Am I losing birds to a predator?


5 Years
Oct 15, 2017
Cookeville TN
I've been keeping chickens for 3 years now. In that time, I've never lost a bird to any predator. My set up is unique in that I have a large run about 6,000 square feet enclosed with 6 feet high field fence, set in a larger yard surrounded by a 5 foot chain link fence. The Chain link fence is surrounded on two sides by barb wire fence a foot away. So my birds are in a fence surrounded by a fence surrounded by a fence. In the middle of their enclosure is a 40 ft high Douglas Fir tree. There is also 2 small chicken houses good for 3 or 4 birds, 1 medium chicken house good for maybe 7-8 birds, and one large shed with 2x4 perches set up that will fir about 20 birds. My older hens sleep in the various hen houses, the hens with clipped wings sleep in the shed, and the younger birds the single rooster roost in the Douglas Fir.
Up to a week ago, I had 34 birds--1 rooster, 5 chicks/pullets and 28 hens. A week ago I realized I was missing one of my hens. I looked around and there was no carcass, no feathers, and no sign of her. Today I conducted an inventory and I only counted 31 birds--so I am missing 3 birds total. Again, there are no signs of struggle, no feathers, no carcass. I live in a fairly isolated house, surrounded by hayfields and cows. There used to be coyotes who would test my fences, so I got a good Anatiolan Shepherd dog who pretty much keeps the coyotes at bay. In the last year, I have not seen nor heard any coyotes. I saw one racoon 6 months ago but it seemed to to be hurrying off because both my dogs were aware of it and barking. During the day time there are hawks and falcons flying over, but many of my chickens are black because I read that black chickens will keep hawks away. my dogs do bark at night every night but every time I check it is because of deer. So I've lost 2 birds--one was a Easter Egger and one was Buff Upington. They were younger birds that roosted in the tree. So who is taking my birds? Both of them were smallish in size. I haven't figured out the 3rd missing bird yet. Do you think I have an Great Horned Owl preying on my girls? Will an owl attack a roosting bird in a tree? Would a Great Horned Owl carry off a small chicken or would it eat it there at the kill site? How can I stop my losses? Any suggestions? Attached are two photos that show my chicken yard set up.


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Free Ranging
15 Years
Feb 25, 2008
Northern Michigan (tip of the little finger area)
My Coop
My Coop
Black chickens get eaten much alike any other color. In many instances the white or lighter color birds are picked off first, but black does not keep preditors away.
If I were you I would trim up the evergreen tree another 6 feet. Your chickens need to get inside a coop at night for safety.
Locked inside a secure coop is the only safe night time protection for chickens.
Sorry you have lost some birds, but you became aware quickly.
I would also recommend a trail cam or two, just so you can become aware of what is moving around your area when you are not looking. I have 7 cameras out right now. I see many things..(including humans,) that are unexpected.


Hilltop Farm
Premium Feather Member
15 Years
Nov 18, 2007
My Coop
My Coop
Could be a hawk or owl since the top of your pen is open. A predator can easily scale the fence. I have my pens covered with heavy duty netting, electric wires around my coops and pens and concrete under all of the gates, all due to losses from predators in the past.. I also have cameras up around on my property and most nights I see a predator on at least one of the cameras. Here most of the predators roam at night. Good luck...

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