Crazy old chicken killing other hens?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by slipperlady, Dec 20, 2013.

  1. slipperlady

    slipperlady New Egg

    Dec 20, 2013
    Hi--We started raising backyard chickens a little over a year ago. We bought a big coop with a rooster and 10 chickens. We successfully free ranged them during the summer. We added to our group with pullets and some we incubated the next spring. They all seemed to get along and we got rid of the extra roosters. We integrated them seemingly successfully and they all free ranged together this past summer. The first rooster died (we don't know how old he was) and he had one day of difficulty breathing and died that night early this fall. We got a new young rooster and once they were used to each other we let them free range together. We then found a dead chicken with the head and neck pecked under a storage shed where they liked to go. Then we started having a rash of hens disappearing, some at dusk and heard wings flapping (maybe an owl?). The always went back to the coop at dusk and we would go out and lock up the coop when the hens were all in. We thought maybe the hens were being picked off because the trees are bare...

    We have now increased the pen size and put netting over the top to keep out predators like owls and hawks, and put them all in together. Then we had dead hen in the pen with its head and neck pecked. We thought it was the rooster as he would peck at hens who didn't want to cooperate with him. So we put him in a separate pen and things went well for awhile, then the last two days we had two more hens found dead with their heads and necks pecked with the rooster not able to get to them. We think the pens are safe. There is plenty of room, we feed them pellets and scratch and sometimes snacks of bread or vegetables. So is it possible one of the older hens has become a killer chicken? Soon we will have no hens left and then I guess we will know which one is the culprit. We have separated out the rooster again only because he still seems too aggressive even if he is not a killer.

    Would appreciate any input. Thanks.
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    Certain predators tend to go for the head. Birds of prey are one. Hawks, eagles, and owls will usually go for the head for the kill and for the first part of their meal. You might want to look at your predator protection again. Owls especially will walk into the pen or coop, not always coming from the sky. If you examine the carcass you will often find talon punctures if it is a bird of prey. Those wings you heard sure make it sound like an owl.

    But what you describe makes me think more a member of the weasel family. Weasels definitely go for the head. Often a member of the weasel family will go on a rampage and kill several instead of just one but not all predators read the book and do what they are supposed to.

    A raccoon will often go for the head too, though they tend to eat on down from there into the body cavity. That one being drug under the coop makes me think of a raccoon. They’ll often take their food to a more secure place to eat it.

    A bobcat will usually go for the head too and they will drag their prey to a safe place to eat. But it sounds like the wounds are as severe as I’d expect a bobcat to make.

    I really sincerely do not think it is a chicken killing the others. If they see blood or an open wound they will likely peck at that and feed, but systematically killing the other flock members, no. You have some kind of predator getting in there.
  3. slipperlady

    slipperlady New Egg

    Dec 20, 2013
    Thank you Ridgerunner. We haven't seen anywhere a predator can get in, but will check it out more thoroughly. I hope to have free ranging chickens again next spring and summer because they do so well at eating the ticks and other bugs that it makes for a much better human environment here in NC.
  4. The Lazy L

    The Lazy L Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 16, 2011

    Are you using chicken wire or 1/2" wire fabric to protect your flock?
  5. slipperlady

    slipperlady New Egg

    Dec 20, 2013
    Hey Lazy L, we have a dog run which is chain link but a row of chicken wire around the bottom, roofs on two pens and bird netting covering the 20 x 10 pen that was just added (connecting). The pen is attached to the coop and there is room for a chicken or small animal to get under the coop. I need to have my husband see if there is possibly a hole under the coop, but I don't see anywhere it comes up in the pens if there is, but they could have it covered with something I suppose.
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Please provide a picture of a dead bird.
  7. fancyfowl4ever

    fancyfowl4ever Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 17, 2008
    Cranbrook, BC, Canada
    Sounds like a weasel to me, if a mouse fits through your fence so will a weasel(had chickens carcasses with their chewed off neck stumps in mouse holes cause the weasel was trying to take it with it). They generally chew up the head and neck of a bird(bleed them and drink the blood and sometimes eat some if still hungry).
    They sometimes just take 1 or 2 at a time but are also known to kill everything in a coop in 1 night(figured its when the still live birds panic then the critter goes into a killing frenzy, if everything remains calm they just take 1 or 2)
  8. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    I doubt that NASA could develop a microphone that could record the sound of an owl's wings flapping. An owl is just over here or over there, nothing but his shadow heralds his appearance or announces his departure and since owls hunt at night they make no shadows.

    Often a hen or cockerel will fail to surrender its place in the pecking order. In my experience it is common for these birds to seek relief from a pecking attack by running under cover to hide, like under a building or inside of or behind a nest box. This does not always provide the R-E-L-I-E-F that the persecuted bird expects, but it does sometimes provide the unfortunate bird with a tomb.
    Sorry for your loss.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2013

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