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.
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