Fisher Cat: How to Protect Your Chickens from Them

Fisher Cat Featured Image
To protect your chickens from a fisher cat attack, ensure your chicken coop is fitted with strong mesh (thicker than chicken wire), sensor lights and an airy coop as fisher cats are nightly stealth hunters. 

As a chicken keeper, one of the biggest hazards to the safety of your flock is predators. It’s a scary experience when one attacks and the uncertainty of not knowing when it might happen can leave you feeling vulnerable.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to be prepared for a predator attack. In this article, we will focus on what happens when one of these predators, the fisher cat, attacks and what you can do to help prevent more attacks in the future.

What Is A Fisher Cat?

The fisher cat, commonly referred to simply as a fisher, is a small mammal that is native to North America. Even though “cat” is in the name, the fisher cat is part of the mustelid family, making it commonly referred to as a weasel. 

fisher cat on log
Those sharp claws can certainly rip any hen to pieces!

Fishers are related to the American marten and Pacific marten, but are considerably larger in size. Minks, otters, and pine martens are also close relatives of the fisher. They are similar in size to the average domestic cat, which might be where the “cat” part of their name originates from. 

While they are called fishers, they actually aren’t known to eat fish as a main part of their diet. The word fisher actually comes from the word “fitch”, which is traced back to the pelt of a European polecat.

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They closely resemble their relatives in the weasel family but are known for their deep brown fur, which gets slightly lighter around their face and head. Fishers have five-toed feet that are equipped with retractable claws that help them dig and navigate on top of the snow.

Since they are predators, fishers will primarily target small mammals such as squirrels, mice, porcupines, and snowshoe hares. Despite being mostly carnivorous, fishers will also forage for whatever vegetation they might find in the wild, such as berries, nuts, insects, mushrooms, and even carrion if necessary.

How To Stop Fisher Cat Attacks on Chickens

The best way to avoid fisher attacks in your hen house is to reinforce all openings in order to prevent fishers from slipping in. As previously mentioned, fishers are opportunistic and will kill a chicken if they are able to easily sneak into their coop. 

Here is how to stop a potential attack:

Secured CoopIf your coop is properly secured with sturdy hardware mesh and chicken wire, a fisher won’t usually try to force their entry if they can’t find an easy way in. It’s important to know that fisher’s have incredibly sharp teeth and can potentially chew through thin wire, so make sure that the chicken wire and mesh that you use is resistant to being cut.
Sensor LightsOne of the best deterrents for predators is motion sensor lighting. Since fishers like to hunt before the sun is fully up in the morning and when the sun is just setting in the evening, keeping your coop lit up in the dark will keep them away. 
Open DesignRemember that fishers are prone to hunting in stealthy conditions, meaning areas that have lots of places for them to hide and stalk their prey. So, it can be helpful to have areas of your coop be open and have high visibility. If branches and shrubs surrounding your coop are also properly trimmed, fishers won’t be as inclined to try and climb up them and into your coop.
chicken coop on grass
Very open yet secure: This is the ideal way to stop a fisher cat from attacking your flock.

In general, fishers aren’t the most likely predator to attack your coop because they are a fairly rare species and much prefer hunting in the safety of the forest. However, if you’ve seen fishers nearby your coop or have evidence that they’ve already attacked your chickens, put these tips into action to make sure they won’t attack again

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Where do Fishers Live?

Fishers aren’t a common predator of chickens, which can mostly be attributed to the fact that they are an endangered species. Fur trapping of the fishers has been happening since the 18th century, and at its height in the early 1900s, fisher pelts were a prized good for trading.

While some preservation methods were enacted throughout the mid to late 1900s, the fisher population is still small throughout North America. Fishers are most commonly found in the Northeastern United States and throughout Canada, so this is where they might be a threat to a flock of backyard chickens.

Looking at a map that shows the general areas that have fisher populations, in the United States they are most commonly found in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Maine. In Canada, fishers have spread across the entire country and are found in nearly every province.

Fisher Cats are Stealth Attackers

Fishers prefer to stay in regions that have forests and are densely wooded since they will be able to hunt better in those conditions. They prefer to be stealthy when hunting, so they are most active during dawn and dusk when the lighting is just right for them to blend in with their environment.

Fisher cats have ankle joints that are remarkably mobile and allow them to rotate their hind paws to an angle of almost 180°. This allows them to maneuver gracefully through brush, trees, and unfortunately into your coop. Because they are so mobile and slender, it is easy for fishers to slip in through small openings in your coop.

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fisher cat in snow
Fisher cats are quite stealthy creatures and prefer the forest rather than the farm

It’s usually easy to tell if a fisher cat has gotten into your coop, as unfortunately, the evidence is quite graphic. Fishers will usually go for their prey’s rear, flipping them over and tearing at their stomach. This means that you will usually see a chicken’s body, or parts of its body, within and around the coop if a fisher cat has attacked.

However, in general, fishers aren’t known to be particularly interested in staking out a coop by learning when the right time to strike might be. Fishers are typically more opportunistic with their hunting strategy and will use their cunning to get to their prey when the moment strikes. For this reason, a well-protected flock will normally be safe from fisher attacks.


Raised in Wisconsin, Leland has spent most of his life adjacent to the rich farmlands of the Midwest. He has visited many farms while exploring his home state, which eventually led him to work directly with farmers on a variety of projects. Between building furniture with Amish-milled wood and helping a local farmer construct a greenhouse, Leland developed a deep interest in homesteading and wants to one day have farmland of his own. Leland is able to combine his love of writing and recent passion for agriculture by writing articles focused on a variety of aspects of farming and homesteading.

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