Living on a little homestead, we have all kinds of adventures. My least favorite adventure is having to deal with the skunks that love our chicken eggs. Chickens are highly valuable to us and worth protecting.
What is the best way to capture a skunk? We like to use a live trap that has been baited with foods that skunks can’t resist. Ideal skunk bait includes eggs, crispy bacon, cat food, chicken or turkey, canned tuna or sardines, peanut butter on bread, marshmallows, or any meat-based, oily foods with a strong odor.
We like to bait a live trap with chicken eggs because that is what initially attracted them to our home. The last skunk we captured dug up a dead chicken and some dead baby bunnies that were a few weeks old from our little critter graveyard. Stinky works.
In this post, we will discuss how we keep our chickens and eggs safe from predators, and how we captured and safely disposed of a skunk using a live trap.
Fortify Homestead to Reduce Predator Temptation and Access
One of the best ways that you can protect your chickens and eggs from skunks and other predators is to fortify their coop. Take the time and resources to make sure it is impenetrable from any chicken predator that may be in your area including skunks, raccoons, dogs, weasels, rats, foxes, coyotes, mink, snakes, and birds of prey.
These are steps that we have taken to help ensure the safety of our birds.
Critter-Proof Nesting Box
We have built several different nesting boxes over the years, but my absolute favorite is the Best Nest Box. The eggs roll out from under the chicken and wait to be collected in a predator-proof tray. The eggs are always clean. Best of all, we never have problems with chickens developing the bad habit of eating their own eggs.
The Best Nest Box can be set up to collect eggs from the front or the back. We designed our coop so that we collect the eggs from a closet area on the outside so that we do not have to go in the coop to collect the eggs. I love this setup!
You can purchase these fantastic nesting boxes on Amazon. They are worth the investment.
- Best Nest Rollaway Community Nesting Box – Small (up to 20 hens)
- Best Nest Rollaway Community Nesting Box – Large (40-65 hens)
High Roosting Bars
No matter how many roosting bars your chickens have access to they will fight for the highest position. They naturally do this because it is the safest place to be. You can help your chickens be a little safer by giving them an option for a high roost.
Keep Coop Closed Tight at Night
Closing the coop at night is a bit of a pain but it can help you sleep better knowing that your birds are safe until morning. You can purchase automatic coop doors that will automatically let your chickens out in the morning and tuck them in at night. This is another layer of protection for your birds.
Know Your Enemy
Okay, so honestly skunks are not my enemy. They are uninvited guests that are not welcome on my homestead. Understanding the skunk better will make it possible to safely catch and relocate the creature without getting hurt or sprayed.
We have friends that have a pet skunk that they keep in their home. It has been fun for us to get to know skunks from the time they are little babies until they are adults. They are not as docile as a household cat, but can be quite interesting pets.
Pet skunks have their mercaptan-emitting scent glands surgically removed. Once a pet skunk, always a pet skunk. They do not have the ability to survive in the wild without their stinky weapon.
Hunting Habits of Skunks
Skunks are nocturnal but tend to be active and hunt in the morning and evening hours. Generally, that means that your chickens can safely free range during the day. Wintertime might be an exception because skunks do not hibernate and can be more active during the day.
Skunks have very sharp claws and are quite effective at digging. Most of the time, skunks hunt alone.
Foods that Skunks Like to Eat
Skunks are omnivorous. That means that their diet is comprised of both meat and plants. Skunks are known to eat birds, moles, snakes, frogs, rodents, insects, beetles, grasshoppers, lizards, and grubs. They also enjoy vegetation such as berries, fruits and nuts, and can be destructive to a vegetable garden. Skunks love chicken eggs.
Best Bait Options for Baiting a Live Trap to Catch a Skunk
The best bait options for capturing a skunk include but aren’t limited to the following:
- Crispy bacon
- Cat food
- Canned tuna or sardines
- Peanut butter on bread
- Any meat-based, oily foods with a strong odor
Skunk’s Super Smelly Weapon
Skunks are rarely preyed upon due to their ability to emit an incredibly pungent odor. Very few skunks are killed by predators. A skunk will not harm you if you leave it alone.
A skunk can spray several feet with incredible accuracy. They will not usually spray if they cannot visualize their target. When a skunk feels threatened, it will warn you before spraying by stomping and hissing. It also will turn its hind end toward you before spraying. Once the skunk sprays it is too late. Anything or anyone in the path of that liquid is doomed to smell horrid for some time to come.
