Chickens disappearing without a trace, advice please

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by twincreekfarm1, Oct 24, 2015.

  1. twincreekfarm1

    twincreekfarm1 Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 5, 2015
    I have a farm in Virginia. I had nine hens in Feb. of this year. I now have two. The weird thing is their coop is an Amish made building on a foundation with a very secure floor and door and there have never been attacks or disappearances at night.

    What makes me suspicious is that hens only disappear when I am not home and sometimes in the day. One at a time over weeks and today, three at once, in the daylight.

    I have never, ever found a trace of any of the birds and no blood, feathers, corpses, nothing.

    I was only gone two hours today when three went missing.

    I am beginning to think that humans are involved.

    They were free-ranging but their night quarters is tight with bird netting over the coop yard and a closed up chicken house.

    I have plenty of cover and several large animals (goats, donkey, horse) where they range. Dogs are never out without me and always in fenced area.

    I am putting in cameras tomorrow and periphery of pastures, barns, home, etc will be fully fenced shortly and I am locking the front gate to the property. There are no roads back here...only one gravel road in and out.

    What do you all think?

    Is there any predator that could do this that has four legs?
  2. Free Spirit

    Free Spirit The Chiarian

    Oct 21, 2015
    Is it possibly a coyote or fox? I know they normally roam in the evening but I have seen them out in the daytime on a few occasions. What about eagles?

    Just throwing out a few suggestions, but it is a mystery indeed.
  3. Watermelon123

    Watermelon123 Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

    Jan 31, 2015
    Northern Ohio,
    How old were the birds?

    I would not rule out humans but it could also be foxes, coyotes, or hawks.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015
  4. trailrider330

    trailrider330 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 4, 2013
    Midwest America
    Not sure where you are located, or what predators are in your area, but it sounds a bit similar to our experience with a fox this summer, or at least that was the case when ours were free-ranging. Our neighbor saw it and we confirmed it with a trail cam.

    Human involvement is always possible. Someone I know had their chickens go missing and it turns out they were later set loose in the local high school by some seniors looking to hold a senior prank. But, at least they eventually got their chickens back.

    I think setting up a trail cam is a great idea, but until you catch the culprit I would suggest you not free-range them. If it is a predator, they are just going to keep coming back if they think they can get an easy meal.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015
    1 person likes this.
  5. Watermelon123

    Watermelon123 Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

    Jan 31, 2015
    Northern Ohio,
  6. dekel18042

    dekel18042 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    X2 on the foxes, coyotes or human predators. I doubt a rapture, only because in that case there is usually a pile of feathers at the scene of the hit. If you have bobcats in your area it could be that. A trail cam should be a big help.
  7. critterkeeper25

    critterkeeper25 Chillin' With My Peeps

    So, your coop is completely shut up tight at night and still your hens are going missing? Do you sell your eggs? In other words, do others know that you have chickens? Do they know where your coop is? If you do sell your eggs and have general traffic onto your property and you don't know your customers, maybe it is a person taking them. They would be easy to walk off with when they go to roost.

    If they aren't locked up tight at night, if you have an open coop, maybe it is an animal. If they want your chickens bad enough and are smart enough to work things out, they could be snatching them at night.

    We had 2 hens go missing in 4 days. We were away and my husband insisted on them free ranging while we were away (he always does, don't ask me why) and our friend that takes care of our animals for us when we were away noticed that 2 went missing the day after we left. Not a trace of them. They just vanished. Then, 3 days after our return, my son and I witnessed a fox finishing off one of our hens in our front yard at 5:30 in the evening. We now believe that the fox also took the other two hens. It was trying to drag off the hen that we saw him kill, until my son chased him off. I found the den not far away, maybe 40 yards from our house on the far side of our property in the hedgerow. (We own a 10.5 acre farm that half of it is planted in soy) We are currently trying to dispatch said fox.

    I hope you figure out what has been killing/taking your chickens soon. Good Luck.
  8. twincreekfarm1

    twincreekfarm1 Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 5, 2015
    This was indeed a strange experience. The day after all this happened and I had posted the original post, I let the remaining two hens out as usual and heard a lot of noise hours later. I can see and hear the coop from the kitchen and there is an area to the left of the coop that is an underbuilding run in where they used to shear and do foot work on alpaca. I ran down to the noise and found the 4 missing hens in the underbuilding area. They were not there three hours earlier when I let the 2 hens out. It was after 10 am when they came back.

    They were not in the horse or hay barn after dark the night before. They did not get in the garage and they were not in the breezeway. I have no idea where they were. My son (a veterinarian) thinks something startled them badly and they took to the trees for the night. I really searched for them after dark.

    Happily they are back and since that incident, no more disappearances. And thanks for the advice. I have fox, coyote, bear, bobcat here. They are almost a year old and they seem more savvy about everything. Plus they are good flyers.

    I cannot sell eggs off the property...only at the farmers market. But I was suspicious as I have a neighbor who was anything but friendly to the alpaca farmer. However, NO ONE can come on the this property without the 6 dogs going berserk in the house, so that seemed a puzzle too.

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