When you choose to raise chickens on a small farm, you’re exposing yourself to the world’s natural ecosystem. That means that there’s always a risk that your chickens will fall prey to rabid predators.
And sometimes, those predators aren’t big and scary. Some of the most common chicken flock predators include raccoons, skunks, snakes, coyotes, foxes, and mice. They can even be as small and innocent as the neighborhood cat.
It’s natural to be concerned for your chickens where predators like cats are involved. But do cats eat chickens? That’s what we’ll tell you today.
Are Cats Predatory?
It’s easy to find cats adorable. They’re fluffy, adorable, and friendly, for the most part. And most cats are well-fed by their owners, so it’s hard to picture a cat attacking chickens, right?
But you must remember that cats—even domestic ones—have innate predatory instincts. They’re obligate carnivores, so it’s natural for them to seek out food and other small animals even when they’re not in the mood to eat. When they see potential prey, they will strike and kill it.
Because cats are natural predators, they will always have hunting instincts. And when they are presented with a creature that is helpless and way smaller than them, they’ll jump at the opportunity to feast—literally. This includes small chickens.
So, Do Cats Eat Chickens?
The good news is that it’s quite rare for cats to attack large chickens, so your adult chickens will be safe for the most part. Cats are smart—they know that bigger chickens can fight back with their claws and beaks. Instead, they will take their chances on an easier target: baby chicks.
To cats, chicks are bite-sized. They’re as tempting as they come. It’s easy for cats to hunt them down, especially when no one’s on guard to protect the chicks.
Domestic and feral cats will jump on baby chicks and eat them whole as soon as the opportunity arises. They’re tiny and haven’t fully developed, so a cat will know right away that they are helpless and will be an easy meal.
While your chicks are very small, try to keep them in a secured area where other animals will not be able to access them. If your chicks like to stay warm in the brooder, make sure there’s a lid on top. And when they’re out and about in the yard, make sure the space is enclosed.
But that doesn’t mean that adult chickens are 100% safe against cats. If you have older chickens that can’t fight back or fend for themselves, cats might see them as easy prey, too.
Cats may end up biting adult chickens’ heads off and eating the meatiest part of their flesh before leaving their wings, legs, feathers, and the rest of their bodies scattered in the yard.
Are cats going after your chickens?
But how do you even know if a cat is going after your chickens and attacking them? It’s difficult to catch a cat in the act since they lurk in chicken yards and look for prey only when they know no one’s on the lookout.
If an attack occurs, it’s easy to see by the tracks left in the sand if it’s a rodent or other small creature, or a larger domesticated cat.
Your Pet Cat’s Health Can Be Affected, Too
Aside from worrying about your chicken flock, you should also be concerned about your free-roaming pet cat. No matter how tame and domesticated you think your cat is, there’s always a chance that it could turn on you and your chickens and just attack.
Some chicks and full-grown chickens carry around bacteria and viruses like E. coli, salmonella, toxoplasmosis, and more. When your free-roaming cat attacks these birds and eat them raw, they always run the risk of getting sick from fowl diseases.
To keep this risk at a minimum, make sure you keep your cat away from baby chicks and chicken farms in general, especially when it’s not enclosed.
Always feed your cat commercial cat food or meat that has been boiled and properly cooked. You don’t want your cat’s sharp teeth to sink into a live, raw chicken for a quick snack but suffer the consequences of a harmful disease, do you?
How to Protect Your Chickens from Cats
Vigilance is key if you want to protect your beloved chicks and chickens from cats that could gobble them up. Luckily, there are tons of different ways to deter cats from entering your chickens’ living area. Take your pick from any of these tips.
1. Keep your pet cat indoors
If the cat you’re worried about is your own pet, then the problem is quite easy to solve. As its owner, you should have full control of where your cat goes and is allowed to enter.
Keep the cat indoors for as long as you have baby chicks. If the cat has shown signs of aggression in the past, keep it out of the coop completely, even if all your chickens are adult birds.
By implementing measures to make sure your cat never has access to your chicken yard, not only will you be protecting your chicks, but you’ll also have peace of mind that your cat won’t get sick from any diseases the birds might carry.
If you have a young kitten and feel like it could be capable of being friends with your chickens, slowly introduce it to the chicks early on. Reward it for good behavior so that it knows never to harm your chickens.
2. Add fencing or netting to your chicken yard
An obvious way to keep cats and other predators out is by blocking their entry to the chicken coop. Here are some examples of things you can build in your yard to keep it enclosed:
- Fencing: Build a mesh fence that is about five feet high all over your chicken coop. Make sure it’s tall enough so that even cats that can jump really high will never get into the coop. Bury this fence at least a foot into the ground too, so that cats don’t dig up the dirt to go inside.
- Netting: You might also want to set up netting around the chicken yard. Netting can act like a roof that covers the coop from above so that cats can’t enter by jumping into the coop even if your fence is low. It’s a great way to enclose the place while keeping it well-ventilated.
Here’s a video on how to protect your chickens from predators. One of the ways she does so is by adding netting to her chicken yard for extra protection:
3. Get a farm dog to protect the flock
Cats hate dogs. Everyone knows this. So why not invest in a farm dog that you can train to protect your chickens whenever there’s a cat in the area, eyeing its next snack? Dogs are big on territory, so they’ll be quick to bark and scare away any intruding cats on your property.
Many dog breeds would make excellent farm dogs. One of the most popular is the Border Collie—a herding sheep known for protecting fowl and killing predators if they try to come close to the flocks. It would be the perfect guardian to keep cats away from your chicks.
When you get a farm dog, not only do you keep your chicks extra protected, but you also get yourself a brand-new companion on the farm and a family dog at home.
4. Install motion-activated solar lights
An easy way to scare off cats that pay your chicks a visit at night is by installing motion-activated solar lights in your coop. When a cat comes close to your chickens, the solar lights will light up and scare the cat away because it thinks there’s another threat in the area.
This is an easy way to protect your chicks from domesticated and feral cats. The lights and motion sensors do the work for you, so you never have to actively keep an eye on the chickens during nighttime.
That said, it’s not very sustainable. Cats are intelligent creatures, and they can catch on to what motion-activated solar lights do. Think of it as a temporary solution that will only work for a few weeks—maybe while you’re in the process of building your fence and netting roof.
Yes, cats do eat chickens. It’s rare for a house cat or even a relatively feral stray cat to come into a yard and attack adult chickens, especially large ones. However, it’s important to keep an eye on baby chicks, which are more likely to get eaten by cats.
That said, you shouldn’t be complacent about protecting your hens and roosters from cats and other potential predators in your area. Make sure you take extra precautions to give your chickens a safe home, whether it’s adding fencing, motion-activated lights, or even a farm dog to the yard.
Got any more questions for us about cats and other predators that might cause harm to your bantams? Be sure to comment down below so we can get back to you as soon as possible!