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Which Predators Eat Baby Chicks?
Keeping chickens, whether you have just a few or a whole lot, is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Animal husbandry is very fun, and a lot of hard work. But at the end of all that work, you get a little "thank you" in the form of unlimited eggs, forever.
There's a lot that goes into making egg-laying chickens happy. Particularly, their enclosures are a big concern. Because in your neighborhood (or even your house) there are lots of predatory animals that want to eat them. This is especially true for chicks.
Knowing who to watch out for is key in building a safe enclosure and making sure your chicks make it to adulthood. Let's dive in and look at which common predators are after your chickens!
Pets That Love to Eat Baby Chicks
You probably weren't expecting to see your other pets on this list. But chicks are a perfect food source for lots of predators, including carnivorous pets. To give a few examples: snakes and large reptiles like monitor lizards will snap up a baby chick in a heartbeat.
When raising chicks in your home, it's imperative that you provide a secure environment for them, as well as your other pets. If your ball python locks eyes on them, all it sees is a bunch of yummy snacks.
But reptiles pale in comparison to another common pet, the champion bird-eater of the world. I'm talking, of course, about the common house cat. Cats kill over 2.4 million birds every year in the US alone [https://abcbirds.org/program/cats-indoors/cats-and-birds]. And helpless, tiny chicks are no exception.
Cats have a runaway predatory instinct that causes them to hunt for food, even if they're not hungry. They often hunt just to satisfy their prey drive, killing small animals like birds, bats, mice, and other rodents, before leaving them to rot.
Cats are also far and away the sneakiest of pets. If you're raising chicks and own a cat, be sure to brood and raise the chicks in a room your cat can't access. Because, chances are, they will try.
Predatory Birds (Raptors) that Hunt Baby Chicks
You probably wouldn't picture a hawk soaring over a city looking for chickens to snatch. But they do. Hawks, falcons, and owls all do very well in suburban areas, and commonly subsist on domestic animals, like chickens.
This poses a challenge to newbie chicken keepers, as having a tall wire fence isn't enough to keep a bird out. Many folks will fully enclose their chickens with wire. So any hungry raptor with its eyes on your birds can't swoop in and grab them.
Another solution (or partial solution, at least) is to include a rooster in your coop. Roosters are highly territorial and protective, and they will defend the flock with their spurs.
Taking it a step further, you can try hanging reflective material around your coop or enclosure. Things like small mirrors, reflective tape, or even old CDs throw off intense light that has been shown to deter raptors. Hawks, falcons, and owls are highly visual hunters. Hitting them with a random bright light will distract them, the same as a laser pointer might to a sniper.
Sneaky Mammal Predators
Similar to hawks and owls, there are lots of mammal predators that prowls yards at night looking for easy snacks. Raccoons, skunks, ferrets, stray cats, even coyotes and foxes (depending on where you live) are common in suburban areas.
Each of these animals is highly opportunistic. They will take whatever they can get, whenever they can get it. "Sitting ducks" is almost a perfect metaphor for what a coyote sees in your coop. But once you have a coyote problem, it rarely stops there. Coyotes can take larger pets, like cats, and may also rifle through your trash looking for treats.
The main issue with excluding mammal predators from your coop is how large they are. Coyotes can, and will, tear lesser materials like plastic with their teeth. They're also star jumpers, and even better diggers.
But they aren't the best climbers. The most agile are common predators are skunks, raccoons, and stray cats. They can climb vertical walls with surprising grace.
So when constructing your chicken coop, it's important to make sure there aren't any gaps that your sneaky mammal neighbors can exploit. This is an added benefit of adding a roof to your enclosure.
You can also add coyote rollers to deny access to anything trying to climb over your fence. Rollers are a good non-lethal option if coyotes (or other local fence jumpers) are an issue.
Last, it's important to bury your fence at least 18" deep to prevent animals from digging under and getting in. If you follow all of these steps, you're guaranteed to create a safe space for your chicks to grow into chickens and live happy lives.