A single raccoon can devastate your flock of chickens within a relatively short period of time. If a raccoon can gain entry into your chicken house, he will likely kill your birds and eat your eggs. The raccoon will remember that your chicken house provides him with easily accessible captive prey and may return again and again to prey upon your chickens.
The Dangers of Raccoons
Raccoons are intelligent predators. They can climb fences and walls and even dig underneath barriers to access your chickens. They can also open latches and reach their paws through the wire mesh fencing that is commonly used to keep chicken coops secure from other types of predators. It takes continuous work to keep raccoons out of your chicken coop because a raccoon will take advantage of any minor flaw in your coop and use it to access and prey upon your birds.
Raccoons like having easy sources of food and water, so don't leave anything out that might attract them and help them notice your chickens. Avoid leaving pet food dishes outside of your home where a raccoon might be tempted to come use them. Keep lids on your trash cans so raccoons do not get used to getting easy meals from your garbage. Do not leave your chickens loose in the yard at night, as they will also provide an easy snack for a hungry raccoon. Enclose your chickens in a secure coop at night.
Securing Your Chicken Coop
You don't need to make your chicken coop into a fortress to protect your birds from raccoons, but it helps. Raccoons can open many latches, so use a latch you can padlock to keep the windows, doors and other openings on your coop securely locked during evening and nighttime hours. Use a strong wire mesh with small openings that are no larger than 1/2 inch to keep raccoons from reaching into your coop or breaking through it. Put a roof on your coop and fasten it down tightly. If a raccoon can't break into your coop easily, he will likely move on from your chicken coop in search of easier prey.
Raccoons don't like the scent of ammonia or cayenne pepper; placing ammonia-soaked rags and sprinkling the pepper around the edges of your yard or property can help deter raccoons from coming into the yard. You can also have an exterminator or experienced animal trapper place safe, live-animal traps in your yard to remove and relocate problem raccoons. Never use any type of poison or pellets to deter raccoons because your chickens will be harmed if they come into contact with the poison.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.