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Predator Attack

Predator Attack Overview


Chickens have an extensive list of predators--both wild and domestic animals. Although chickens of all sizes are at risk of attacks, smaller chicken breeds, young chicks, and growing pullets or cockerels have an increased risk. Depending on the predator that attacked the flock, the number of birds present, time of day, and other variable factors, sometimes there are birds that survive an attack. Most are in some degree of shock following the event. These birds may or may not have been injured by the attacking animal, however the likelihood varies depending on the species of animal(s) that attacked and the number of birds in the flock.

Predators attack chickens using their teeth, claws, and body weight. Birds that survive an attack may have physically endured anything from superficial skin damage to extensive mutilation. Surviving chickens are often traumatized and may show signs of shock and emotional distress for several days to months following an attack.

An animals' bite wounds are capable of causing bone fractures, spinal injuries, ligament ruptures, and damage to vital organs and body tissues. Life threatening injuries should be treated for immediately. Any wounds should be covered with a sterile dressing to try to prevent further contamination by foreign substances.

Teeth forces exerted by an attacking animal may only appear on the surface as puncture wounds in the skin. However, teeth are able to puncture through deeper layers of tissue without appearing as such, since a chicken's body is covered with feathers, it can easily conceal mild surface damages from teeth punctures. When teeth puncture into the deeper tissue it creates a dead space that bacteria, often left behind from their mouths, to enter. An animals oral cavity contains lots of different types of bacteria and fungi. Treatment for predator attacks depends on the type of attack, severity of the injury, and the overall health condition of the chicken that was attacked. The main principles of care include early medical management, irrigation and cleansing of wounds, and bandaging and/or primary closure.

Broad-spectrum antibiotics are often needed, covering both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, due to the abundance of pathogenic bacteria present in the mouths and claws of the animal that attacked. Domestic cats and dogs are known to harbor high amounts of bacteria, including Pasteurella spp, the organism responsible for causing fowl cholera, a highly contagious, septicemic disease of chickens. The likelihood of a cat bite becoming infected is double of that of a dog bite.

Antibiotics, however do not replace the need for proper cleansing and debridement of any wounds. Chickens that survive an animal attack may initially appear unharmed, but several days later may get very sick.

Clinical Signs

Extensive lacerations
Decapitation
Missing bird or egg
Scattered feathers
Bite marks

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Necropsy

Treatment

NameSummary
Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own chicken "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Wound careStop bleeding and thoroughly clean wounds by flushing with copious volumes of warm sterile saline solution or 0.05% chlorhexidine.
AntibioticsIf chickens were bitten, especially from a cat, dog or other carnivore, they should be put on antibiotics immediately. Penicillin should be used if possible, due to it's effectiveness against Pasteurella multocida, which is a frequent bacteria found in the oral cavity of cats, dogs, and other carnivores.
Predator proofingDesign an enclosure that keeps poultry safe from predators from the sky and ground.

Prevention

  • Management : Keep chickens locked up inside
  • Security: Install motion sensor lights, sound equipment, or have a guard dog which is trained to protect the chickens
  • Scare Tactics : Put up flags, pinwheels, scarecrows, and/or dummy predator birds
  • Repellents: Utilize a chemical/pheromone repellent

Prognosis

It depends on the predator and the extent of the injury, usually it is a very poor prognosis.

Scientific References

Risk Factors

  • Not designing coops or enclosures against wild animals from entering
  • Letting birds free range without any protection
  • Living near forests and/or body of water
  • Not keeping grass mowed
  • Performing management techniques which attract predators to the area
  • High rodent populations

Cases Stories

Seasonality

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