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Hens Disappearing...

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I had three hens who have sadly, one by one, disappeared. They free range on our 3 acre property but always stay close to the open (in the day) coop, food and our house. They love digging in my garden beds and I love looking outside to see them having their dust baths. I did make them a 10 foot by 3 foot run but we got them at a year and a half old and they had always free ranged before that, and were quite agitated in the run. I decided to let them free range, obviously much happier, and hope for the best. But now, one at a time only a few weeks apart, they have all disappeared. The coop is locked at night and nothing has got in, always happens during the day. We do have birds of prey (lots of hawks and eagles) in our backyard and I'm assuming it's them as they've definitely moved in closer lately, but wouldn't there be at least A feather around? I have done big walks of the property each time one has gone missing and nothing is left at all. Is there any way (other than locking them up) to prevent this in the future? Fake owls, etc.? 

post #2 of 9
What breeds were they? How big?

Most of the time, hawks will at the very least leave behind feather piles, but more often than not simply eat what they can of the bird right where they have killed it and leave the carcass remains in plain sight. Anything bigger than a bantam is just too heavy for a hawk to fly away with regardless.

Disappearance without a trace in the daytime is more fox or coyote style. I'd say pen your remaining birds for the time being - you can wait a few weeks or months and hope the predator loses interest and moves along, or you can try trapping the animal and relocating/dispatching it.

200 something birds. 8 species. ♥ Norman ♥ Norma ♥ Misha ♥ and ♥ Taylor ♥ are my babies.
Visit Norman the Rooster's Thread Here!
Breeding Sex Linked Silkies, Gamefowl, and EEs/OEs. Amateur genetics buff. Caponization practitioner/advocate.
Working at The Poultry Palace in Placerville, CA. Come see us for started pullets, chicks, Bar Ale feed, & more!

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200 something birds. 8 species. ♥ Norman ♥ Norma ♥ Misha ♥ and ♥ Taylor ♥ are my babies.
Visit Norman the Rooster's Thread Here!
Breeding Sex Linked Silkies, Gamefowl, and EEs/OEs. Amateur genetics buff. Caponization practitioner/advocate.
Working at The Poultry Palace in Placerville, CA. Come see us for started pullets, chicks, Bar Ale feed, & more!

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post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your reply - one was a White Leghorn and the other two were Rhode Island Reds. They were plump! Not easy for the pickings which is why I was surprised at the disappearance without a trace. I will do another walk around today and see if I can find anything. We do have a lot of coyotes in our backyard but only have heard them at night so far; scares me to think of them coming silently into our yard where my daughter plays during the day. She will play in the fenced yard till we have this sorted for sure... My neighbors have chickens and they lost 15 due to coyotes but they came home to 15 piles of feathers, so that's what I was expecting if it was a coyote. We have some big eagles around here, I wonder if they could make off with one without a problem. 

post #4 of 9

I lost 6 chickens but only had 3 piles of feathers.  So I wonder if those 3 piles just put up a bigger struggle than the other 3.  One of my birds was a silkie bantam...he was tiny so I imagine he was killed instantly.    I looked for days for his feathers hoping he had managed to escape and would return but it was false hope.

Just because you caught it in a trap, doesn't make it the killer of your chickens.

 

Poo chart:  https://uconnladybug.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/scatlayout_bottom-worthadam.jpg

Foxes climb:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6YQdi5gbFg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lt8FG9Fblis

Possums eat ticks  http://www.caryinstitute.org/newsroom/opossums-killers-ticks

A Chicken's Life:  https:/...

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Just because you caught it in a trap, doesn't make it the killer of your chickens.

 

Poo chart:  https://uconnladybug.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/scatlayout_bottom-worthadam.jpg

Foxes climb:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6YQdi5gbFg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lt8FG9Fblis

Possums eat ticks  http://www.caryinstitute.org/newsroom/opossums-killers-ticks

A Chicken's Life:  https:/...

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post #5 of 9

I must agree with Queen Misha.

 

Not only are standard size chickens too heavy, the air resistance created by a tail, two useless wings, a pair of dangling legs, a head and a flopping neck plus a pillows' worth of feathers all pointing in different directions (which kills aerodynamic efficiency) is simply too much drag for a hawk to overcome.  It would be like a Piper Cub trying to get air born towing a ball parks' worth of artificial turf.  An eagle however could make off with a chicken but I would expect to see evidence.  

 

Don't believe the crap about birds of prey being efficient killers.  It simply isn't so.  The kill is often protracted and in some cases the chicken is still alive when the bird of prey returns for a second helping so even an eagle should leave feathers behind..  

