I want raccoon revenge. Or at least a truce.
June 14, 2011 6:32 PM   Subscribe

A raccoon killed my chicken. I want another chicken. How do I deter or kill the beastie?

I live in a downtown neighborhood frequented by raccoons. Today I came home to a dusting of feathers in my backyard and the disappearance of my lovely, egg-laying chicken. I'm pretty sure the raccoon struck during the day, and it's a mama raccoon that's been coming around with her baby. She's opened our kitchen window and stole bread from from the counter on a few occasions. I've chased her away lots of times, but she easily alights into a tree with baby beastie in tow. So, how do I get rid of this raccoon so that my next chicken won't fall prey to a terrible death?
posted by ajarbaday to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A live trap? The problem is you'll want to trap both of them, that may be a bit of a problem.

And, release them very far away. And, be careful in releasing them...leather gloves, boots, she might be a bit pissed!
posted by tomswift at 6:52 PM on June 14, 2011

You don't. If there's one raccoon, there will be another. You can export/kill them 'til doomsday and there will always be more. Revenge is possible; truce is not possible.

You have to secure your chicken(s).
posted by bricoleur at 6:52 PM on June 14, 2011 [13 favorites]

Your best bet is to make sure that wherever your next chicken lives, it is raccoon-proof. Really, really raccoon-proof, because as you've seen, raccoons can open all kinds of things. Even if you get rid of one raccoon, others will come along and get whatever fowl is available for a snack. Save yourself the stress and get some kind of beast-proof enclosure, be it a chicken tractor or a pen with a roof.

Do you buy your chicken feed locally? You probably aren't the only person with this problem. Other people who keep chickens in your area might be able to tell you what has worked for them.

Sorry to hear about your chicken. That's never a fun discovery.
posted by corey flood at 6:57 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm in the same region as you, and the raccoons have been getting quite bad here recently. They've started attacking my feral cat colony when I feed them, chasing the cats away and then refusing to be chased away themselves--I'm a little worried about the fact that these raccoons don't seem frightened enough of people to run away from me, even when I yell at them. I'm not sure what's going on; has some source of raccoon food been removed, making them desperate? Has the population been growing? Maybe someone is feeding them and and "teaching" them not to be afraid of people, but then they shouldn't need to attack my cats for their food.

My neighbor is trapping raccoons and removing them to protect his garden, but the cats only get a week or two of peace every time one raccoon is removed. Another one moves in, or maybe they're finding their way back. You can get humane traps from animal services (I think), but it doesn't seem like a workable solution to just remove known raccoons.

I had chickens for a while, which ranged my property during the day and were locked in at night; I think with access to 6 acres they probably could get away from predators like raccoons, although we did lose one to a raptor. Basically, they had room to run away and things to jump on so they could flap a little and get out of reach. I think without that, we'd have made sure they were always in a secure henhouse. Chicken tractors are pretty nifty, and there are a few inexpensive designs out there; you might be able to design one that a raccoon couldn't open or break into.
posted by galadriel at 7:25 PM on June 14, 2011

I'm sorry for your loss. I've been there before and it sucks. In fact, some critter had the nerve to dig up my beloved 12 year old rooster a week after he died because I didn't bury him deep enough.

Securing the coop is the only way to go. Make it difficult for any critter to get in by going under or over.

Good luck! I really loved having chickens.
posted by luckynerd at 7:26 PM on June 14, 2011

I'm sorry for the loss of your chicken. I have heard raccoon/chicken security compared to the sort of arms race of hacking and computer security, and it seems apt. Unfortunately too, raccoons' ability to cooperate and learn means you need to anticipate the next attack, not just respond to the last one.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:32 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have chickens and live in a rural area. Seconding/thirding that you have to secure the chickens or this will be a losing battle. The only thing you can do is provide a coop and lock the chickens up at night, or provide a fortified permanent pen for them.
posted by crapmatic at 8:08 PM on June 14, 2011

Wait - are your chickens currently secure? Because if you want the benefit of naturally raised, organic backyard clucky goodness, you can't really be exempt from the rest of the nature schtick.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:23 PM on June 14, 2011

I think "Where the Red Fern Grows" covered raccoon live-trapping. Essentially, the method was to use the animal's curiosity against itself. Place a ball of tin-foil in a container with a tiny opening, such that the raccoon's hand could reach inside but its fist couldn't be removed without relinquishing its hold on the prize. You come along later and bop the raccoon on the head. I have no idea whether this works in practice but it's better than poisoning the bread on your counter and leaving the window unlocked. That would be crazy.

You could also get a dog. This solution has advantages that last far beyond revenge on any neighborhood wildlife.
posted by Jeff Howard at 8:28 PM on June 14, 2011

I used to be a small-time chicken rancher. In the first couple of months we were inundated with rats, possums, racoons and coyotes. It was a mess. I killed a bunch of animals but that didn't stop the attacks on my little egg-laying beauties. It seems that when you have chickens every varmint from miles around will know about it and want to eat them and their eggs. So I had to compromise.

