Raising chickens can be tough. If you’ve tried in the past, you may have lost one, two, or more chicks to illness, bad weather, and just simple rookie mistakes.
Getting them past that crucial stage of early life can be a challenge. You have to get temperatures right, make sure they’re getting enough food, and keep a clean supply of water.
Even then, adult chickens can decide in a moment that they don’t like a chick and it’s game over.
When chickens are a bit bigger, they move into coops where life becomes a bit easier.
Raising them isn’t without challenges though, and you have to constantly check on them and make sure the conditions are right. They can’t be too hot or too cold, they need the right amount of space and a steady supply of good food and clean water.
On top of all that stress, you’ve got chicken predators to worry about. Florida, with its swamps and warm weather, is a predator’s paradise. Wildlife thrives in this climate, so predators flock to the state and are here in good numbers.
There are predators local to Florida like the ever-present alligators, and introduced predators like pythons that have been in the news so much lately.
Keeping your chickens safe from predators in Florida takes a lot of work. They are seemingly everywhere and can come from under the ground or from above in the sky.
Here’s a list of 15 chicken predators you should be aware of as well as some tips on keeping your chickens safe.
15 Floridian Chicken Predators
Florida is famous for its alligator population. They are certainly a big draw. Mascots are named after them, and tourists from all over the world make alligator swamp tours part of their experience here.
You can see YouTube videos of alligators walking across golf courses right next to golfers, or taking a stroll down a suburban street.
The bottom line is, alligators aren’t worried about being around people, and if they see a chicken, it’s a delicious meal for them.
Raccoons are animals of opportunity. They are nocturnal, so only come out at night. You can find raccoons digging through trash bins or scouring the ground for leftover scraps most of the time.
What surprises most people about raccoons is just how smart they are. They are extremely cunning and are capable of taking down a chicken.
The thing about raccoons is, if you don’t deal with a raccoon early, they become bolder and bolder as time goes on. They won’t even care if you’re watching them snatch your chicken. They’ll do it anyway.
Hawks are all over Florida and love to kill and eat chickens. Usually, hawks hunt smaller birds and rodents, but chickens are larger and are easier to kill.
Even small hawks that are much smaller than chickens will easily kill them with their beaks and sharp claws.
Chickens are essentially defenseless against such a skilled predator. They’ll hunt them during the day or at night, so you’ve always got to be on the lookout.
If you lose a chicken to a hawk while they’re out getting some exercise in the yard, you’ve almost got to simply chalk it up to mother nature doing her thing.
Ok, so dogs aren’t what you would typically think of as a chicken predator, but dogs kill chickens all the time. If a neighbor dog gets loose and your chickens are outside of the coop, you can probably expect to lose a chicken or two.
There’s just something about their instincts when they see a chicken. Some dogs love to chase squirrels, birds, and other animals. It’s just that chickens are slower, bigger, and easier to catch.
Iguanas are not native to Florida, and they are considered an invasive species. Their population is exploding, though, and it is having an impact on local ecosystems.
Iguanas are like garbage disposals. They’ll eat anything that they can catch and swallow. Usually, this means small insects and other things they can get a hold of.
However, iguanas will also eat chicks and small chickens if given the chance. If you see one lurking in your yard, you need to move quickly to get them out of there.
Owls are another bird of prey that would love to eat one of your chickens. You may think of an owl as a cute, fluffy bird.
However, owls are high up on the food chain when it comes to birds of prey. They hunt at night for rodents and other birds but will go a long way to kill and eat a chicken.
Owls are extremely quiet when they fly, so chances are your chickens won’t even see or hear anything before one of their chicken friends goes missing.
There are cats on the loose all over Florida whether it’s your neighbor’s outdoor cat or one of many feral cats in the state.
Cats have sharp teeth and claws and, despite their small size, have a lot of predator instincts in them.
If you’ve ever been around a house cat, you’ve likely seen them ball up ready to pounce like a tiger whenever they see a bird or a squirrel nearby.
Cats can take down a chicken without too much effort.
Foxes are like raccoons, only a bit higher up on the predator scale because they are bigger and have the jaws to kill animals with ease.
They also have stronger predatory instincts. Foxes are very smart animals and will spend time surveying the scene before going in for a kill. They’ll plan their escape as well, so you won’t hear them coming or going.
It’s normal for chicken owners to wake up in the morning and see that their entire coop has been decimated, and they didn’t hear a thing in the night.
