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Does this sound like a hawk attack? UPDATED: CONFIRMED!!

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I let my girls out to free range when I am home. We have a small, fenced-in yard without much open space, except in the very  back where there is maybe a 40' x 40' open space. We live in a pretty urban part of town, but you know how south Georgia is, lots of trees and underbrush. I have 8 (now 7) large breed chickens.

 

Yesterday evening, right before dusk, I was inside doing dishes and heard a commotion. I ran out back, and saw all of the chickens, and my two cats, running around like crazy. I could tell there was no stray dog, etc, just a lot of squawking and running. It looked like maybe the cats were being frisky (they will sometimes make a run at the chickens) so I figured that was going on and went back in. A couple of hours later, I went to shut the coop and found that my favorite girl, my Buckeye, was AWOL.

 

I found a pile of small feathers from her in the clearing in the yard. I note they were small, because they looked like back feathers. There was no other entrails, parts, etc, just the poof of feathers.

 

I can't think what else would leave only a poof of feathers, that would get her during the day, that would be in a pretty urban area (we do have racoons and possums, but not foxes, coyotes, etc).  I think maybe hawk? Input appreciated, I am going to keep them locked up till I figure out what else to do.


Edited by poseygrace - 8/18/12 at 4:09pm

Every day I wake up, I thank God for my simple country life in the middle of town. 

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Every day I wake up, I thank God for my simple country life in the middle of town. 

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post #2 of 17

That does sound like a hawk attach.hit.gif I have had some trouble with hawks myself.  Good luck.

I have 2 dogs, 1 cat, 1 Orpington, 1 Wyandotte, 1 Red Star, and 1 Hamburg.

                                                                          I love chickens!!!

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I have 2 dogs, 1 cat, 1 Orpington, 1 Wyandotte, 1 Red Star, and 1 Hamburg.

                                                                          I love chickens!!!

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post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the response. I guess I didnt realize that a hawk could kill a full sized chicken. I'm pretty sad at this loss.

Every day I wake up, I thank God for my simple country life in the middle of town. 

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Every day I wake up, I thank God for my simple country life in the middle of town. 

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post #4 of 17

Some hawks can kill full sized chickens but those in your area cannot just pack one off.  Consider fox, coyote or even bobcat in an urban setting as they all live some feather sign and can quickly pack off what they catch.

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 #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks! This is a really morbid question, but how does a hawk kill a chicken? Does he eat it on the ground or tear it up and fly off with chunks? Sorry, just trying to imagine how a 2 or 3 lb hawk would make off with a 6 lb chicken!

Every day I wake up, I thank God for my simple country life in the middle of town. 

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Every day I wake up, I thank God for my simple country life in the middle of town. 

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post #6 of 17

I had a hawk attack this morning, it was attacking a wild baby rabbit. It freaked the chickens out though.

The hawks I've seen dine at/near the kill zone.
 

post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by poseygrace View Post

Thanks! This is a really morbid question, but how does a hawk kill a chicken? Does he eat it on the ground or tear it up and fly off with chunks? Sorry, just trying to imagine how a 2 or 3 lb hawk would make off with a 6 lb chicken!

When the chicken is adult and larger than hawk, the hawk employs a combination of talons and beak.  Talons do not crush but rather pierce and somtimes rather deeply.  Think lungs / airsacs, organs of gut, major blood vessels and nerves.  Piercing alone can disable chicken but usually hawk must use talons to continue contact and control the chickens movement.  If the chicken is able, it will sometimes fight back by flailing wings or will attempt to drag hawk into heavy cover where hawk is sometimes dislodged.  Hawk will use its wings and even fall over purposely using legs as lever to force such a struggling chicken off its feet.  Hawk will use beak to tear into chicken with most rapid death coming from attacks on head and neck regions although hawk may not be able to reposition owing to relationship during initial contact.  Hawk then attacks a reachable point causing death by slow tearing at whatever areas it can reach.  Hawk will sometimes begin feeding before kill complete but this is not usual case.  Killing seems to normally be a priority before consumption begins.  A hawk will wrestle a lot to make a kill but generally they avoid damaging their own feathers.  The hawk has to maintain control over struggling quarry because if a chicken were to break free and be able to fight back the chicken can very quickly cause serious damage to hawk.  The hawks talons and bill are awesome offensive weapons but a flogging chicken can impart forces on hawk that hawks skull and wings are poorly suited for withstanding.  Chickens bill having access to the large but delicate eyes can also cause unacceptable damage to hawk.  Problem for hens is they seldom fight back.

