How To Tell What Killed My Chickens

How to tell what killed my chicken… This question goes beyond curiosity, it can help, being able to figure out the cause of death in your poultry or pen is important in other to prevent future occurrence. When chickens die, it’s important to know why. Find out what killed your chickens to learn how to tell if your chickens have been killed by predators or another cause. It is not easy to tell what killed your chickens. It is even harder when they are scattered all over the place.

If they were killed by fox or other predators, their bodies will be strewn about. Foxes tend to leave scattered feathers and other parts. Have you recently lost chickens and want to know the cause? It is a sad thing when poultry die. But sometimes it can be surprising. The purpose of this article is to help you tell if something has killed your chickens or if you have lost them for another reason, such as disease or natural causes.

What Killed My Chickens?

Chickens are fairly susceptible to predation, with most small- and medium-sized predators capable of dispatching a solitary bird. If you want to know what’s killing your chickens, there are some things you need to know about how predators kill their prey.

For starters, whenever birds are found dead but otherwise intact, the most likely cause of death is predation. Many predators kill their prey by breaking its neck or back before carrying it away. They don’t care whether they leave behind feathers or a little blood. When it comes to chickens, this usually means one of four things: a weasel-like animal such as a mink or ferret has made its way into the coop; a bird of prey has swooped down on your chicken; a fox, dog or coyote has snatched up the chicken; or a raccoon has reached through the wire fence to grab a chicken from outside the coop. However, different types of predator kill in different ways.

The first step in determining who killed your chickens is to determine how they were killed.

Predators and how to tell what killed your chickens

There are many causes of death in backyard chickens. Some of them you can prevent, and some of them you can’t. One of the most common killers is predators. Unfortunately, they’re also one of the hardest to prevent.

If you live in an area with a lot of predators, it’s really important to know how to tell if your chickens were killed by foxes, or something else. That way, if you find bodies, you can act accordingly.

Most predators will take chickens in one of three ways:

  • Biting or clawing through the neck, usually resulting in decapitation.
  • Carrying the victim off and eating it elsewhere.
  • Eating part or all of the chicken right where the attack occurred.

A fox

A fox that somehow gets hold of a chicken may bite off its head and carry it away, leaving behind the body and feathers.

The most likely culprits for attacks on your flock will vary depending on where you live — foxes, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons and owls are among the most common predators in the United States.

Foxes are most active at dawn and dusk and will usually take one chicken at a time. This means that there may be no signs of an attack in the morning, but several chickens might be missing when you go to gather them for the evening. You may also find feathers scattered around the chicken pen.

Can I Shoot a Fox That is Killing My Chickens?

A hen with a broken neck was likely killed by an aerial predator.

The most common predator that kills chickens is the fox. Foxes are generally nocturnal and secretive so you will not always see them. They will kill chickens for their meat, but more often their attack is opportunistic and they are just hungry and happen to come across a chicken coop with open doors. If a fox has killed your chickens it may have taken one or two away to eat later, but if it killed all of them, then it was likely a very hungry fox and probably won’t be back.

A fox will kill all the chickens it can get its hands on and then drag them away somewhere to eat them later. Foxes will usually try and catch the chicken by the neck or head so look for signs of injuries in these areas when inspecting the body.

How To Keep Foxes Away From Chickens

5 things that tell you if your chickens were killed by foxes:

1) Foxes rarely kill more than one chicken at a time (unlike raccoons).

2) Foxes tend to kill at night (unlike free-range chickens).

3) Fox bites look different than other animal bites.

4) Foxes often take their prey away from where they find it (unlike hawks and owls).

5) Foxes don’t eat every part of their prey (unlike rats, weasels and other small predators).

How To Catch a Fox That Is Eating My Chickens

More ways to tell if foxes killed your chicken

Look for blood or wounds

Look for blood or wounds. Many foxes kill their prey by biting the neck and this can result in a bit of blood around the wound. However, not every fox will leave any evidence, so this isn’t always conclusive evidence of fox predation. Look around for chickens that have been eaten. Foxes often try to eat as much as they can before moving on, so you may find a partially eaten carcass nearby.

Look for feathers

Examine the feathers of the chicken and look for blood smears on them or under them. If you see blood on the skin and feathers of the chicken, then your chicken was alive when the fox attacked it. Foxes rarely remove feathers from their prey so that they can feast on them elsewhere—their intention is always to kill and eat their prey where they find it.

If you find small feathers scattered around, there’s a good chance that they were scattered by the fox while he was eating the bird. If you find larger feathers, it’s likely that they weren’t scattered by the fox; rather, they fell off when the bird was flying and could suggest another predator (such as an owl) as the culprit.

What Kills Chickens and Leaves Only Feathers?

Look for Tail signs/ Tail Feathers

One of the most obvious signs that your chicken was killed by fox is finding a tail. Foxes don’t eat chicken tails (they’re actually quite nutritious), and they’ll often leave them behind when they’ve finished their meal.

If the chicken has tail feathers, check that they are not ruffled. If they are ruffled, this can mean the chicken was still alive when the fox attacked it. If they are not ruffled, it means the chicken was probably already dead before the fox got to it.

Chicken Tracks

Foxes have small paws with five toes each that leave distinctive tracks in soft ground. Their front paws look very much like human hands with fingers, only smaller. The rear paws have five toes as well but no recognizable “heel” as there is in human feet or dog.

Other predators that can kill your chickens include:

Raccoons – Another predator is a raccoon, which will climb up on top of the coop, rip off some roofing material or break in through an opening on top and reach down into the nesting boxes and pull out all your chickens, killing them by biting their heads off. Sometimes they will eat part of their bodies but will not bother killing many other chickens aside from the ones they eat. Raccoons may also eat eggs during their visit.

These can kill your chickens by strangulation and are also known to eat eggs.

Do Raccoons Eat Snakes?

Weasels and minks

One of the most common predators is a weasel or mink. Weasels and minks will go into the coop, kill all your chickens and leave them in a pile in one corner of the coop. They do this because they can only carry a certain number of chickens at a time and need to make multiple trips to get them all out.


If bears are nearby they may enter the coop to get at the food which can lead to injuries for your birds, even death.


There are many different species of owls that can kill chickens including barn owls and great horned owls. These will usually go for smaller birds such as chicks or bantams as they struggle to carry larger birds away.

However, if your chickens are being eaten by other predators, such as cats or dogs, then there will be signs of their presence too. If they have attacked your chickens during the day and killed some of them, you will see feathers and blood all over the place.

If your chickens are being attacked by dogs or cats it’s important to act quickly. Call a local pest control service or animal rescue center to capture and remove these predators from your property before they kill any more of your chickens.

If you don’t see any of these signs, there’s a good chance your birds were attacked by humans or dogs, not predators.

Takeaway: Your chickens may have been killed by something other than predators like fox if you don’t see any of these signs. Don’t let your chickens run free. Keep their food high up so larger animals can’t reach it.


There are many different ways chickens can die, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell what killed your chickens. The most important thing is to understand why your chickens died so you can prevent it from happening again. In this article, we have provided some tips on the most common causes of chicken deaths. We hope these tips will help you to discover what killed your chicken. Still have further questions, do not hesitate to let us know in the comment section.