Pythons are another non-native predator in Florida. They are an especially big problem in the Everglades, where irresponsible snake pet owners ditched their pythons and now they’ve exploded in numbers.
Animal control catches massive wild pythons every year, and there seems to be no end in sight. If you live somewhere in Florida with pythons, you’ve always got to be on the lookout.
They can slither into your yard without too much noise and will make a nice snack out of one or more of your chickens.
Coyotes have been spotted in every single county in Florida. People have even seen them on popular beaches.
Coyotes are one of the most deadly chicken hunters all over the country. Every year, they seem to be encroaching further and further into suburban areas looking for food.
They hunt at night and are very smart, making it difficult to keep them out of chicken coops. Coyotes are so smart that they’ll even go so far as to make friends with your dog so they won’t bark to wake you up at night.
While alligators get most of the shine in Florida, the state is home to a lot of crocodiles too. You can find crocs in many areas of southern Florida.
Their broader snouts and longer teeth help differentiate them from their cousins, the alligators. These animals are usually shy, and will not typically go into neighborhoods, they’re powerful hunters that can easily kill chickens.
Bobcats are deft hunters that can kill everything from a tiny mouse to something larger like a small deer.
They’re not usually spotted in places where people live, but trail cameras can catch them walking through a yard at night looking for their next meal. Bobcats will make quick work of your chickens, and will usually kill more than just one at a time.
You probably wouldn’t guess that a skunk would come after your chicken. But skunks can be very aggressive animals, particularly if they are hungry.
As with most predators, skunks are always looking for smaller animals that won’t give them too much trouble in a fight. Chickens are the perfect meal for them because they can kill them without too much trouble.
Like many other predators on this list, opossums are omnivorous animals. They eat a lot of plants, fruits, roots, etc., in addition to the birds, insects, fish, and occasional chicken they come across.
Opossums live in many areas where humans do, so if you’re raising some backyard chickens, you need to watch out for them.
They love eggs too, FYI. Opossums are smaller predators, so they will usually eat just one chicken at a time. They are also messy eaters, so your coop will probably look like a crime scene after they’re done.
Weasels are among the smallest predators in the world. They have long, thin bodies, but don’t let their cuteness fool you.
They hunt for chickens during the day and at night, striking an opportunity whenever they see it. What makes weasels so dangerous is that they can squeeze through very small spaces. A crack in a gate or fencing that’s too porous is enough space for them to find their way into your coop and kill your chickens.
Tips for Protecting Your Chickens From Predators
Chicken owners who are determined to keep their flock safe can take steps to improve coop security. Some small changes to your build and design will go a long way in keeping predators away.
- Install an electric fence: That will scare off all but the most determined predators. The current will give any would-be killers a strong jolt that will stun them. They’ll know this isn’t a place they want to try.
- Install metal coverings where your chickens can hide: Their chicken instincts will let them know that they should seek cover while they’re out ranging, and hawks or other birds won’t be able to see them as well.
They’ll also not want to dive down to try and snatch one for fear they might end up ramming into a metal roof at high speed.
- Install fencing on all sides of your coop and outdoor area: That way you can still let your chickens out of their coop without worrying about weasels, birds, alligators, and other predators. Essentially, you’re building a bigger cage where they are always protected.
- Install motion lights or solar-powered lights: They can stay on through the night without adding to your electric bill. Nocturnal predators hate attacking when there is light. It makes them feel unsafe and obscures their vision.
Using a Guard Animal
Using a guard animal to protect your chickens is another great idea if you are so inclined. Animals like dogs, donkeys, llamas, etc. do a great job warding off many of your chickens’ most common predators.
They’ll either make a lot of noise that will push them away, or they’ll get physical and attack to defend your chickens should the situation demand it.
You’ll want to do some research, though, on what type of guard animal is for you. Remember, you can’t just buy any old dog and think that they’ll protect your chicken.
You need to get a herding dog with a guard dog pedigree. That way they’ll guard your chickens instead of killing them when you’re not looking.
Raising chickens takes a lot of work. If you’re in Florida, you have to deal with more predators than the average Joe because of how many predatory animals are in the state.
They come from below and above, so you’ve always got to be on guard if you want your chickens to stick around for long.
Knowing what predators are out there and taking steps to deter them are the best ways to raise happier and healthier chickens for longer.