Also the bald eagle is mostly a scavenger and prefers fish so it tends to hunt over rivers and lakes.  The golden eagle not so much.  In fact all birds of prey will scavenge fresh road kill and the eagles are not particularly interested in the fresh part. 

 

Therefor I think that you have a mammal preying on your flock.  Coyote, bobcat, or fox in descending order.  If you will state your region we could perhaps give you more help. 

 

Good luck.  

Keep your chickens safe from predators, buy and wear fur. 
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Keep your chickens safe from predators, buy and wear fur. 
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post #6 of 9

It's a four legged predator. Use some dashcam recorders, they cost so little nowdays if you shop around.

 

You will need to trap it, build a very very solid cage next to your run with a door that can slam shut in a hurry. You can rig it to trap the predator by itself, or with a cord across the yard if you get to see the creature ( only would work with camera monitors next to your regular TV in the house )

post #7 of 9
People like to think that predators all behave the way they read about in the books but they are not. They believe certain ones are nocturnal and always behave in certain ways. They don’t all follow that pattern. I’ve seen coyotes, bobcats, foxes, skunks, and others hunting in the middle of the day, I even saw a possum feeding from my compost at 1:00 pm on a sunny day and possum are supposed to be purely nocturnal. I did not expect to see that possum at that time. A neighbor saw a bobcat take her rooster in the middle of the day while she was looking out of the kitchen window washing the lunch dishes. Some of them are more nocturnal, but a lot of the time they are just really good at avoiding being seen. Human activity can keep them away too so nighttime is your highest time of danger but not your only time.

People think that certain predators always leave certain signs or go for specific body parts when they kill and eat. They don’t. There certainly are trends and most predators tend to follow those trends but all of them don’t always.

The only predator known to usually leave no sign is a human. Can you rule that out?

Coyote, bobcat, and fox are certainly on my list of possible culprits that could carry off a chicken and leave no trace. I’ll add dog to that list. I had a dog attack one time, two very large dogs that were abandoned in the country, where I lost eight chickens. I found one body, three piles of feathers, and no trace of the other chickens. If we knew where you are located we might be able to come up with more suspects. With the attacks being a few weeks apart I suspect it might be something that regularly hunts a large territory and makes a regular circuits or maybe a dog that is let out on a regular basis, maybe someone bringing a dog to a country house.

The only way to really protect your chickens is with barriers the animals can’t cross. I shoot and trap predators but all that does is remove one that is actively hunting your area. There can easily be more than one, I’ve often trapped raccoon on successive nights so more than one was visiting at the same time. Even if there is only one, there are plenty more being born. In my opinion removing one that is hunting your area is a good thing but that’s just a temporary or partial solution. It is not going to end the threat.

To remove it you need to know what it is. Different animals may require different trapping techniques or different sizes of traps or bait. It would be nice to know where to put it. To shoot it you would need to set up an ambush, these things can normally detect human motion really well and you generally don’t have time to go get a gun and come back when you spot it even if you could do that without frightening it off. Since your attacks are a few weeks apart how do you know when and where to set up an ambush?

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

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When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

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post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone. 

 

We are located in Southern British Columbia, Canada, right along the West Coast.

 

We hear packs of coyotes all the time, definitely have raccoons who terrorize our garbage regularly and aren't stranger to cougars (though it's rarer than the other predators).

 

I can pretty much rule out humans taking them, though I might check with my neighbors flock to see if they've wandered down there (a high hope I'm sure).

 

I can't be certain about a stray dog but I've never seen one around here before and I am a stay at home mom so we are usually home.

 

That is what is baffling me - we are almost always home and I don't see/hear anything. Obviously it could have happened during a time we were out in the day.

The first time a hen went missing I did hear a big kerfuffle, though it sounded like a dying cat and I didn't think it was one of my girls I just thought maybe a raccoon fight or something. I heard the crows going nuts and it wasn't till later when I went outside and saw her missing that I assumed foul play - usually the crows go berserk if an eagle is anywhere near our property. But from what everyone is saying, now I'm not so sure.

 

I do know that animals don't be have 'strictly' to their reputation and am certain a usually nocturnal animal would stay up for a free meal. I just can't believe that with how often I'm home, my dog is outside, and the mess those chickens make if anything ruffles their feathers, that they have vanished like this. I wish I could set up a cam but I don't even know where I would start. They free range and do go for a wander, not too far but in a wide enough area that I wouldn't possibly be able to capture it all on camera. I am quickly coming to the conclusion that I either have to lock them in the run or be willing to take my chances. Right now I'm not feeling like taking any chances though, as the couple weeks between disappearances makes me think this visitor won't stop returning until he/she's cleaned me out.  

post #9 of 9

you don't need to cover the whole area with a camera, just covering 20 % of their range will be more than useful.

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