought of providing for nature is something you like the idea of.
Start this process off, and it will only get worse.
Parasites and Disease
Secondly, as wild animals, groundhogs can and do carry fleas and ticks.
Not only can these parasites be passed on to your flock, causing a whole host of issues there – but these parasites can also carry diseases.
Lyme and Powassan and perhaps the two to be most aware of.
And these can be passed to chickens, and onto humans too. So certainly a worry.
They are also known carriers of the rabies virus so you really do need to be careful.
Especially in your approach to keeping them away from your property.
With these three factors firmly in mind, we can quite confidently say that groundhogs pose a risk to you and your flock – and must be kept away.
What Time Of Day Do Groundhogs Feed?
Groundhogs most commonly feed in the early morning, soon after the sun rises.
It is during this time that they will use their keen sense of smell to forage for vegetation, which will include a variety of grasses.
When they are not out feeding, they are known to sunbathe and keep warm using the heat of the sun.
Groundhogs sleep at night and are active during the day, making them diurnal animals and sharing similar patterns to us humans.
So, consider these feeding patterns in mind when feeding your flock.
As your chickens will too eat at the start of each new day, you do need to be careful during this time.
How To Keep Groundhogs Away From Chickens
To keep groundhogs away from chickens: install underground fencing, use repellents, maintain a tidy environment, eliminate food temptations, and employ humane live traps for relocation.
If they have done so, then it will be slightly more challenging.
Nevertheless, let us now take a closer look at how you can approach it either way.
Deter Via Their Burrows
Burrows are small underground tunnels where groundhogs live.
These tunnels have multiple entrances and exits and are not the type of thing you want in your backyard.
Not only will you have to constantly deal with groundhogs stealing your chicken scraps, but they will also destroy all your plants.
If you find groundhog burrows in your garden…
Here’s what to do…
Use An Ammonia Solution
If you’re looking for the best way to get rid of groundhogs once and for all, then pouring ammonia down their burrow holes won’t let you down.
It stops them from wanting to return to the burrow, and actively look elsewhere.
Ammonia is a gas composed of nitrogen and hydrogen atoms.
It has a distinct odor that will scare groundhogs away, preventing your chicken scraps from being stolen, and your backyard from being destroyed.
The best way to make ammonia is in your home by using a few simple ingredients.
First, fill a quarter cup with water and add two tablespoons of detergent.
Next, add two full cups of ammonia, and you’re good to go.
Be aware that ammonia can burn your skin and eyes, so it’s important to wear gloves and goggles when making the solution.
Make sure to pour it down all the burrows in your backyard, as there are probably more than one.
Do this over several days and your backyard should now be free from groundhogs.
The Garlic And Pepper Method
Another great way to get rid of groundhogs is to chuck crushed garlic and pepper inside their burrows.
Similar to ammonia, groundhogs are repelled by the smell of garlic and pepper, causing them to flee in no time.
Make sure to continuously do this until all the groundhogs have left the burrow.
As you may already know, groundhogs tend to be scared of humans.
You can use this to your advantage by throwing your own hair clippings down their burrows.
They will be able to sense there is a human close by and, in most cases, will relocate to a new location.
This is generally the next best solution if you can’t get your hands on some dog urine; or really don’t want to.
And I don’t blame you!
The Lime Technique
Placing lime around the burrow holes will burn the groundhogs’ feet every time they enter or exit.
Over time, this causes the groundhogs to find a move suitable home…
Preferably somewhere other than your backyard.
Consider Getting A Dog
Getting a dog may be the best solution to solving your groundhog problem once and for all.
But of course, this may not be viable for everyone.
Groundhogs create their burrows in places where they feel secure.
So having a dog running around your backyard isn’t what they consider ‘secure’, and will cause them to relocate to a new home.
Dogs are cute.
If getting a dog is out of the question, then a cat will also do the trick.
On the flip side, if neither of these is viable options, then you can borrow some dog urine from a friend, and pour it down the groundhog burrow over the course of several days…
This will scare the groundhogs away just as well.
I know it’s pretty gross – but it works!
What To Do After Groundhogs Leave Your Backyard
After using the methods mentioned above, your backyard should now be free from groundhog burrows.
That doesn’t mean they won’t reenter your backyard, especially if they smell chicken scraps.
That’s why it’s important to take the necessary precautions to prevent this from happening.
Let’s talk about what you can do below…
Build A Fence
One of the best things you can do to prevent groundhogs from returning to your backyard is to build a fence.
