Chicken Little is dead


Nov 14, 2017

Came home last night around 10pm and realized Chicken Little wasn't in the coop. My chickens ALWAYS put themselves up before dark. Searched for about 30 minutes before I found her less than 15ft from the coop, dead in the thicket. Head was still attached, but all of the meat and flesh was eaten off of the head and neck. Whatever it was had started to eat the meat off of one wing and breast, but looks like it was mostly interested in the neck-up. Found a single puncture wound in the flesh left just below the neck, looks like a fairly small tooth (~1mm in diameter). I'm sure there were more puncture wounds, but it was dark and that was the only obvious one. No fur or scratch marks on the carcass that I could see. There were feathers scattered about 5ft from where her body lay, a sparse trail of feathers, and then another pile where she was. So it looks like there wasn't much of a chase once whatever it was got hold of her.

I've seen hawks on the gamecam going for my chickens, but her body was in some thick undergrowth (I wouldn't expect a hawk to hunt/eat down there). We have feral cats that hang around; I see them watching the chickens on gamecam pretty often, but we've never had trouble with them before. Plus the chickens (Cuckoo Marans) seem a bit hefty for these cats to take down. My 4 Pyrenees spend a good amount of time patrolling around the coop, and have killed a possum down the creek from it, but other than that I have not seen any predators on our property (7 acres surround by 4ft fence and patrolled by 4 LGDs). Last night I wondered if one of my Pyrenees had perhaps turned on her, but I think they would have drug her body back to their 'chew-toy' spot. Also, the way that the meat and flesh was removed from her head and neck seemed too intricate for a dog.

Any idea what might have killed my hen? I have read that raccoons will remove and eat the head, but whatever this was left the head & neck attached after removing the meat and flesh. Unfortunately my gamecam had no SD card in it at the time, so I was unable to catch the culprit on camera
I think that the best I've seen on here is the hardware cloth with the small holes. Not sure what gauge it is. If it is a mink or a weasel generally if the head fits through the rest will follow. The same with possums. I don't really have a problem with predators where I am and only really need normal chicken wire. I can count my self lucky. Hard Ware cloth is what you're going to need and loads of it dug into the ground aswell. If you see what it is on your gamecam then you can decide what traps will be best for dealing with it.
Im so sorry for your loss :(. I don’t know too much about the predators in the USA but I do know that cats, weasels and raccoons all kill by biting the neck. I think it would have to be a near starving feral cat to even attempt to bring down a large fowl chicken so that’s probably unlikely as you say. I wonder if a raccoon would have eaten a bit more of her so my bet is a weasel, stoat or something around that size.
Weasels and minks can get through 1 inch holes but I’d go smaller. Not sure how to deal with it free ranging. Might want to live trap it and relocate.
I have heard a homesteader say that if you are homesteading you should always have traps. That made me pay attention and I think I will do that.
Sounds like a mink or weasel to me. The best protection for the coop/run is 1/4" hardware cloth.

Protecting your hens from minks while they are free ranging is going to be very hard, if not impossible. Especially if unsupervised.
When you choose to free range, you are gambling with mother nature. There I no restricting their range, and nothing to stop predators.
When you free range you have to accept a certain level of loss to predators. If it is unacceptable you need a very secure run with wire apron underneath, 1/2" or smaller hardware cloth at least 18-24" from ground up, to deter raccoons and other preds that like to either squeeze thru wire or reach through and bite off any body part they can reach. A solid roof on the run will provide some shelter from the elements & also from raptors or critters jumping off tree branches.

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