Death by stupidity, but who-dunnit?


Premium Feather Member
14 Years
Dec 11, 2009
Colorado Rockies
I just hate it when I lose one of my flock because it was stupid! I live surrounded by all sorts of predators. You'd think it would be automatic to shut them in the pen when I go away, even the short distance I did yesterday. But my brain got lazy, and my hen paid the price. I ran some eggs out to the end of my driveway to a customer, and as I was returning, my rooster Penrod was going nuts. Thinking he was just joining in an egg song, which he does, I didn't rush back.

When I checked on the girls, there wasn't a single one to be seen. I walked around the pen enclosure and found my Buff Brahma Cleo lying dead just outside Penrod's pen. A young wild turkey was feasting on her remains. Her head was severed from her body, and the turkey dropped it as she fled from me.

I finally located most of the girls, huddled in a tight pod, ten of them, under the coop in a far corner. Two more were inside the coop. That left three unaccounted for - three of the four pullets.

As I was searching for the youngsters, I saw a hawk land near where Cleo had been killed. I had already removed her body. The hawk flew off when it saw me.

I searched for half an hour for the small ones, but was about resigned to them being gone, too. I went in to phone my neighbor to take a look around their place in case the three had run that far in their terror. Just then, I happened to walk out the front door, and there was a flutter of wings and squawking! The three missing pullets had hidden behind my wood barrel on the porch! Smart little buggers!

Now, I'm wondering what got my Cleo. Probably not the young wild turkey, being as it weighed half of what Cleo weighed, which was around eight pounds. Could it have been the hawk? Would a hawk sever the head of a hen? Or was it a fox? There were no foot prints in the crusted snow. A heavier predator would have surely carried off its prey, as what happened summer before last when a bobcat got one of my hens. It would have broken through the crust on the snow. Cleo weighed about what the fox would have weighed, so it would have found it difficult to carry her away.

So, what's your best guess? Wild turkey attacking a chicken? Hawk? Or fox?
It was probably the hawk and the turkey just took an opportunity to grab a bite when you scared the hawk by walking up.
In my experience hawks eat the head first. I occasionally see a hawk and a "turkey" vulture sharing a meal. Are you sure
it wasn't a vulture?
Sorry for your lose. I agree with violetsky, I feel it was the hawk.
It was a juvenile wild turkey nibbling on the kill. Not a vulture. The hawk would be my pick, now that I think more about it. The fact it returned to the spot after I had removed the remains tells me it may have been keeping an eye on its catch.

Also, Cleo's shoulders were denuded of feathers. Don't hawks grab a chicken by the shoulders when they attack?

I've never had a hawk come in and land next to the coop, so it has to be the guilty party. It was quite large, bigger than a Brahma hen.

This is a first. I've had bears, bobcats, a rattlesnake, but never a hawk due to the tree cover. I guess it's a problem now.
I think some hawks are just migrating through your area and won't linger. I just had a cooper's hawk kill a hen in a very residential neighborhood.
It does seem there's something waiting to grab any unprotected chicken every single time you make a mistake. After the first hawk attack your
chickens will be much better at running for cover. I don't think they suspect danger from above till it happens. Mine know the difference between
songbirds and hawks now and dash under shelter very quickly when a hawk sails overhead. Hawks will stand ontop and pull out feathers as they are
eating and make a mess but eat systematically. Dogs make a mess but don't usually eat anything. Coyotes and foxes run off with them.
Thanks for all the terrific input! This was just what I was seeking - to learn more about what could be threatening to my flock.

A retired Indiana wildlife officer who is a friend and neighbor, upon learning of my tragedy, informed me that red-tailed hawks are notorious for killing chickens, and it matches the hawk I saw in the wood pile. Sadly, red-tails are year-round residents in my neighborhood. It would be nice if it were passing through, but I don't think I could be so lucky.

I do believe that every single one of my chickens now understand fully the danger from the sky, including the youngest three who wisely secreted themselves behind a firewood barrel on the porch. I walked right by those little buggers and never saw them until opening the front door flushed them from their hiding place.

I'm going to be more aware of the danger from the sky, as well, better believe it!
While red tails may live there year round, you might have extra ones this time of year due to more migrating in from the north. We have red tails in the summer and very few or none in the winter.

So it is possible it is not a local bird.
Well, this has certainly not been a problem up to this point. I won't be letting the girls out for a while. Later, maybe, if I'm there with them. And here I was thinking winter was going to give me some relief from predators.

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