I put kibble/cheap-ass dog food out in buckets and all of the hen and egg thievery stopped. It was totally worth it.
posted by snsranch at 8:46 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have had to raccoon-proof my chicken tractor. (Actually I have had to harden it against every known predator, because they're all out here. Looks like a chicken tractor: built like a tank.)

Do not rely on chicken wire. It is too thin, and raccoons can bite through it. They can also reach through with their little hands and grab part of your chicken and pull it through the wire. This is gruesome, but true.

Instead, use hardware cloth. And don't secure it with staples, those can be pulled out. Use screws and large washers. (Look for fence hardware.)

Do not make the mistake of securing a door with a simple hasp, barrel hasp, hook through an eyebolt, or even a carabiner through a latch. Raccoons can easily figure out all of these. Instead, buy some small, cheap luggage locks.

You can keep the key hanging nearby, but do not leave it in the lock. Raccoons can be really smart, and they have all day, and they love chicken.
posted by ErikaB at 8:47 PM on June 14, 2011 [8 favorites]

ErikaB is correct. Raccoons have little else to do in life but go after chickens. You will need to build them a strong, secure place to live. Chicken wire only keeps the chickens at bay. Hardware cloth is where it's at. Remember that raccoons can also dig, so you need to plan your chicken home around that as well.
posted by azpenguin at 9:22 PM on June 14, 2011

I live in central Baltimore. One day, I went out on our porch to find my roommate with two men in the large grassy median in front of our house trying to corner a chicken. Naturally, I went out there to see what was going on, and apparently, this chicken had appeared out of nowhere and, as we live on a busy street, my roommate was concerned about the chicken getting hit. So the four of us managed to corner the chicken and then were unsure what to do.

One of the men said, "I think I've seen this on TV before." He took off his jacket, threw it over the chicken, and grabbed its feet and picked the chicken up. He then grabbed it and held it like a baby in his arms. The remaining three of us proceeded to take lots of photos. Unsure what to do at this point, I went and grabbed a cat carrier from inside. We put the chicken on our porch, named it Kentucky Fried, and watched my roommate's dog go nuts over it.

Again, we were unsure what to do. We didn't want to call animal control because we were concerned they'd put the chicken to sleep. We posted a Craiglist "lost chicken" ad and asked our neighbors if anyone had any idea where the chicken could have come from. One neighbor thought that some folks who lived about a block away had chickens, so I headed over to their alley to look. Sure enough, a couple houses in on the block were some chickens hanging out in the yard. Except, I only saw brown chickens, and Kentucky Fried was white. I decided to knock anyway. No answer. So, I left a somewhat weird note being like, "Did you lose a chicken? We found one."

About 30 minutes later, I get a call from a guy, we'll call him Tom, who was like, "Hey there, did you find a chicken? 'Cause I lost one." Sure enough, Kentucky Fried belonged to that neighbor. So my roommate and I head back over there with our new-found chicken, and knock. Tom answers the door and the first thing he says to us is, "Boy did I have a crazy night." He's overjoyed to see his chicken, whose real name we find out is Lynn Pie.

Apparently, Tom had been fast asleep in bed and around 4 AM the chickens started going crazy. He looked out his window and saw "the meanest fox" he'd ever seen with one of his chickens in her mouth, shaking it vigorously back and forth. So, he grabbed his BB gun, headed downstairs, and shot the fox straight through the eye into the brain. "I woulda grabbed my 22, but I thought the gunshot might have put the neighbors on edge," he said. The fox grabbed Lynn Pie in her mouth and took off down the alley. Miraculously, Lynn Pie had gotten away while the fox was seizing in the alley.

Lynn Pie barely had a scratch on her, and Tom sent us home with a dozen of her eggs.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, you could shoot the raccoon.
posted by jaksemas at 9:34 PM on June 14, 2011 [15 favorites]

Could you get a dog? Or maybe borrow one for a while?

We had a mama raccoon with babies in our walls. We set up a trap and nothing. Then one night the dog got into a fight with it and the raccoon took the babies out immediately (I heard her within an hour). Haven't seen her since. The dog is slightly worse for the wear, but I think it was worth it.
posted by mrfuga0 at 9:50 PM on June 14, 2011

If you can't keep the chicken in a secure coop, you're running a buffet. Even if you trap the racoon, there will be others.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:52 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just as a small point of information, chickens are flock animals. I tend to hear three is a good minimum flock size. They're happier that way.

When you secure your chickens, you'll need at least 4 square feet of coop per chicken plus 10 square feet of run per chicken. Ideally, build the setup so that it can be moved annually at the very least; it helps keep the ground and chickens healthy.
posted by aniola at 10:23 PM on June 14, 2011

Nix the idea of trapping, shooting, poisoning, feeding or dogging it. The only solution -- says a friend with a large lot, a small chicken flock and roaming raccoons -- is a secure hen-house. Basically a tall/wide cage with a box inside (the coop, with roosts and egg boxes), sheathed in hardware cloth. Chicken wire buried under the hay "floor" and extending in a skirt around the bottom to repel diggers. Locks on doors. Keys on lanyards hanging from (but not in) the locks. Keep the door propped open during the day, says he, and the chickens will eventually learn to come home for the evening (prompted with some treats), and you lock them in for the night.

