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What PREDATOR is taking my chickens?!?!?!

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Ever since I had to get rid of my 2 roosters in August, I have LOST, and by LOST I mean have found nothing but one leg 2 weeks later, 4 of my chickens.  We have just under an acre and keep the chickens in a 50x50 ft fenced run during the day, it is not covered.  My DH lets them out when he gets home, around 4pm, and they get locked up in their coop at night.  We have 2 dogs, a husky and a cattle dog, that never bothered the chickens (though, that is no longer the case).  Many times over the last 3 years he would come home and find either Daisy my d'uccle or Olive my australorp wandering the yard and the dogs laying on the porch.  Obviously, this was not a good thing, so I clipped their wings, but, the fence separating the yard is only 4 ft high, and since they knew it could be done, they would actually "climb" the fence to get out. 

 

The first bird to go missing (around October) was a 3-4 month old d'uccle/silkie cross (that's the one who's leg we found). I hadn't known her to fly over the fence, since she was usually right next to her 2 hatch mates, but since her mom was the d'uccle, I knew it was possible and likely.  We saw a hawk in a pine tree the next morning and figured it took her in the "big yard" in the later afternoon, since that part of the yard is much more open. The fenced run is "guarded" by a flock of about 30 acorn woodpeckers that chase off blue jays and squirrels, so we figured they would do the same to a hawk.  At this point, we figured we had a hawk scoping our birds and stopped letting them out of the run for about a month.

 

Not long after we started letting them back into the yard, her hatch mate, a BCM/silkie cross went missing.  She had never flown over the fence before, so we figured she was taken in the big yard, so again, we stopped letting them out.

 

About 3 months ago,  my sweet Daisy went missing.  Since we weren't letting them out anymore, I know she flew over the fence.  The day before she disappeared she was in the yard when my DH came home. I should have clipped her wings that night (she had just finished moulting) but I didn't.  We searched EVERYWHERE and found not a feather.  I blamed myself because I figured the dogs got her and my husky buried her body.  hit.gif

 

Then, about 2 months ago, my 3 year old Australorp, Olive, was gone.  When my DH went out to lock the coop, she was missing.  It was almost dark, but I did find a pile of feathers in the big yard just outside the run.  The next morning we found her body.  It was missing some feathers, but there was no blood or wounds that I could see. I actually think she probably died during the night because she was still limp in the morning.  At this point, our "predator" went from being a HAWK to my dogs, so i made the fence a foot higher with waving green tape to scare the birds from flying over.  But, at this point, all the birds that had ever done that were gone.

 

Well....until today, I had 3, 3 month old pullets, 2 australorps and one buff orp.  They were also inseperable, especially the 2 australorps, and have never flown over the fence.  When DH got home and let the chickens out (which we started doing when Olive was killed because we had crossed HAWK off our predator list), one of the australorps was gone (he now counts them before letting them out).  We looked everywhere and found nothing.  She wasn't tiny, about 2-3 lbs.  I found some black feathers in the run (about 10), but many looked old, and I have a lot of black birds. 

 

So, now we are back to square one.  It is "possible" she got out of the run and the dogs got her, but there was absolutely no sign of anything in the yard.  The other possibility is, there have been a couple ravens hanging around lately.  I saw one fly right over the run a week ago. But, I haven't found anything that says a raven will pick up a pullet as big as them and fly away with it.  She was almost as big as a hawk. 

 

So... I need to know what is disappearing my birds so that I can know what I need to do and where I need to do it.  There is NO WAY any other dogs or animals (that don't fly) can get into the run or yard.  It has to be either the dogs (wouldn't they leave carnage?) or a hawk (how big a bird can they carry away without leaving any evidence?) or a raven (do/can they carry a pullet away?).  This is so frustrating not know what is taking them.  Sorry this is so long, but this is driving me CRAZY  barnie.gif

post #2 of 12

Sorry to hear about your losses. You could try setting up a game camera. That way you'll see who's around when you're not and how you might fix things. I don't think they are very expensive.  There is even a thread dedicated to game camera pics!

