3 hens dead - need help to figure out what is killing them

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by meggo, Oct 15, 2015.

  1. meggo

    meggo New Egg

    Oct 15, 2015
    We free range our chickens and have never had a problem until recently. We moved our chickens, turkeys and ducks to our future homesite. We do not live there, but visit every morning and evening to let our birds in and out. They have lived there for 4 months safely until this past week.
    They free range during the day and are locked up at night. I count them daily and nightly. All murders have taken place during the daytime hours.
    #1- Hen disappeared. We found her body three days later. It's 6 acres and a big area to search. Her feathers were plucked off her head, neck and 1 breast. Nothing else was touched. Birds were completely free ranging.
    #2- We went to put birds away before dusk. Turkeys and ducks were huddled together under tree. Chickens were scattered. Rooster saw us and called hens in. They came running into coop from under bushes. Everyone returned except one of our old girls. We still have not seen her body.
    #3- Went to lock up birds tonight and 1 girl was missing. No sign of her.
    Since our second girl disappeared, we have been keeping them in their electrified poultry netting fence. The missing hen occasionally jumps fence. As do 3 others. I am at a loss as to what to do because I don't know what kind of predator I'm dealing with. I don't want to clip their wings if it's an aerial predator and make it harder for them to get away. I want them to be able to forage but also want them safe. Any idea what could be killing our chickens? We also have turkeys and Indian runner ducks and none of them have been killed.
  2. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Welcome1 So sorry for your birds. Lock them in their predator proof coop for a while, and set live traps outside of the coop only if you are willing to kill any varmits that you trap. Otherwise, keep them in unless you are actually out there watching' Raptors will get birds inside the fencing, but ground predators will avoid the electric. Set up a safe run for them as soon as you can too. Mary
  3. thecluckingbell

    thecluckingbell New Egg

    Jul 29, 2015
    New Jersey
    I'm so sorry about your hens! I'm not sure what it could be but I hope you find out soon! I had a small flock of 6 and two days ago, we found them all in their coop murdered. I have no idea what it was either and my kids are devastated.
  4. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    If you free range you always run the risk of losing a few birds. Mine always stay in electric netting, they started with it at a young age so were trained not to fly over. They respect the fence. You should clip wings if your birds fly over it. Whenever moving my fencing and coop I always locate it around a tree or two so they have ample cover from flying predators, that and the coop is on stilts so have that cover too.
  5. meggo

    meggo New Egg

    Oct 15, 2015
    Thank you so much for the responses! This morning I will reroute their fence around a large woodpile of fallen trees. It is already located under live trees for cover. I will ask a friend about live traps.
    I thought it was worth mentioning that we have two dogs who I take down there with us. Yesterday they went crazy running around and sniffing near the base of a tree and I smell something dead in the woods nearby. May be unrelated. If we have another bird die, we will move them up to our rental and keep them here with us until we move. We may need to look into getting a guardian dog at some point. I'm sad to lose these girls. I feel responsible.
  6. Bigwig

    Bigwig Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 8, 2015
    Sounds like a ground predator. If the chickens weren't eaten they probable were killed either by a dog or a mink. Live traps baited with meat (or cat food, but meat works best) is the best way to catch ground predators (and sometimes crows). If you catch something you either kill it or release it somewhere else (depending on your local regulations).
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2015
  7. meggo

    meggo New Egg

    Oct 15, 2015
    I found the third girl this morning uninjured! She had flown over the fence and bedded down in a woodpile. So at this point it is just two birds dead. I moved their fence to include woodpile. Hoping it's a ground predator. I feel better equipped to deal with them.
  8. meggo

    meggo New Egg

    Oct 15, 2015
    The second girl came home tonight! I have no idea what happened. Is it normal for chickens to hide out for 4 days after being scared? So we just have 1 dead chicken! Sweet relief! And a great way to force me to make security a priority! Thanks for everyone who took the time respond!
  9. thomasboyle

    thomasboyle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 28, 2013
    Northwest Hills of CT
    Do you have access to a trail camera or two? They take pictures whenever something walks by. I have 4 of them and find them extremely useful I need to know who or what is coming around. They take pics day or night. All these pics were taken by the same camera in the last week or so - I think I found a predator highway! You can get a good camera for around $100.

  10. the poppster

    the poppster Chillin' With My Peeps

    That's for sure!!

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