This Chicken Predator Lives in the House

Anyone tending a backyard flock knows that hungry predators are eager to convert a hen, or even a whole flock, into lunch. Raccoons, weasels, mink, foxes, and raptors are amazingly common even in suburban and urban areas. Protecting chickens from these hungry animals requires keeping them securely locked up in a tight coop during the dark hours when most predators prowl.


Many flock owners would be amazed to learn that a major chicken predator is probably the most common suburban animal. If free ranging dogs can access chickens, they’ll often convert them into a lifeless bundle of feathers. Nationally dogs likely kill more backyard chickens than raccoons or foxes. When they are in their run during daylight hours, chickens are most vulnerable to free ranging dogs. A tight fence around the run reduces the threat.

Dogs don’t just kill adult chickens. They also target chicks and sometimes even incubating eggs.


We were recently in a farm store looking at chicks for sale. A young girl was admiring the babies with her mother and said to us, “We’re here to buy chicks because our dog got into the brooder and killed ours.”  Her mom was embarrassed and said, “Our family dog is almost always calm, friendly and unaggressive. We weren’t worried about our chicks in the basement brooder. From now on we’ll keep the dog away from the chicks,” she said.


It’s hard to know why a pet dog will kill chicks. Dogs are natural predators, but it may be jealousy. The family dog is used to getting plenty of positive attention from a family. Then, when chicks arrive and are put in the brooder, attention shifts away from Fido to the cute newcomers. In its own way the dog solves the problem and the chicks lose.


Pet predation isn’t limited to chicks. When Rich was in middle school, he and his father built an incubator and stocked it with fertile eggs. The incubator was in a closet in Rich’s bedroom and often the family would look at the eggs and turn them twice a day. All that attention was noticed by the family dog who had never shown any streak of aggression. But when the family was away, he got into the incubator and broke all the eggs. It was heartbreaking.


There’s a lesson. The family dog, and probably cats as well, should be kept away from incubating eggs and baby chicks.