The flock has been safe and sound despite numerous 'coon visits through the yard.
posted by slab_lizard at 10:28 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

What everyone else said about the raccoon. Even if you get rid of the one that killed your chicken, another will show up. You need a strong coop or tractor to protect your chickens. Backyard Chickens has lots of info about chickens including info about coops and tractors.

I also agree with aniola in saying that a single chicken is a lonely and unhappy chicken. Three is a good number. If that's too many eggs for you, I'm sure you can finder a neighbour who will love you.
posted by deborah at 11:15 PM on June 14, 2011

When I lived in Oakland, we had huge fearless raccoons that killed otherwise badass urban tomcats. Raccoons carry rabies, a horrible roundworm called Baylisascaris procyonis, and the bacterial disease leptospirosis. So I would look into a pest control company rather than take on live-trapping, myself, and I wouldn't necessarily assume a dog would be up to the task.

On the other hand, when I lived in Seattle, our local raccoons were shy and retiring and all we ever needed to do to convince them to go elsewhere was to turn on the porch light or shout. So not all raccoons are created equal.

I would definitely secure the henhouse. Admittedly, nothing you do will stop a really determined raccoon - after all, they don't have day jobs or hobbies, so they have time to dedicate to getting past your defenses. But maybe your raccoons will turn out to be lazy.
posted by gingerest at 12:05 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just received this email from Mother Earth News regarding predator proof (and inexpensive) chicken coops! Build An Affordable, Portable, Predator-Proof Chicken Coop.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:36 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Secure the chicken yard as aforementioned with the hardware cloth and partially dig in big rocks all around the outside, right up against the base of the fence. In my family's case, we girls were dispatched to the two creeks on our property to haul up rocks as big as we could carry. Then pee around your chicken yard. I suppose in an urban area, you won't want to just pop a squat, but honestly, mark your territory.

Sadly, any measures you take will simply cut down on the number of successful incursions. Every chicken farmer loses a chicken from time to time to the critters. Curse, replace, move on. And enjoy your eggy bounty!
posted by miss patrish at 2:59 PM on June 15, 2011

Bah. Raccoons are like possums only not quite as gross. I have had fantastic luck with snares. They are not a particularly nice way to kill an animal, but they do work. Depending on how you rig your snare, they may also catch cats/dogs/possums/foxes, but if you do it right, they're an extremely cheap and effective way to stop the creatures.

If you don't want to kill him that way, get a large Hav-A-Hart trap from your local farm supply and bait it with SARDINES in OIL. Nothing else. Sardines are Raccoon magnets. I'm not joking. Open some sardines, (leave them in the can so the oil doesn't drain away) and put them somewhere you can see at night. You may be surprised at just how many raccoons you actually have around. As as child, we used to bait raccoons in this manner and then pick them off at fairly long range with a high velocity, low caliber rifle. (Ergo a .22)

A fun trick you can play on a raccoon is this: leave them sugar cubes and a bowl of water. Raccoons wash everything before they eat it. They will grab a cube, and then vigorously shake it in the water....and be very confused when it disappears.

You can also create a raccoon trap like the "monkey trap" of yore---if he reaches his hand in to grab something, but his hand is too big to come out once holding the item, he will not let go...until you come along, and then he will try to kill you.

Do not rely on an untrained dog to do anything other with a raccoon than get his ass kicked by it.
posted by TomMelee at 5:08 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Peppermint oil?
posted by greatgefilte at 6:31 PM on June 15, 2011

You don't. If there's one raccoon, there will be another. You can export/kill them 'til doomsday and there will always be more. Revenge is possible; truce is not possible.

I live in the country, and coons were killing my neighbor's chickens. Killing them seemed to stop them pretty good...

More to the point, you make it sound like there's an inexhaustible supply of raccoons. There isn't. They have territories, and only travel so far in search of food. It will take a while - probably years - before new coons discover the chickens.

Now his chickens are getting killed by skunks or possums, however, so securing the chickens at night is still the best option here.

OTOH, you're dealing with a single coon, who's brazen enough to hunt by day. She isn't going to be replaced by a legion of similar coons, nor by skunks, possums, coyotes, and feral dogs. Kill her; problem solved. If you live trap, move her a looooooong way away. Animals are generally better at homing than silly humans can imagine.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:41 AM on June 18, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions. I am going to give galadriel's idea a shot and call out the local animal services to rent a trap to remove the offending raccoon. I do agree that there are more, but this particular one seems to rather troublesome. I love all the ideas, though, and I will definitely upgrade my coop once I get another few chickens. Within city limits, we're only allowed two birds, and the other chicken was killed earlier by the same raccoon, which is why she ran alone. Incidentally, that story about Lynn Pie made my day. We'd named our deceased chicken Sarah Connor because it sounded like Arikana and she'd survived the first attack. Ah well. Thanks again.
posted by ajarbaday at 5:44 PM on June 23, 2011

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