can stalking cats stress chickens into not laying?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by el_leafo, Jun 17, 2011.

  1. el_leafo

    el_leafo Hatching

    Feb 2, 2009
    Melbourne, Australia
    A few questions about the neighbours' cats stalking our chickens.

    Recently they killed two new young pullets we had bought. I had naively thought they'd be okay as we hadn't had a problem with our previous batch, but I now remember these cats were not around when they were little.

    The big girls (when I say big, they are Belgian D'Uccle Bantams) don't seem to be in any danger, but I now realise their behaviour changed around the time the cats started lurking. I'm pretty sure that's around when they stopped laying. Could stress be the cause?

    Also they started spending most of their time standing on top of our outdoor setting - now I wonder if that's because they feel safer up there and have a good 360 degree view?

    What's more, around this time they stopped "going to bed" at night and instead roost on top of a fence. We have to manually get them down to lock them in their house at night (a major nuisance as they have chosen a spot near a very prickly tree, and most days I'm home alone at dusk, and with a newborn baby that's not a good time to have an extra thing to worry about). Could this be a fear of going into their house where they'd be more easily cornered by a cat if I don't shut the door quickly enough?

    All philosophical questions. but now for the practical one - what do I do about this? I'm filled with impotent rage as not only do I love my little chickens, but I'm frustrated at how much money we spend buying them, feeding them, building their housing, how much time cleaning their housing and caring for them, only to have no eggs and this distressing loss. But there doesn't seem to be anything you can do about cats - they have free run of the world.

    For now I'm keeping them all locked up in their smallish cage while I decide what to do. Previously they were happily free-ranging over a big yard, so this is really not ideal. I don't want the remaining little one to be locked up all alone, so have opted to keep them all in there. Also I'm not sure if they cats now have a taste for blood and newfound confidence and will now be after the adult chickens too.

    Any ideas?

  2. Firefighter Chick

    Firefighter Chick Songster

    May 8, 2011
    Southeast Minnesota
    perhaps there is something in the coop that is making them uncomfortable. Are there scary sounds there at night? Biting mites? Perhaps you should do a thorough search of the coop to make sure that it's not the problem. good luck.
  3. southerndesert

    southerndesert B & M Chicken Ranch

    Jun 17, 2011
    Morristown, AZ
    Is there a chance you have rats or mice in the hen house at night? They will really bother your hens...

    Cats are around our coop and in yard day and night and have never had issues with the hens over it, but...
  4. Judy

    Judy Crowing Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    The OP said these cats recently killed two of her chickens. I do believe the stress of their presence is probably causing them to roost high and not lay. I imagine for some reason they feel safer from the cats if they are not in the coop, whether that is actually true or not. Cats don't ordinarily bother chickens, but that's ordinarily -- it's not unheard of, these are bantams, and cats certainly will take young chicks without hesitation. And I would think a cat that already took a chicken would take more if it had the opportunity.

    I live in the country and have cats and dogs. The dogs accept the cats they know, and do fine with the chickens (at least so far) but not strange cats.

  5. Gallo del Cielo

    Gallo del Cielo La Gallina Resort & Spa

    May 6, 2010
    My Coop
    It might be worth while to check for poultry ticks (and mites) tonight right after sunset (within an hour). Here's a page describing what to look for: A tick infestation can reduce egg laying and makes the chickens reluctant to return to their roosts at night. This type of tick is relatively common where you live and it would be worth the 5 minutes it takes to rule them out. Good luck.
  6. el_leafo

    el_leafo Hatching

    Feb 2, 2009
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thanks everyone, that has given me a few things to think about. I will check thoroughly for insects and vermin in the coop. My gut feeling is it started when we accidenlty forgot to shut the coop door til late one night, and added to the cat presence, they haven't felt safe since then. But I definitely want to rule out these bugs and mice.

    The cats were caught red handed eating the little ones, and have been lurking around day and night since. (They were before too obviously, but now I'm more aware because I'm constantly out there checking). But as for the egg laying, there are so many reasons hens can stop that cat-stress is probably a moot point.

    I guess my primary problem for the moment is just protecting them.

    I wondered if it would help to get a rooster? Do they help to protect a flock? (Would also be great revenge on the neighbours being woken by him every day).
  7. el_leafo

    el_leafo Hatching

    Feb 2, 2009
    Melbourne, Australia
    BTW I am no longer "Mum of three Rhode Island Red x Wyandottes - Goldie, Specky, and Pecky Sue" but can't seem to change this signature. Just the little bantams for the past few years.

  8. mjuenem

    mjuenem Chirping

    Aug 8, 2010
    Putnam Co.
    I had three favorolles hens in our run, 2x bantams and 1 std size. The two bantam hens hung together most of the time. Easter Eve we were visited by a coon (or 2) that pulled one of our bantams through the chain link fence and ate all of it right there - there was gore covering a square foot area of the fence corner, what a mess. Up till then we were getting eggs regularly from the Std size and also from the surviving bantam. From the night of that attack till now, the remaining bantam has not laid a single egg. I have always chocked that up to the stress of seeing her buddy die an incredibly horrifying death. This bantam is healthy as a horse in every way and runs with the other chickens (the Std and a couple new pullets) just like she used to. I think it was the stress from that night, though I admit I am surprised it has lasted this long.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by