Skunk Spray Remedy
It has happened at our house. The kids went out to collect eggs, and one of the girls last words were, “Oh look! What a cute fluffy tail!” There was no sympathy to be found when they came running into my kitchen. They were sent back outside to stripped down to their underwear, then sent to the showers.
After the direct hit, the clothes and shoes were a total loss. After a lot of scrubbing and some time, the kids were bearable once again. It took a lot longer for the chicken coop to smell normal.
If you or someone you love, get sprayed by a skunk you may want to try these ideas to neutralize the skunk odor.
- Scrub with a mixture of one quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, ½ cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon dish soap. Let sit for 5 minutes, then rinse well.
- Soak in a warm bath with 2-4 cups of baking soda.
- Rinse in a strong vinegar solution for persistent odors.
- Wash clothes in laundry soap and baking soda, then air dry outside.
- Nature’s Miracle Skunk Odor Remover breaks down the oils and claims to permanently remove all traces of the odor from people, pets, and surfaces. It might not be a bad idea to keep on hand.
- Mold Monster Stink Slayer is an all-natural skunk odor remover that works well on carpets and surfaces.
Tomato juice, oatmeal, and beer baths do not help to neutralize the skunk odor.
How to Catch a Skunk in a Live Trap
Select a medium sized live trap. Ideally use a 17” trap that has a 7” x 7” opening. They make live skunk traps with solid sides to help reduce the risk of being sprayed.
Either of these live traps should be effective for trapping a skunk. It’s a really good idea to have one before you think you need it.
- Live Animal Cage Trap with Humane Release for Rabbits, Stray Cats, Squirrels, Raccoons, Moles, Gophers, Chickens, Opossums, Skunks, Chipmunks, and Groundhogs
- SKUNK-N-MORE No Spray Live Skunk Trap
Got the Skunk – Now What?
When Jonathan announced that we had a skunk in the trap early one morning, I tried to pull the “girl” card.” In our house, there are no jobs that are gender specific. Everyone works and they are all just jobs that need to get done. However, the thought of relocating a skunk had me scrambling for excuses to let “the boys” take care of this one.
I squared my shoulders and went outside to meet our naughty little predator. It was an adorable creature and looked quite healthy. It did not seem bothered by our presence, which means he had probably been hanging around our place for a while.
Stay Calm and Keep the Skunk Calm
We spoke in soft reassuring voices and avoided doing anything to frighten our little captive. It can be calming for the skunk to be covered with a dark tarp. We did not want to do anything to upset him. He may have been the one in the cage, but he was also the one with the power.
Brave, Cautious Skunk Relocation
Now we had to decide if we were going to dispatch the creature, or brave relocating him to the nearby mountains. One look at those big eyes and we knew that we had to risk relocation.
We drove the little pickup as close to the location of the cage as possible. We placed a large tarp in the back to wrap around the cage once it was successfully in the back.
Sam was elected to do the dirty work. He covered the cage with a plastic tarp and grabbed the top handle, carefully placing it on top of the plastic in the back of the truck. We covered the cage with the tarp and used 2x4s to keep the tarp in place.
Sam and Ben very slowly took the backroads into the foothills to find the right place to release the skunk. Jonathan and I followed behind.
Sam placed the covered trap in an open area, facing away from us. He tied a fishing line to the latch of the trap and opened it from a distance. It took the skunk a minute to figure out that it was free, but soon took off to make its a new home.
Celebration and incredible relief. No one was sprayed and the skunk got to live.
We Have Not Always Been So Lucky
There have been some skunks that have not had the opportunity to leave our place alive. Several years ago, there was one that got into the chicken coop and mutilated a chicken to get the eggs out from inside of the live bird. It was huge and not at all friendly. It was able to squeeze its huge body in through a tiny opening in the nesting box.
I much prefer to catch and release any unwanted critters. We originally purchased this trap to catch squirrels that were killing my fruit trees. We captured 13 squirrels before we were done.
Sometimes the predators pose too great of a risk and relocation is not wise. Unfortunately, some critters must be eliminated. Wild animals can be unpredictable and dangerous, despite how adorable they are. Hope for the best, but always be prepared for the worst.
Thanks for being part of the solution!Jonathan and Kylene Jones