As a chicken keeper, one of your primary concerns will be protecting your birds from predators. But what about skunks? Are these a threat and danger to your chickens? Will they actively seek out, attack and kill or even eat them? I spent some time researching all about these wild animals and their instincts. I will be sharing all that I found here today.
So, do skunks eat chickens? Skunks often kill and eat young chickens along with any eggs, but they rarely kill or eat adult chickens. With that said, skunks are opportunistic eaters and will eat what they think they can safely overcome and kill.
Young chickens and eggs are often the most defenseless and therefore the easiest meal for a skunk; just like any other predator.
So, if you currently or are looking to own any, you need to remain extra vigilant.
That being said, it is not unheard of for skunks to kill and eat adult chickens either; especially the smaller breeds.
As such, it does depend somewhat on the circumstances; your flock, their age, and of course their size.
And as tough as chickens are generally, there are still a desirable prey for a number of wild animals.
Large prey like foxes, coyotes, wild cats can kill chickens instantly, but even small animals like rodents can hurt chickens and kill their young.
If you have several skunks in your region, naturally, that will be a concern for you.
There are numerous tell-tale signs that you may have skunks around your property and you should be vigilant at all times when keeping a flock.
Skunks are notorious for their distinctive smell which may pick up on, otherwise there will be other signs to look out for.
There will likely be holes dug up in your yard and unsightly patches in the grass (as they seek out grubs); you may even notice some claw marks in and around the coop.
A skunk’s modus operandi (ways of working) is to dig under barriers to get chicks and chicken eggs. They don’t climb fencing like raccoons. They are most after the quick and easy wins.
Perhaps the biggest attraction, like many predators, is the smell of food. This is why it is so important to remove any uneaten food quickly from the coop and away from your birds.
Equally, if your backyard is untidy and has tall grass and plants to hide in, you’re giving predators like skunks opportunity, and a way to remain out of sight from humans.
Let us now take a closer look at this smelly predator and answer all of those similarly related questions you may have.
We will also be looking at how to protect your flock from them and other dangerous animals.
So, be sure to keep on reading to get all the information you need!
Do Chickens Attract Skunks?
Chickens can attract skunks, with the main reason being due to the allure of food.
Skunks, like most animals, are led to food by scent. They are opportunistic eaters -meaning they eat what they can find, what is available, and what is the easiest source of food.
As such, they have developed a strong sense of smell; meaning they can smell eggs, trash, and food scraps from a long distance away.
So, your first line of defense for your chickens and preventing skunks, is a clean and tidy chicken coop and run.
You must make sure that you keep your entire outside property clean and tidy.
Take up the eggs frequently, secure your trash can with a heavy lid, and put all food securely away.
When it comes to feeding scraps to your birds, you will need to quickly clean up and take away any of those that are not quickly eaten. Besides, these are likely to rot anyway and quickly become a source of bacteria and germs.
If you notice skunks digging up your yard, they are likely searching for grubs (as this is one of their other primary food sources).
Thus, one potential option to to reduce the number of grubs from your property by applying beneficial nematodes – this is an organic pest control that will not harm humans or animals.
Do Skunks Attack Chickens?
Skunks may attack chickens, depending on the size of your birds and the number of them in the flock.
Most chickens are relatively large, and not all skunks will be inclined to attack them directly unless they know they can win.
Chickens are not entirely defenseless either; they will often use their claws and beaks to protect themselves, and this can actually do quite a lot of damage.
For this reason, skunks will always prioritize the eggs first and foremost. They may then proceed to kill the chicks if no eggs are available.
While it’s rare for skunks to attack adult chickens, they may do so on occasion. It is more likely in smaller flocks, or where a chicken is left isolated and alone.
So, if you have only two or three chickens, a skunk is going to naturally feel a lot more confident.
Chickens tend to flock together when they are in danger which serves as a pretty successful defensive strategy. They have even been known to chase away large prey that would otherwise overcome them individually and quite easily.
As previously stated, skunks often look for the easiest source of nutrition.
Chicks in particular are the holy grail, because they are unequipped with any natural weapons that can be used to defend against the skunk (such as the ability to peck or even flee fast).
Skunks also have an ability to subdue chickens that are easily frightened, fragile, and defenseless. In doing so, they can better raid a chicken coop.
So your flocks behavior if a skunk came to visit is another factor in the events that are unlikely to unfold.
Beyond just the attack itself, any remaining live chickens are therefore subject to infection from any disease the skunk may be carrying.
Do Skunks Kill Chickens?
Skunks will usually kill younger, smaller chickens, but they can kill larger, adult chickens too. It all depends on how vulnerable the mature chickens are.
Skunks are opportunists, and weigh up a situation based on their innate ability to determine how likely it is to end in success.
This hesitance can work to our advantage as chicken keepers, as some skunks seem at times somewhat unaware at how sharp their teeth and claws are.
Unfortunately, this puts them at a strong advantage against most chickens if they did decide to strike.
It also means that we have relatively time to protect our flock once they do get in. So we have to be proactive and deterring should be an utmost priority.
For a skunk that did able to penetrate and gain access to the coop, they have a certain method of attack.
