Can someone please help me solve a murder mystery? Two weeks ago, I bought a dozen chicks. I put them in a large, plastic tub and then I put the tub into a large wooden crate. I covered part of the crate with plywood and draped chicken wire fence over the top. To weigh the chicken wire fence down, I placed small stacks of newspaper around the perimeter. In the middle, I placed a heat lamp to give the chicks some warmth. I stored the crate inside my chicken coop. I have been doing this for years without any problem!
Last night, I went into the coop to feed the chicks and give them water. Everything was just as I had left it previously, except all of the chicks were gone! I removed the top and examined the inside. Not a single feather was visible. There was a very small blotch of blood in the corner of the floor. There were no droppings. The water container was knocked over and the feeding tray was empty.
I moved the crate aside from the wall and noticed some gnawing marks on the wood with some small holes where a critter got in. There was dirt on either side of the small holes. Also, there were lots of new feathers on the ground, but no bones or other body parts. On the other side of the wall (outside of the coop) there were no signs of tunneling at all. I have a rock garden outside of the coop with a layer of river stones laying down right up to the building. Back inside the building, there is no sign of droppings on the floor. The floor was built using patio blocks that are placed tightly together. Usually, the coop (and the adjoining run) are impregnable by animals. The coop is built with pressure treated studs and 3/4" plywood with MDF over that. The run is completely covered with hardware cloth along the walls and floor.
What kind of predator could have gotten in by tunneling such a small hole in the wall near the base and done such a neat job of completely devouring my baby chicks? The critter would have had to been able to pull the chicks body up along the side of a Rubbermaid tub and squeezing the chicks through the small space on the side of the chicken wire cover. Also, the chicks were gaining weight and were about the size of a softball. The critter ate all 12 of the chicks!!! Does anyone have any ideas?