Thief in the henhouse

We had a visit from a raccoon early this morning. Luckily, all the hens are OK but it was pretty scary at the time.

The dogs woke me up at about 4:15 this morning when they leaped out of bed and began barking. Then I heard the chickens squawking in distress. I threw on something suitable to wear outside and rushed out to the chicken run. I made the dogs stay inside just in case there was something out there I wouldn’t want them tangling with, like a skunk.

When I first approached the run, I saw something on the fence along the alley out of the corner of my eye, but by the time I shifted my focus, there was nothing there. The hens continued to squawk in distress, but I couldn’t see anything amiss. I walked through the garden, around the back of the garage, and into the yard behind the house. Still nothing moving. So, I let the dogs out and went back to calm the chickens down.

The chicken run. The raccoon was sitting in the tree just above.

The chicken run. The raccoon was sitting in the tree just above.

The dogs were going nuts dashing around the yard chasing scent trails. When I approached the chicken run this time, I finally saw the cause of their disturbance: a raccoon, calmly climbing along the tree around which the chicken run is built and settling into the place where the trunks converge. It seemed inclined to just stay there, and the dogs couldn’t do a thing to help. I couldn’t let them into the run, and even if I could, there is bird netting secured around the tree and covering the top of the run, making it challenging for anything to get in or out of the chicken run from the top.

This bird netting — flimsy as it may be — is the only thing that saved my hens. It’s not stretched taughtly across the top of the run. Instead, it is draped and tied in a loose and floppy manner. I think that this made it too difficult for the raccoon to bite it’s way through, so instead it had to try to reaching through any convenient opening to grasp whatever it could find.

I had to get rid of the raccoon, but I wasn’t sure what I could do. I looked around for something to throw at it, but nothing seemed suitable. So I pounded a bit on one of the posts and said “Get out of here! Go!” The raccoon obliged, climbing down the tree, down the fence, and then disappearing down the alley.

I opened up the run and the stepped in amidst the paniced chickens, who were crowding along the doorway. I picked each one up and shoved it into an Eglu run, then secured the run door closed. Now if the raccoon came back they would be able to take shelter in the Eglu coop where it would impossible for the racoon to reach.

I went back to bed, but it took a while to fall asleep. I was too keyed up and a bit afraid that I’m here by myself having to deal with this big, bad, ol’ raccoon with only a couple dogs to help. I slept an hour past sunrise, then got up to let the hens out of the Eglu into the main run. It was then I saw the evidence that Speedy had been in the clutches of the raccoon for a bit, at least.

Evidence of a crime

Evidence of a crime

White feathers were scattered here and there around the coop. I recalled how Speedy had been separate from the other hens when I first approached the coop in the early morning’s racket.

I looked inside the run and saw her hanging back a bit. Was she injured? I quickly grabbed her and checked her out. Near her tail I found a bare patch of skin where her feathers had been cleanly plucked out. There was no torn flesh and no bleeding, though she’s likely bruised. 

She was lucky. I have read in the Backyard Chicken Forums of chickens who’ve had legs and wings ripped off by raccoons. They grab whatever they can reach and can kill a chicken by tearing it apart.

Since the weather has gotten warmer I’ve gotten lazier about locking up the Eglu runs at night. The chickens have taken to roosting on top of an Eglu run, where they find the air cooler and they can satisfy their desire to perch above the ground. After the visit from the raccoon, I can’t let them do this anymore.

I’ve been keeping chickens for 3 years now and this is the first time I’m aware that a raccoon has come visiting. Now that one knows there are chickens here, I suspect it won’t be the last.

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4 thoughts on “Thief in the henhouse

  1. When I had a raccoon fall through my skylight screen, I called 311 and they sent an Animal Control team out to deal with it. It took an hour or so for them to get here, but otherwise it went smoothly. I vaguely recall that they said the animal would have to be put down.

    FYI raccoons are very vicious, in spite of Disney’s anthropomorphizing of them into cute little cuddly things. They also carry a virus in their saliva that can cause serious illness in cats, dogs and humans.

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  2. Glad all is well! I’ve been following your blog since you posted in reply to my question about the Eglu in winter.

    Still don’t have my chickens, but they should arrive on the 14th or 15th when we get home from an interstate trip. Seems like every day I think of something new to worry about in re: chickens. My latest? Will 3 hens be too crowded in the Eglu? Will the 2 Wyandottes who grew up together pick on the 1 RIR I committed to today? Will their butts get all nasty sitting on the roosting bars in their Eglu coop?

    If you have any insight on any of these, please post.

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  3. Hello,

    You have to be careful of raccoons! We had 12 khaki cambell laying ducks that raccoons killed in a frenzy a while back. They didn’t eat any of them they seem to have killed them for fun.

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  4. Pingback: Everybody likes chicken dinner | a windycitygal's Weblog

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