Chicken Nature or Homicidal Hen?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Clov3r, Nov 26, 2016.

  1. Clov3r

    Clov3r Out Of The Brooder

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    Round one: Had 5 week old chicks, about 11 of them. Started allowing them out inside of the chicken barn. (Our chickens are free range but cooped at night). Came in one morning to a massacre. All but TWO chicks were dead and strewn all over the barn. In hindsight, probably not smart, we had just never had that issue before. It was most definitely death by the adult chickens.

    Round 2: locked the chicks back up in a smaller enclosure in the barn. Came in next morning, caught a hen pecking at one that she'd pulled partially through the pen. Culled the hen and she became stew that night.

    Round 3: Rebuilt the enclosure with smaller chickem wire. Got more chicks. Came in this morning, found 3 dead and one missing. They had to have found a way through the door of the enclosure. Again, definitely death by chickens. Heads pecked.


    I'm not sure what to do here. These chicks are at least 8 weeks old, and someone in my flock is still killing them. I've never dealt with this before, and don't know whether I should find and cull the culprits, or chalk it up to chicken nature and just keep the chicks well enclosed until they're full freaking grown.
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    It is possible something else is killing the chicks and the hens are eating the aftermath.

    If they are in fact killing the chicks, then I would look very closely at nutrition. Tell me what makes up all their intake including type of feed, protein percentage, scratch and treats and what percentage of total food that makes up.
    How much total space do they have inside for how many birds and what time are they let out in the morning?

    It isn't uncommon for hens to attack small birds (one reason not to raise multiple ages together), but it is extremely unusual for them to do so when they aren't in the same space and go out of their way to get to them.

    I highly recommend you read the following article and answer the above questions for further guidance.
    http://articles.extension.org/pages...chickens-in-small-and-backyard-poultry-flocks
     
  3. Clov3r

    Clov3r Out Of The Brooder

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    We currently have 1 rooster and 11 hens that are adults. I don't thiiiink anything else is doing the killing. Why would they leave all the carcasses behind, except one this time? All of them have had their heads pecked, and a few had shoved themselves under a nest shelf and obviously died afterward, as the adults wouldn't have been able to reach them.

    They get scratch every morning, and any kitchen scraps that are reasonable on a daily. They free range on 2+ acres with no restrictions. They're let out shortly after sunrise in the morning.

    I definitely am surprised were having such a problem with this.
    I'll take a look at the article.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2016
  4. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Could be rats, weasels, mink, etc.
    A mink will kill everything in the building without eating a bite of meat.
    You don't even see bites. Members of the weasel family will grab the bird by the neck till they're dead and lap some blood but don't eat the meat.
     
  5. Clov3r

    Clov3r Out Of The Brooder

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    Yeesh. Well, we are in Texas, so weasels aren't where I'd go first, but rats could get into the coop. Any particular sign I should look for?
     
  6. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    It sounds like something from the weasel family to me. You may not ever see them, but they may be there. Do a Google search on animals in your part of the country. It really sounds like weasel damage to me. If you have the smaller ones, they can get through a 1" or smaller space. Your older ones would not have killed that first bunch in the night. They don't do much at night at all (which is what makes them such easy prey for night time predators) If you do witness your chickens actually killing the younger ones, I'd scrap that whole bunch and start over. I highly doubt it's them, though.
     
  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Weasels are found in all 48 states. They can fit through any opening that you could push a quarter through. And they kill for the sheer pleasure of it, most of their damage is located in head and neck region. Pulling a bird part way through the fencing is not the act of a flock mate. It is the act of a 4 legged predator. The hen was simply investigating the protein meal left behind by the predator. If your birds only free range and get scratch/table scraps it's possible they are protein deprived. But, first, I'd be looking for your predator. Game camera option????
     
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  8. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Rats will eat some meat.
    My family has raised chickens within a half mile from where I live now since the 1870s and we never had a problem with mink until Walmart built a store at the bottom of the hill and cut down 80 acres of woods along the creek. In a couple weeks, the mink took out $4,000 worth of chickens till I closed off every opening over 1/2".
     
  9. Clov3r

    Clov3r Out Of The Brooder

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    Yeah, I guess they're here too... you just don't see them as often as I feel like I did in the north. *sigh. Ok. Well, it's an old barn, so closing off every hole is going to be interesting. In the meantime, is there anything else I can do?

    I'm relieved it's probably not my flock. It just seemed drastically aggressive, so I was terrified I was going to have to cull off parts of the flock to get rid of the behavior. My husband JUST told me that one of the chicks shoved under a nest shelf was headless. SO OBVIOUSLY IT DIDN'T PUT ITSELF THERE. I can't believe he didn't tell me that earlier...
     
  10. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Maybe instead of closing off every hole, make a smaller enclosure in the barn that's easier to secure?
     
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