I know how frustrating it can be when something gets to your chickens and you are left wondering what happened. I have wondered what killed my chickens before, as I have gone outside to piles of feathers, half-eaten birds, and even just carcasses with the heads removed.
While I’ve learned how to determine what killed my birds, I know that it can be tricky to do so. I put together this tutorial to help you get to the bottom of this mystery so that you aren’t ever left wondering what is killing chickens at your home.
Your Chicken could have been Killed by a Dog
The first time I was wondering what was killing my chickens, I needed to look close to home. Unfortunately, dogs love to kill chickens, and so I always tell people to look at their family pet or their neighbor’s dog first. While you may not think that your dog would kill chickens, you could be surprised.
Protect your Chickens with a Livestock Guardian Dog
Because there are some breeds that are definitely more prone to killing chickens, my recommendation is to consider getting a livestock dog that was bred to be outdoors with your animals. While accidents can still happen, chances are good that dogs who are bred to be around livestock will leave your chickens alone.
If there aren’t any dogs anywhere near you, then you will need to expand your search when looking for what killed your chickens, making sure that you bear in mind that most any predator in the area will think that your coop is full of delicious food that will make an easy meal.
My Chickens Killed by Wildlife?
I’ve also dealt with wild animals attacking and killing my flock. The problem with narrowing down the wild animals that got into your coop is that you must really pay attention to the signs that they left behind. When I am trying to determine what killed my chicken, I pay attention to:
- Any chicken feathers left behind
- What happened to the chicken’s eggs
- If the chickens were removed from the coop
- If the chickens were eaten on sight
- Whether or not the animal ate after they killed my chicken
I know that this is a lot to take in, but since every wild animal will leave behind different signs that they were in your coop killing your birds, you really must play detective. I learned that I can easily determine what killed my birds by paying attention to the clues that they left behind.
Chicken Killers Usual Suspects
Some of the most common wild predators that I have suspected of killing birds are:
- Hawks or owls
Trail Cams to the Rescue
Pay attention to the range of the animal that you suspect oversaw the kill, and that will help you narrow down what killed your flock, as well. I find that if I am struggling to determine what animal killed my chickens, that using a great trail cam helps. I love using this powerful cam to keep an eye on my chickens.
While trail cams are often used after the attack has occurred, I find that running one on a regular basis allows me to easily determine what killed my chicken when I do have an issue.
Improve Security for your Chickens
If you aren’t checking the security of your coop and pen on a regular basis, then you may invite predators into your flock without realizing it. When I had something killing my chickens, I made sure that I improved coop security so that I could stop them from entering. Weasels and snakes especially can enter through tiny holes that are difficult to see, so regular maintenance is important.
If you have had a rough storm recently with high winds then your coop is not going to be nearly as secure as before, and some predators will try to sneak in and kill chickens in your coop. You can prevent this by constantly improving your coop’s security.
Sometimes Accidents Happen
Nobody ever wants to think that they may be the reason that their chickens are dead, but sometimes your chickens die because of something that you have done, not because of a predator getting into their run or their coop. If you have done everything you can to protect your chickens from predators, and they are still dying, you need to continue your search.
I find that there are some very common things that can kill chickens, and unless you are careful, you may put your flock at risk. One huge problem is poison. Using poison to deter unwanted pests is a great way to protect your birds, but you need to clean out the dead animals immediately. Chickens are very curious and will often peck at a dead animal, which can lead to their death.
Killed by the Food You Feed Em
Another thing that can kill chickens is the food that you feed them. Everyone wants happy hens, so it’s normal to share kitchen scraps with your birds, but some foods are unhealthy. Make sure that you skip nightshades and also that you inspect any food you give them for signs of rot or mold.
Beware Chickens Eating Sharp Object
Another way that you may be killing chickens without realizing it is if they are accidentally eating bits of glass, nails, or wire when they are free ranging. Unfortunately, these items can easily lodge in the gizzard and will cause bleeding which may lead to an infection and death. Always clean up after yourself when you complete a project to protect your birds.
What Killed my Chickens? Detective Time
As you can see, there are several things that may have killed your chickens, and it’s up to you to do some detective work to figure out what the culprit was. Using this trail cam is a great way to help speed up the process. Comment if you have any questions about how I research when my chickens are killed by a predator and I’ll help you through the process. Remember these tips to learn more about what animal is killing chickens at your home:
- Look for dogs that may have killed your chickens
- Keep an eye out for wild predators
- Make sure that you didn’t kill your chickens
- Invest in a high-quality trail cam to help with monitoring the chickens