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How to Keep Your Chickens Safe from Raccoons

Mischievous raccoons, with their brown, shiny, alert eyes, cute black masks and unbelievably human-like hands, are arguably one of the cutest wildlife critters out there, but they are also sneaky, vicious chicken killers.

Don't let their cute faces fool you. Raccoons are strong and smart - and they want to eat your chickens. They'll eat chicken feed, scratch grains, eggs and baby chicks if given the opportunity. 

Raccoons will also drink from your chickens waterer (they love to dunk their food in water) and can possibly spread diseases such as rabies, parvo and distemper or parasites such as toxoplasmosis, encephalitis, giardiasis, roundworm and e.coli to your flock.

So don't give them the opportunity to wreak any havoc in your flock! 

How to Keep your Chickens Safe from Raccoons

There's a reason that raccoons are referred to as "trash pandas". Raccoons, like chickens, are omnivores meaning that they'll eat almost anything and they are very opportunistic hunters, so that means they like an easy meal. 

They'll likely be drawn to your chicken coop by the allure of a free meal especially if you leave feed or food scraps out - or don't securely lock your chickens up in their coop each night. 

Raccoon can be found in nearly every corner of North America in both urban and rural areas. They can weigh up to 20 pounds each. They often travel in groups and will spend all night trying to figure out how to break into your chicken coop where your unsuspecting flock is sound asleep. 

So it's of vital importance not to give them easy access to your chicken coop or run area.

Do Raccoons Come out During the Day?

While raccoons are mostly nocturnal, they will occasionally come out in the daylight (especially if they're rabid) and will attack if cornered. Despite their cute appearance, raccoons are one of the more nasty predators.

So if you see a raccoon out during the day, round up your chickens and other animals as quickly as possible to get them out of harm's way and then call your animal control officer or game warden. 

Or set up a trap. (Be sure to check the local regulations for trapping animals before setting the trap.)

If you decide to try to trap a raccoon, here are some suggestions for the best bait to use in the trap:

  • canned tuna
  • other canned fish such as mackerel or salmon
  • corn
  • bacon
  • marshmallows
And I have it on good authority from a friend of mine that raccoons are suckers for a yummy jam sandwich!

Signs that a Raccoon has Been Lurking

Short of seeing a raccoon, there are other ways to tell that one has been lurking in the area around your chickens. Of course, installing a trail cam is the best way to see exactly what's out there. 

A raccoon will usually make regular rounds on a 5-7 day schedule, so if you catch one on the trail cam, you should have a few days to be sure you're ready for their next visit. 

Other signs that a raccoon has been in the area include:

  • eggs missing from nests, i.e. drop in egg production
  • cracked eggs in nests
  • baby chicks missing
  • headless chicken carcasses
  • multiple chicken carcasses with the breasts missing
  • piles of feathers 
  • blood trails
  • rips in chicken wire or other thin fencing

Predator-proofing your Coop and Run

Keeping your chickens safe from raccoons poses a unique challenge. Unlike dogs, fox or coyotes, which will dig to chew through fencing to try to get at your chickens, raccoon dig and chew, but can also jump and climb. 

They will also reach through fencing to try to get at your flock and have been known to try to pull chickens or ducks right through the fencing. 

Raccoons have very high IQs and good memories which makes them a formidable opponent when it comes to predator-proofing your coop and run.

And while they don't actually have opposable thumbs, with their five-fingered hands, they can undo many types of latches and locks.

Suggestions to Keep Raccoons Away from your Chicken Coop

Raccoons don't see very well, but their sense of smell is quite acute.  And they don't like the following scents, so using these in your coop area can help repel raccoons:

  • apple cider vinegar
  • cayenne pepper
  • garlic 
  • lavender
  • peppermint
Try spraying my lavender mint coop refresh spray around your coop and run to keep raccoons away.  And be sure to keep your chicken feed, scratch grains and treats safely stored in covered metal containers.

Other ideas to keep raccoons away from your coop include:
  • play talk radio in your coop
  • set up a scarecrow
All of these suggestions are layers of security, but bottom line, the only way to really keep your flock safe is to use predator-proof fencing around your run and on all your coop windows and vents. 

Choosing Fencing to Keep your Chickens Safe from Raccoons

Chicken wire or regular window screen isn't going to keep a raccoon out. Raccoons can rip through chicken wire and screens pretty easily. 

They can also stick their hand through any holes larger than an inch in diameter, so chain link fencing won't deter a raccoon from trying to pull your chickens or ducks through the fencing (and yes, they will if given the chance!) 

Using 1/2" welded wire is the best choice for the coop windows and at least the bottom few feet of the run. And make sure the top of your run is covered as well.

Be sure the fencing is securely fastened to the run posts, etc. by using wood screws and washers or bolts, instead of simply stapling the fencing in place. Basically, if a 4-year-old child is strong enough to pull or rip through the fencing, so is a raccoon!

Choosing Latches and Locks to Keep your Chickens Safe from Raccoons

Of course, the strongest fencing in the world is no good if a raccoon can just go up to your coop or run door and undo the latch or lock.

Latches on chicken coops need to be pretty sophisticated to deter raccoons. Again, the rule of thumb is that if a four-year-old child can open a latch, then a raccoon probably can as well. 

Raccoons are very determined and will work at a problem until they solve it, so installing secure locks is a must. Raccoons can easily slide a deadbolt, turn a handle or knob, and lift a latch. Far safer types of locks include:

  • a combination lock 
  • a keyed padlock
  • a keyed deadbolt or lock
  • a spring-loaded locking eye hook
Even better than one latch is two - on all doors in the coop and run. (I have a locking eye hook on both the top and bottom of my run door.)

And don't forget to intall a predator-proof latch on the nesting box lid too. I've heard one too many stories of raccoons gaining access to the chicken coop through that avenue.

Hopefully these important tips will help you keep your chickens safe from the crafty, murderous raccoons out to harm them. 

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