Chickens, which are kept predominantly as a source of food and are one of the most cultivated animals globally, are usually prey for other, bigger predators. But what if chickens were sometimes the killers? Have you recently caught your chicken being the predator rather than the prey?
Chickens are natural omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal-based foods. Chickens will predominately eat what they are fed, but chickens will kill and sometimes eat other animals if they are hungry or if they find them in their chicken-coop or near their feed.
Chickens used to live without humans, before we domesticated them, and were, like all other animals, subject to get by on their own without gates, fences, and coops to protect them. Read on to find out more about the types of animals you might one day find your chickens eating and how this could affect your chickens.
Do Chickens Kill Rats?
Chickens do eat rats. The rats, along with other vermin like mice and bugs, are attracted to the chicken’s food either left in their coop or around their free-range or caged areas.
Rats are not attracted to the chickens themselves because they are seen as killers to smaller animals like mice and rats. You might find that animals like rats will wait until chickens are asleep to get closer to their leftovers. Not that chickens ever really leave leftovers.
Rats are also attracted to:
- Warm and cozy places like a chicken coop
- Odors and smells from pet waste
- Smaller chickens
All the above items listed are easy for rats to find near your chickens. If you want to avoid having rats anywhere near your chickens, especially because they can cause stress to your flock as well as injury and disease if they fight back when attacked, you might want to contemplate the best ways to do this.
Consider the following preventative measures to keep rats out of your chicken range:
- Rat-proof or rodent-proof feeders
- Rat-proof your chicken coop and range
- Decent food storage
- Steel fencing and flooring that rats can’t chew through
- Coop and range protection with hardware flooring and covering any holes rats can squeeze through
- Secure coop door for when chickens are closed away at night to also protect them from larger predators
- Place the coop on a solid concrete surface that rodents can’t dig under
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Do Chickens Kill Mice?
Just as chickens will kill rats, they will also kill mice if the mice get too close to their food, eggs, and the safety of their coop.
Chickens have also been known to eat mice, alive or dead, and there are advantages and disadvantages to this.
What are the advantages of chickens eating mice?
- Pest control. Chickens are great at digging and hunting for bugs and pests, which means lighter work for you when it comes to pest control because the chickens are willingly doing it for you.
- Good source of protein and calcium for healthier eggs.
What are the disadvantages of chickens eating mice?
- Just like rats, mice carry disease. If a chicken is scratched by a mouse or consumes a contaminated mouse, they are at risk of obtaining numerous diseases which can either make the chicken very ill or pass disease through their eggs.
- Rat/rodent poison can kill them. If a rodent has consumed poison laid out by the owner and then is pecked at (dead or alive) by the chickens, the poison can also kill the chickens.
Mice carry disease, fleas, and ticks, and having them around your chickens could cause some serious issues.
One thing to be wary of when choosing how to defend your chickens the best way from rats, mice, and other rodents, is rat poison. If rats have poison in their system and are either attacked by or attack your chickens, there is a risk of the poison also affecting and killing your flock.
Do Chickens Kill Snakes?
Chickens can kill snakes. Although chickens will not usually hunt down snakes the way they would insects, rats, and mice, if snakes threaten their eggs, chicks, or are near their feeders, chickens will try to defend their own.
There are also numerous videos on YouTube you can access to see how chickens will try to protect their chicks from snakes.
You might find snakes near your chickens because they are attracted to:
- Baby chickens
- Rodents (Rats and mice) dead and alive
- Food and shelter
If you have a rodent problem, chances are you may also have a snake problem. It’s important to know that while rodents are attracted to your chicken coop, snakes are attracted to rodents and will usually follow them to try and get a good feed.
Once snakes make their way into a coop and find delicious chicken eggs, it’s hard to keep them away. Chickens will fight snakes to defend themselves, their eggs, and their baby chicks, but it’s best to prevent snakes from getting too close to your coop or range with preemptive measures to avoid injury, death, and stress to your flock.
Here is a list of ways you can prevent snakes from getting too close to your chicken range:
- Make your chicken range and coop rodent-free
- Cover any holes that are small enough for snakes to fit through
- Wire mesh with holes smaller than 10 mm might keep out larger snakes but consider steel fencing and flooring
- Remove any dead rodent killed by your chickens immediately
- Minimize food waste and clean up any food that your chickens don’t eat at the end of every day. Snakes are also attracted to the food you feed your chickens.
- Remove eggs daily
- Keep your backyard and chicken range tidy and free of large shrubbery and bushes that snakes can easily hide in
Will Chickens Kill Hawks?
Hawks are one of the predators that chickens won’t usually kill, by lack of choice. Hawks are naturally fast, sharp, and will have killed their chicken quickly upon impact or can pick them up with their sharp talons and snatch them away before the rest of the flock has even noticed.
That doesn’t mean that chickens won’t fight back if they see a hawk attacking though. It is in a chicken’s nature to protect their flock and especially their baby chicks. Roosters are especially larger than hawks and might intimidate them enough to keep them at bay.
How can you prevent hawks from preying on your chickens?
- Cover up your chicken range with wire or mesh so the hawk can’t swoop in
- Provide a coop for the chickens to be safely tucked away at night
- Add a rooster to your flock to protect them
- Use wind chimes and shiny objects that move in the wind to deter birds and hawks from getting too close to your chicken range
Will All Chickens Kill Other Animals?
Free-range, caged, backyard chickens, all chickens have a natural predatorial instinct to kill some smaller animals and pests. Whether it be for foraging and hunting, or to protect their nest and especially if they feel threatened by other animals.
If spotted, chickens will make chase and try to catch rodents to kill and most likely eat them. It is in their nature to do so whether they be wild chickens or domesticated chickens. Just like a domesticated cat would still make the chase for a mouse, so would a domesticated chicken.
Chickens won’t be able to kill all other animals, especially animals that are bigger than they are. They will, however, defend themselves and their own against animal threats, and they will dig and hunt for rodents and bugs as is natural instinct to chickens.
Mother hens are extremely protective and will kill anything that gets too close to her baby chicks, including other animals (and even other chickens). Roosters are also over-cautious and well protective of their flock and will fight for their safety if threatened. Chickens are omnivores and will eat both live and dead meat, depending on what they find and kill. Either way, chickens do kill other animals and you might occasionally find them when you check on your chicks in the morning.
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