A mind is like a door.  Keep it open and something might get in.

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A mind is like a door.  Keep it open and something might get in.

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post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks, that's an idea, I guess.  The problem is, this is happening about every 1-2 months, so I would probably have to wait until another bird disappeared to find out what is taking it. 
 

post #4 of 12

You might find that predators are around more frequently than chickens go missing, just waiting for the right opportunity.  If it is happening in daylight hours then it might be a hawk. A Red-tailed could easily carry off a grown chicken, and there are several other large hawks in our area, as well as some very large owls.  Gray fox, which can climb trees and 6 ft privacy fences, could easily scale your run, grab a bird, and leave without a trace as could a raccoon.  So many things after our chickens!

 

You could get some cheap plastic mesh (aviary netting) to cover your run. That would at least rule out hawks if you lose another hen.  Maybe a hot wire around the run would add some security.

 

Too bad you had to get rid of your roosters. Seems like they were doing an excellent job protecting the flock.

 

Best wishes

A mind is like a door.  Keep it open and something might get in.

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A mind is like a door.  Keep it open and something might get in.

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post #5 of 12

As everything likes chicken, it could be almost anything.  Raccoons, possums, HAWKS, other people's dogs, your dogs.  If it is in the open pen, I would say hawks or dogs.  At night, I would say raccoon, or fox.  I don't know how far away you live from other people, but we live out in the country and other people's chickens end up at our house.  And most recently, a new neighbors dogs... a lab and two teenage labs tour our barn coop apart... I mean ripped the wood off and destroyed the nesting boxes to get to our chickens.  It was devastating as we had a solid coop in the barn and felt it was pretty safe.  We turned two stalls into coops. 

 

If a predator wants a chicken, they will find a way.  The best idea is to set up one of those cameras.  If our neighbor hadn't heard the barking and found the dogs in the coop, we would have never known what did it.

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

I am willing to put netting above the run, at least sporadically, but it will be a BIG pain to maintain, since the run is beneath several pine and oak trees.  We don't have owls (at least during the day) and I am in the middle of town, and have 2 dogs, so I know foxes are not taking them during the day.  If they were disappearing at night, they would be a possibility.  If a hawk could fly away with a 3 pound pullet, then I am pretty sure it is a hawk.  I actually think that what triggered the dogs to go after the chickens, is the first "kill".  I think a hawk did get her during the day, but was scared away by the dogs, who got the dead chicken.  Ever since the first 3 chickens disappeared, my husky has been "eyeing" the chickens in the run, which she never did before.  I may just try fishing line. 
 

post #7 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by flowerchicks View Post

I am willing to put netting above the run, at least sporadically, but it will be a BIG pain to maintain, since the run is beneath several pine and oak trees.  We don't have owls (at least during the day) and I am in the middle of town, and have 2 dogs, so I know foxes are not taking them during the day.  If they were disappearing at night, they would be a possibility.  If a hawk could fly away with a 3 pound pullet, then I am pretty sure it is a hawk.  I actually think that what triggered the dogs to go after the chickens, is the first "kill".  I think a hawk did get her during the day, but was scared away by the dogs, who got the dead chicken.  Ever since the first 3 chickens disappeared, my husky has been "eyeing" the chickens in the run, which she never did before.  I may just try fishing line. 
 

 Best guess I have is a canid, possibly more than one involved.  Daytime attacks strongly indicative of canid (fox, coyote or dog) and something like a bobcat can not be ruled out even in an urban setting.  Both of the wild canids will cache catch if multiple or large victims but will sometimes otherwise consume on spot.  If consumed on spot, then large feather pile to be expected.  Hawk could have gotten a bird or two but unless victims small (< 2 lbs), only partial consumption would have left a typically modified carcass where you could find it.  Both canids will have routes taking them past your place almost daily where they might see your birds regularly but they only make attempt when dogs can be circumvented.  Red fox is really good at this where fox sneaks in grabbing chicken before it has time to make much of an alarm then sprints with catch beyond reach of dog(s).  I have a red fox that tries this but so long as chickens can give a little alarm, dog gets over and escorts fox away.  Fox appears to break off efforts now as soon as chickens give alarm.  Dogs sleeping on front porch will not be deemed threat.

