Do Coyotes Kill Very Many Chickens At Once, Like "Overkill"?


A group of us saw the popular movie, Biggest Little Farm, wherein they show the kill rate of chickens. This happens a few times in the movie, that very many chickens, about 20 or more(?), get killed in one night and most look very Un-eaten, just killed. They said it was the result of coyotes, one or more. They never mention seeing a large pack of coyotes.

We were wondering if this is usual, many kills that are not eaten, that appear to be something like “overkill”.

Can you tell us what you know about this? Or point us to a link?

If the movie’s portrayal is not accurate, it may be good to publicize that it isn’t. It’s going to be a very popular movie.


Since this isn’t related to iNaturalist, I moved it from General to Nature Talk.

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I know that foxes do that, apparently trying to “stock” the food.

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Maybe sometimes, but damage done by loose or feral dogs is often worse and gets blamed on coyotes

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I witnessed a red fox in the Adirondack Park of NY state, U.S. kill almost a dozen wild turkey poults in about two minutes and cache them in several holes, including one it dug amazingly fast while practically vertical on a steep slope. The mother turkey wasn’t thrilled but this fox definitely killed several and saved the snacks for later presumably for kits. I don’t really know how transferable one K-9’s behavior is to that of others but…that happened!


“Overkill” can happen with any predators, if the prey are unable to leave. Predator kills, looks up, there’s another one handy, it automatically grabs that too. If there’s another one, grab it quick. The predator will eat the bonus one, immediately or later. Rare situation in the wild, but in coops, this becomes “overkill” with many dead chickens. “Overkill” is a misfiring of normal behavior, not some planned greedy behavior.


If I remember correctly one time my uncle found all his chickens killed and uneaten on his lawn and he said that only a weasel would have done that. Evidently it’s not as clear-cut as that…

Based on my personal experience on my ex father in laws farm in Utah, we saw this over kill behavior on numerous occasions, generally when the folks tending to the farm when he was out of town forgetting to lock the coop at dusk. Coyotes came in and killed every last one and just left them laying around dead.

I can’t help but think that when the predator kills all the individuals and then leaves them, it finally get to the end of the automatic “grab the next one if you can” instinctive program, looks around, and thinks something like, “I can’t stand the thought of one more chicken!” It goes away. For a while. It would return and eat some after recovering, but by then the humans are home.

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I think it’s common of a lot of predators. We didn’t really have coyotes where we lived when I was a kid, but one time a bear broke into our rabbit pens and killed 60-70 rabbits, and ate about 3 of them, just left the others dead.

Side note, one of my best friends works on the farm portrayed in that movie!

YES, I lived on a working ranch for awhile when I was younger and I can say that unlike foxes or predatory cats, coyotes act more like domestic cats when dealing with chickens, they seem to “practice” their skills on the birds…BTW - GREAT MOVIE, everyone should see it

i wonder if it’s also a ‘caching’ instinct, they just usually encounter a farmer with a shotgun so don’t get to go back and feed at their leisure…

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