When going for the kill, they will attack the birds head and neck. From there they tear out the throat and neck. This will instantly kill the bird, and from there they can eat as much as they like.
Its absolutely brutal, and a shocking sight to see.
Their relative ease of being subdued is not the only reason why chickens are so tempting and appealing to the skunk; it’s also the reward they come with.
Chickens provide a lot of nutrition to skunks; they are an excellent source of fat and protein. A significant amount of soft, delicious meat – especially farm-fed, well-maintained chickens.
For a skunk, which on average are no longer than 42cm and 2kg of mass – this is a lot of food!
How To Protect Your Chickens From Skunks
Protecting your chickens from skunks and any other predator is one of your main responsibilities as a keeper.
You need to ensure you are proactive, doing all you can ahead of time to reduce the allure and to also seal off and keep your birds firmly protected.
In the context of skunks, its important to be aware of their behaviors, traits and instincts.
Skunks are nocturnal and can injure or kill your chickens during the night and while you sleep.
For this reason, without appropriate planning and protection it could be too late.
You will know skunks have visited or are residing on or near your property by their foul odor, 3 to 4 inch deep holes in your yard (where they dig looking for grubs), and you may notice five-toe foot-prints in the ground as they have five toes.
As mentioned above, you must routinely tidy up your yard, make sure you clean the coop regularly, collect the eggs frequently and remove food scraps at the end of the day.
Its all about reducing the smell of food.
In other words, you must remove all attractants.
As skunks routinely are on the search for grubs, applying beneficial nematodes is one such approach to consider.
But aside from eliminating attractants, there are a number of other things you should do;
Secure Your Chicken Coop
Securing the coop doesn’t mean just locking up your chickens at night. The coop itself needs to be secure, or a skunk can easily gain access.
Search for possible weak spots or entry points; this may require burying hardware cloth up to 20″ into the ground.
Skunks, along with a number of other predators, are notable diggers – and you’ll be surprised how far down they can go.
Put Ammonia-Soaked Rags Around Your Coop
Many chicken keepers report that placing ammonia-soaked rags around where you keep your birds works well at keeping skunks away.
The strong scent is very like a predator’s urine, which unnerves skunks. You can put the rags into metal containers to prevent the ammonia from seeping through the ground.
Install Solar Deterrent Lights
Solar LED deterrent lights are excellent at keeping nocturnal animals away from your coop.
The twin lights are often wrongly identified as the glowing eyes of predators. These lights will, undoubtedly, scare away skunks and other night-time pests.
These ones in particular are great from Amazon; cost-effective and very versatile with where you can put them.
Install Motion Sprinklers
Another commonly used predator deterrent are motion sprinklers.
You can put these around the perimeter of your property, and when an animal walks through the sensor, it will set them off and spray water.
This can be enough to startle a skunk, or other predator, into quickly fleeing or being deterred away from your birds.
Set Catch And Release Traps
If you have exhausted your efforts with the above methods and skunks still frequent your coop, try setting a few catch and release traps around your property.
This method can get you sprayed by a skunk, and this is why it’s often the last resort. For this reason it is usually best to contact your local pest control service to take care of the problem.
That being said, if you do want to take this challenge on yourself, you need to be careful with how you approach it.
First, you need to purchase appropriate traps, like this best-seller. That’s a given.
You can try using a variety of baits like cat food, bacon, bread with peanut butter, or canned sardines to entice skunks to the trap.
When they are trapped, you do need to approach with caution. You’ll also need to quickly wrap the skunk in a large towel and turn them upside down while holding.
Before returning the animal back into the wild, you must make sure that you check with your local authorities regarding release and relocation.
There are specific laws of what you can and cant do here. Otherwise contacting a local pest control service again is a good way to get advice.
You’ll also need to ensure you release the skunk at sufficient distance from your home, at least 3 miles without impacting other people.
Keeping chickens really is a great thing; they provide you with fresh eggs all year round, they can eat your table scraps, and they are great for children.
However, you must contemplate how you plan to keep your chickens safe from your own local predators.
Skunks and most other predators are opportunists, and will go a long way to getting the food they need.
If they can easily access the coop, then they pose a real and significant danger to your birds.
Especially if you have a small flock or several younger and smaller chickens.
Perhaps the best thing you can do when keeping chickens is to frequently spot clean.
In the circumstance where you know skunks or other predators around, you must act fast.
If you don’t wish to contend with the skunks yourself, you can always call your local wildlife removal professionals, and they will safely and legally remove them for you.
And remember; the presence of even just one lone skunk can be a serious threat to your chickens.
Skunks do drink chicken blood, especially if they have successfully attacked the neck of a chicken.
Wondering what other animals and predators pose a threat to your flock? Then my following guides may be of interest:
- Do Crows Eat Chickens?
- Do Hawks Eat Chickens?
- Do Eagles Eat Chickens?
- Do Owls Eat Chickens?
- Do Minks Eat Chickens?
- Do Badgers Eat Chickens?
- Do Weasels Eat Chickens?
- Do Groundhogs Eat Chickens?
- Do Bears Eat Chickens?
- Do Coyotes Eat Chickens?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.