 

Your netting may still be helpful as it can slow predator access and keep birds in run.

 

You need to work on getting you dogs to be consistently chicken friendly.  More, not less, interaction between dogs and chickens will facilitate.  Even with husky, you should be able to have chickens and dogs eating from same bowl with a little backyard setting where you can piddle a bit.


Edited by centrarchid - 6/13/12 at 4:25am
Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.
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Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.
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post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by flowerchicks View Post

I am willing to put netting above the run, at least sporadically, but it will be a BIG pain to maintain, since the run is beneath several pine and oak trees.  We don't have owls (at least during the day) and I am in the middle of town, and have 2 dogs, so I know foxes are not taking them during the day.  If they were disappearing at night, they would be a possibility.  If a hawk could fly away with a 3 pound pullet, then I am pretty sure it is a hawk.  I actually think that what triggered the dogs to go after the chickens, is the first "kill".  I think a hawk did get her during the day, but was scared away by the dogs, who got the dead chicken.  Ever since the first 3 chickens disappeared, my husky has been "eyeing" the chickens in the run, which she never did before.  I may just try fishing line. 
 

I've been having the disappearing bird syndrome and mine turned out to be a fox. Have had hawk attacks before and as my birds are larger, the remnants looked like a bomb went off on the ground (chicken splat, feathers spread out in a large circle). My 'chicken gone but only a feather or two left behind' was the work of a fox. I did add netting to the top of my run - and it has a lot of tree cover as well.

 

I used the knotted 2" flight netting, which is supposed to hold up somewhat in snow and haven't had any leaf problems yet. Before using that, I strung wire over the coop and did not have any more hawk attacks. 

 

As for the fox, I had no choice but to add hot wires to the coop. it was reasonably inexpensive (wire was cheap and I have a lowish end charger that was about $100). Hot wires would keep your dogs away as well. 

 

I am letting my birds out again now, but only when I am outside and plan on staying there, generally an hour or two before 'bedtime'. 

post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 

Here are some pics of my yard, taken from the back porch where my dogs spend most of their time, but they obviously have access to the whole yard (minus the run).  There is a 6 ft fence around the whole yard, except the back, which is a very short wire fence.  Behind it is about a 1/2 acre of complete dense overgrown shrubs.  I know years ago we did have foxes back there that came out at night.  I have never seen them during the day, and I doubt they would come into the yard with 2 dogs in it.  The 6ft fencing around the run backs up to another yard and driveway. There are houses (and dogs) all around.  I weighed my other australorp pullet this morning and she is just under 2 1/2 lb, and she was always a little smaller than the missing one.  I am even more confused now.  I also thought a hawk would make a mess of her, but I guess a female hawk can get up to 4lb.  I guess it could have carried her away, but I am not sure why it would. since it would have been left completely alone in the run to eat her.  There is no way a dog could get into the run, not even my own.

 

This is taken from the back porch

  2012-06-13_06-47-14_54.jpg

 

2012-06-13_06-47-21_100.jpg2012-06-13_06-47-45_908.jpg

 

This is looking into the backyard

2012-06-13_06-48-40_23.jpg2012-06-13_06-48-33_268.jpg
 

post #10 of 12

My dog could get into your run either by clearing the wire fence or scaling the picket fence in the same manner as a fox or coyote.  If fox can get into run and your dogs cannot, then fox will pursue chickens literally within feet of dogs foaming at mouth trying to get fox.  Even the largest hawk will not be able to drag a 2.5 lb chicken out without removing a lot of feathers and meat first.  Great-horned owl could drag chicken up tree trunk then flutter out past fence with payload.

 

You will likely benefit from electric wire around perimeter at top and along bottom of fencing.

 

If you got your dogs chicken friendly and inside run, then your setup would make Fort Knox look like a store with doors open.

Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.
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Make every effort to understand your chicken's biology and the environment that supports it.
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