Requiem for a Chicken: How To Catch a Raccoon

What to do when furry pests come calling.
Raccoon in a Cage

Raccoon in a Cage

If there is a weakness in your coop security, raccoons are likely to find it.

If there is a weakness in your coop security, raccoons are likely to find it.

I lost a chicken this week. My favorite chicken.

I don’t name my chickens and it is my inclination to regard them more as hobby than pets. But spending time with the birds, I can’t help but appreciate their individual personalities and many often end up earning nicknames. There’s The Instigator. Alpha. Yappy. And then there was an australorp known as Big Girl.

Big Girl, at nine years, was my oldest hen. One of the original brood. An elder stateschicken. Uncommonly social, Big Girl would occasionally tap with her beak at the back door, presumably an impressive chicken ploy to get me to throw some scratch or table scraps out to the girls. I usually obliged.

She was the chicken that followed me around the yard. And when kids visited, she was the bird most willing to stay close enough to make catching her seem plausible to them.

Being tucked into a suburban neighborhood, I don’t have too much trouble with predators. Last year The Instigator narrowly escaped an attack from a red-tailed hawk and a screech owl once made a bizarre, misguided effort to carry away a juvenile chicken more than twice her size. In general though, we don’t see much trouble. In fact, in my years of chicken keeping I’ve lost only two birds to predators.

Both to raccoons.

Don’t be fooled by the soft eyes and contrite expression. Clever and vicious, raccoons are killers. Beheading their prey is a signature move and they have been known to kill for sport as well as sustenance.

If there is a weakness in your coop security, they are likely to find it. And once dusk falls, free rangers who haven’t made their way back to the nest are at risk. Such was the case here.

I don’t blame the raccoon. Circle of life and all that. Raccoons kill chickens. But when there is evidence they are lurking, I do my best to evict them as soon as possible. My preference is to trap them for relocation. I use a have-a-heart style trap placed along the fence line and baited with half a can of cat food and a marshmallow or two.

The trap was stripped of its bait the first night.  But last night our luck changed. Our predator was in custody.

Raccoons are known to stick to their territory. To ensure a trapped raccoon won’t return, it is advised to find them a new home at least five miles from the site of capture. I know some prime forested real estate that fits the bill and dropped my predator off to start his new life there this morning. Good riddance.

I’m not usually one to speak tenderly about chicken. Big Girl was never my best producer and in these last years laid only rarely. Didn’t matter. She was fun to have around. Tipping my hand, I suppose, that I’m not necessarily in it just for the eggs. I hate to lose her.

Sometimes that circle of life thing is kind of a drag.

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