 

Consumption is normally on sight and begins often in area damaged to make kill.  Often hawk will do a fair amount of plucking before consumption begins.  Hawk will consume enough to fill its crop and stomach and then fly up to protected location.  Sometimes hawk will drag item a little ways but generally not very far which contrast with great-horned owls which can drag items a good ways and even hall them up a tree to launch for a powered glide in desired direction.  In my experience hawks feeding nest bound little ones do not typically attack such large prey because item must be flown back to nest for consumption.  If a parental hawk does catch a big item, much will be consumed before a greatly reduced item is transported back to nest.  Item that is being consumed will be defended from other hawks sometimes for days until most is gone or catch is stolen by somebody else.

 

Most of my experience has been with red-tailed hawks with lesser involving Coopers hawks.  Many hawks like red-shouldered and sharp-shinned do not seem inclined to go after adult chickens.  Those with goshawks have problems I do not want to think about.

 

 

Hopefully not to much detail.

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 17

Does not sound like a hawk attack.  As centrarchid describes, hawks generally eat their prey at or near the killsite; and none of them (short of an Eagle) can carry off a 6-pound carcass.  It's possible your hen was hit but not killed on the spot; search very carefully under all the cover nearby.  If she really is gone, then something got past your fence.  Fox, dog, coyote, or bobcat are generally the prime suspects for a disappeared adult chicken. 

 

Your description of the chickens and cats "running around" also makes me suspect a 4-legged predator.  When hawks come around here, my flock gets under bushes and then everybody holds still for a long time.  I can tell there's a hawk nearby when I can't see any chickens! 

 

It is getting to be hawk migration season, so there will be a lot of hawk attacks for the next several weeks.  Cooper's Hawks are the main "chicken hawks" and they often kill with a talon-strike in the back of the head; if they miss that (and a lot of the ones migrating now are juveniles who aren't yet skilled at this), they will fasten onto the neck or shoulder and try to stab into something vital with their talons.  They are hungry and begin eating right away, starting at the head and working down the neck to the chest.  A few ounces of meat fills them up and off they go, leaving the rest of the carcass for scavengers.

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Growing food on the beautiful, cool, damp Mendocino coast
47 chooks, 11 breeds, and a freezer full of meat!
Anything worth doing, is worth overdoing.
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post #9 of 17

That's some interesting information about hawks, centrarchid. I lost a little 12-wk-old Buttercup hen to a hawk last week. Buttercups are a small breed and lightweight chicken and she was young. I know it was a hawk because I saw it take off from behind my garden where I found her. The wing span on the hawk was really something. My Buttercup was missing head, neck and the body cavity was opened, and feathers strewn about around it. We have Coopers and Redtail hawks in my area. 

I agree, OP, that you should consider fox, coyote, or something that could carry a larger breed off in a short time period. 

That hawk is still hanging around my area and I've been keeping my chickens penned. Two of my neighbors also have chickens, along with guineas that 'sound the alarm' and all the chickens take cover. They both recommend that I consider getting one. I don't know if the hawk will move on or not. No doubt my chickens would prefer free-ranging instead of being penned in the coop yard.

post #10 of 17

I don't think it was a hawk.  A hawk can't carry off an adult chicken.  The largest hawk in the USA weighs under 2 pounds.  He isn't going to carry a 6 pound chicken. Your bird was killed by something big enough and strong enough to pick up and carry an adult hen.

 

Hawks try to kill with their weight and speed.  If you smack a chicken in the head with 2 pounds diving down at 25 mph, it is usually going to kill it. So that is the first attempt.

 

The majority of hawks will not attempt to take an adult chicken.  The size difference is too great and there is too much risk of injury to the hawk, who doesn't have access to a vet to treat injuries.  There are a few large hawks who can and do kill chickens, but even they are not big enough to move a chicken and will pluck and eat it on the ground, or tear off chunks to take to their young on the nest.

 

A Great Horned Owl can take an adult chicken and carry it, at least for a short distance. But this was during the day, right?   Plus, they are so silent, the rest of your flock would never know they were there.

 

If the cats were also agitated, odds are very high that it was a fox or a stray dog.  Cats aren't afraid of birds and not usually afraid of raccoons.

Exhibition quality Blue Swedish Ducks and Gray Saddleback Pomeranian Geese,   Hatching eggs available in late winter and spring. NPIP

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Exhibition quality Blue Swedish Ducks and Gray Saddleback Pomeranian Geese,   Hatching eggs available in late winter and spring. NPIP

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