What is munching my chickens?

Chicken in coop next to Chicken Crossing sign
Photo credit: Stephen Ward

I had a bunch of my chickens get their heads bit off while in their gated area and inside their coop when the door was left open. Any idea what animal eats the heads off chickens and how do I elimate this creature?

- Benton County, Oregon

Headless prey suggest a member of the weasel family (such as an ermine or mink), or potentially a raccoon. It's not out of bounds for a great horned owl to kill chickens and eat only the heads, but that seems unlikely in your case because the chickens were inside the coop. Your best strategy, especially because at least one of your neighborhood predators has found success preying on your flock, will be to make sure your chicken enclosure excludes even the smallest of those potential predators - Thus, making sure that there are no holes larger than one inch in diameter. If you have access to a game or trail camera, it would be interesting to document "who" is coming to check out your coop in the coming days - That would help you get a firmer ID of which species got in, and would also help identify what other management approaches might be an option in your situation.

Dana Sanchez
Assistant Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Share this