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Raccoon in the chicken house

Trail of feathersA couple of weeks ago, I wandered into the coop...and shrieked!  A big raccoon was clambering out as I came in, probably attracted to the food scraps I'd left in the deep bedding for the flock to pick through.  The coon wasn't very shy, and I had to chase it off the roof with a potato fork.

At the time, I considered getting the gun since raccoons can eat chickens and this one had clearly decided the coop was its territory, but it seemed a bit unfair to shoot a wild animal when it hadn't actually killed anyone.  Now I wish I'd been more hard-nosed.

A couple of days later, I entered the coop to see this trail of feathers.  I counted heads and everyone was accounted for, but the eggs had been eaten in the nest box and the flock was skittish.

Chicken in the garden

Chicken roosting on fenceAnother night, another trail of feathers.  I assume our rooster fought the raccoon off each time, but the chickens were clearly sick of their nightly battle.  I didn't realize at first that the problem was escalating, but then hens started showing up in the garden in the morning, and when I went down to visit them at dusk, I saw why --- they were flying up to roost on the honeysuckle-covered fence, considering it safer than their perches in the coop.  One hen even flew twenty feet up into a walnut tree.

At first, I tried to chase the girls back off the fences and into the coop, but they were having none of it.  So Mark and I moved on to plan B.  We'd recently slaughtered our broilers and won't have more until late August, so we laboriously snagged chickens off the fenceline that night and moved them all to the vacant, safer coop close to the house.  I'd wanted to let those pastures rest a while, but I'd rather have Carrying a chickenmy girls ruin the sward than get eaten by a naughty coon.

Changing their accomodations is only a short term fix, and we need to make a decision on the long term solution soon.  We might upgrade the coop to make it predator-proof, or I might try to find that raccoon and shoot it after all.  (We've never had a coop visitor previously, so I suspect if we get rid of this marauder, we may go another year or two before anyone else moves in.)  I probably should also stop putting the compost in the deep bedding, although I hate to do away with a system that's working otherwise.  Ideas?

Our chicken waterer makes care of the flock so easy, you have time to fight off the coons.

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I've seen a raccoon get into chicken houses and go on a killing spree. Now I have no tolerance for raccoons in my chicken shed. They're easy to trap, do you know anyone with a live trap? Marsh mellow and sardines work well as bait, but the sardines will catch other critters like cats, skunks and opossums.

Some states allow you to relocate problem animals, others strictly forbid it. Each state also has regulations that cover the trapping of nuisance animals outside of trapping season.

Do you know any trappers in your area? You might be able to get them to remove to problem raccoon now in exchange for allowing them to remove more from your property this fall when their pelts are worth some money.

If you decide to get a trap and take care of the problem yourself you can expect to pay $30 to $50 for a new raccoon sized live trap. (The steel jaw traps are much cheaper but have a much longer learner curve to master using.) You can used live traps if you look, I often see them on craigslist for around $20.

With a live trap try and place the bait so the raccoon can't reach in through the wire from the outside and grab all the bait. (Or place the trap inside a large trash bag to force to raccoon inside to get the bait.) Some traps can be opened if the cage rolls, and coons will do it, so I place the trap up against a wall or similar obstruction and poke an old arrow down through the wire from the top to the bottom of the cage to keep it from rolling. If you have a coon escape from a live trap you may never catch it again.

If you ever catch a skunk in a live trap you run a 50/50 chance it will spray if you shoot it in the cage. To remove the skunk get an old blanket and hold it up in front of you as you approach the trap. Walk slowly while holding the blanket and drape it over the live trap once you get to it. You can open the door right there or relocate it to where you would like to release the skunk. Just prop open the door and leave; the skunk will come one once it has calmed down.

Comment by Heath early Monday morning, August 6th, 2012
We've been using two strings of hotwire; one 6 inches from the ground and the other 6 inches from the top of the fence around the coop. It's been really good at keeping snakes, opossums, and raccoons out of the chicken yard after the chickens have been penned up for the evening. We turn it off during the day when we let the chickens out.
Comment by Andrea at lunch time on Monday, August 6th, 2012

Heath --- I think I'm going to have a zero tolerance policy from now on. I just didn't know any better... :-/

We actually did get a live trap to play with trapping rabbits, but I suspect it's too small for a raccoon. I think my brother might have a bigger one --- I'll have to ask him. It sounds like you've had a lot of experience with trapping!

Andrea --- We may have to resort to that. I'm always leery of electric fences and prefer just about any other workaround, but we do sometimes end up there in desperation....

Comment by anna late Monday afternoon, August 6th, 2012

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