There are some important requirements you must take into consideration.
To stop groundhogs from digging under the fence, it needs to be built at least two feet into the ground.
It also needs to be over four feet high…
They will be able to jump over it.
Who knew groundhogs were such capable creatures!
If spending money building a fence isn’t an option, then you can also set various traps throughout your property.
There are two different types of traps you can find — live traps and lethal traps.
Live traps work by closing a cage door whenever a groundhog enters.
On the flip side, lethal traps will crush the groundhog when it enters, killing it instantly.
I recommend sticking with live traps as they are the most humane way to get rid of groundhogs.
Also, if you use lethal traps, there’s the added chance it may end up killing the wrong animal. For example, a neighbor’s cat that enters your garden…
And that’s the last thing you want to happen, especially if you’re not on good terms with the neighbor.
As groundhogs typically eat a plant-based diet, the best way to lure them into your trap is by using either strawberries, vegetables, or any other sweet fruits you can get your hands on.
Once you have one trapped, to have the best chance of getting rid of it for good, release it in the woods at least 10 miles away.
In addition, if you’re looking to get the best live trap for groundhogs, then look no further than the Havahart Groundhog Cage Trap.
This is the best one to get from Amazon, at least according to reviews.
It contains two spring-loaded doors that instantly trap any groundhogs as soon as they enter the cage.
Furthermore, it’s designed to last, and if maintained correctly, should last you for years to come.
I know the thought of trapping groundhogs may not sit well with you, but it is an approach to consider. Or at least leave it to your local pest control to handle.
If you are worried about the law; fear not.
While federal law protects a lot of animals, protection is removed if the animal is damaging or destroying personal property.
Thus, groundhogs are permitted to be killed if they are causing such damage especially if it could lead to further issues, like around structural building foundations.
Install Sonic Devices
If there’s one thing groundhogs hate…
You can use this in your favor by installing some sonic devices throughout your backyard.
Sonic devices look like giant nails that you hammer into the earth.
They are solar operated and will send vibrations through the ground every 30 seconds.
The great thing about them is you only need one or two depending on the size of your backyard, as they can reach up to 60 feet in every direction.
The vibration will not only scare away groundhogs, but also prevent other pests from entering your backyard such as snakes, moles, rats, and mice.
One of the best sonic devices you can get your hands on is designed by DZ Services (also available on Amazon).
You can choose between a two-pack or a four-pack, depending on the area you’re looking to cover.
Furthermore, they are completely waterproof and will continue to function for up to 5 days with no sun…
Which is great…
Unless you live in a snow-filled country.
Use Talcum Powder In Your Backyard
Similar to Ammonia, groundhogs hate the smell of talcum powder.
Sprinkling it around your backyard may keep them away…
It may not always work for long.
So, talcum powder generally works best when combined with the other solutions on this list, such as sonic devices.
Are Groundhogs Aggressive To Humans?
Groundhogs aren’t known to be aggressive to humans; however, they may give you a nasty bite if they are scared and see you as a threat. In self-defense and as a last resort, that is.
And due to the diseases and parasites which they can carry you do need to be particularly careful.
As such, do not try to corner a groundhog or ever attempt to go after one.
At the same time, always wear gloves, other protective equipment and be vigilant of proper hygiene practices if you ever need to handle one.
Such as may be the case if you are trapping them in a cage.
Keeping groundhogs away from chickens is imperative.
While they may seem cute, they are dangerous in deceptive ways.
Its not their fault of course, and its not intentional, but this does not help your cause or your chickens, for that matter.
Remember, groundhogs are very capable diggers with a fantastic sense of smell.
You’ll be surprised at how efficient they are at digging their way toward your chicken coop and stealing their food.
So, if you know that groundhogs are already residing on your property, now’s the time to get rid of them once and for all.
If you implement the steps I’ve outlined above, groundhogs entering your backyard and chicken coop should be a thing of the past.
Thankfully, there are many different methods to try.
Do Groundhogs Eat Chicken Eggs?
Groundhogs will not look to eat chicken eggs. Their primary food source is plants and vegetation, which they will always seek out first and foremost. However, they do eat some animal-based foods in the form of small insects which does prove to be an exception. Other than that the closest thing to chicken eggs that they eat are small bird eggs, which again they eat only on rare occasions.
Wondering what other animals and predators pose a threat to your flock?… My guide below will be of interest:
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.