Death in the Hen House

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by AlexisWriter, May 25, 2016.

  1. AlexisWriter

    AlexisWriter Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 9, 2014
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    [​IMG] Something (and I couldn't tell what, exactly) got into the chicken coop and killed one of my 6-month-old RIR hens. I had three total. My one of my dogs treed the killer but I wasn't brave enough to stand out there underneath the limbs and shine the flashlight up there. I was afraid of what I might find. The carnage was pretty significant but odd. A huge commotion woke me up at about 3:30 am. I came downstairs to find out what was going on. As soon as I turned on the back porch light I saw a large, dark shape zoom up the side of the enclosure and run up the tree that overhangs the coop. This past February, when I had the new enclosure built, the limbs were bare, as you can tell in the photo. The yard looked pretty ratty then because it was winter. I see now that the tree is a problem but I can't cut it down. However it gives anything easy access down into the coop. Let me add that in the six years I've kept chickens this is the first time I've had to deal with a predator, and prior to this I had a much flimsier chicken-wire enclosure.

    At first I couldn't tell what happened; I let the dogs out and they flew out there and jumped around the base of the tree, barking. I got the big flashlight and shone it around, trying to see. A good 25 feet from the enclosure I found the dead hen in a flower bed. She was so torn up and disemboweled, it looked like she'd been hit by a car a few times (it was sad and bad!). After I got a sense of what happened but no real details, I got a garbage bag and picked up that one. (Fashionable, I was in my nightshirt and garden shoes.) She was cold, so I'm not sure when that happened. I think maybe the animal came back after killing the first one and attacked the second one. Or vice versa--heck, I don't know. I found the other hen huddling in the left corner under the nest box. I let her stay there. I thought she was dying or dead and I didn't expect her to make it. She's still alive after two days and trying hard, but I'm not sure about her. Part of her comb was torn off and I think she's blind in one eye from bites or claws. A doctor friend doesn't think she'll survive. If I lose her, I'll be down to one chicken and I'm not sure she'll do well alone.

    I can't imagine what animal is out there that could do so much damage. It can't have been a cat, or even a skunk. Skunks don't climb trees as far as I know and I don't smell anything. Most people I asked said they thought it was a raccoon that got my poor hens.

    BUT--Would a raccoon drag a chicken up a fence and all that distance before killing her? There are a ton of feathers in the yard. I'm heartbroken.

    Now I'm locking these two survivors in the hen house at dusk. I'm having a new house assembled from a kit this weekend, and I think maybe I should shore up the base with a row of half-buried rocks. Any other suggestions would be most welcome.

    Alexis
     
  2. mimsy

    mimsy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would bet raccoon. They can be brutal and yes they can climb while holding a chicken. You really want to make sure there is a top to your coop, they can easily climb. If you take hardware wire and bend it at ground level so that there is a several inches of skirt to deter digging under. Chicken wire a raccoon can break through to, so use something stronger. Anywhere that your chickens can stand/roost or be reached it is best to use small, such as 1/4 hardware or welded wire so that a raccoon can't fit his hand in and yank them out. (or just rip at them) Once they get a meal, they are likely to be back. I'm in oregon myself and we have a lot of raccoon's here. I've lived both out on acreage and in city and I can honestly say that raccoon's are worse in cities than outside of them, as least as far as I can tell. A lot more neighbors loose chickens to them than anything else for sure..

    Sorry you lost your hens. Hopefully you will have successfully protected your coop so it can't happen again.
     
  3. Ravynscroft

    Ravynscroft For the Love of Duck Premium Member

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    Absolutely a raccoon would do that... they are vicious when it comes to getting a chicken dinner... I had one that would yank birds out through a 2"×4" square and then drag them up the hill before finishing them off... set traps out, but warning many of them will avoid those...

    Bury hardware cloth in a skirt around your run... cover the top... and build a sturdier coop than a prefab... those tend to be extremely flimsy and coons can pull them apart easily...
     
  4. AlexisWriter

    AlexisWriter Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 9, 2014
    Suburban Portland OR
    [​IMG]

    http://www.amazon.com/Fulcrum-20034...Weatherproof/dp/B00NTE4X5C/ref=dp_ob_title_hi

    I'm checking into this on Amazon. It was recommended on a site that lists the three best raccoon deterrents. It's intended as just a motion sensor light that comes on with random movement, but apparently raccoons don't like a bright light shone on their nefarious deeds and it will keep them away. This is $30.71 with Prime membership so that's not a ridiculous price--I'm going to sent for it. the sides of both the old house and the new are lined with that 1/2-inch sturdy wire mesh fabric. That part is okay. But I also want locks that stay lined up after a few months in the rain. The ones I have now on the house are too small and uneven. Getting them closed requires a lot of shifting and jimmying. I'm determined to never have this happen to me again. I refuse to put in months of care and love, raising a set of baby chicks only to have them picked off by some opportunistic wild animal who isn't happy with free chicken feed or bird seed in the yard that he steals.

    Bah. I'll fix him!
     
  5. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer

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    Spend your money on hardware cloth and use it to make your coops predator proof. The wire will also keep snakes out. Such a sad way to lose a pet. Sorry for your loss.
     
  6. Tumbling K

    Tumbling K Overrun With Chickens

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    being in OR, you have a multitude of tree climbing small predators........but being you live in suburbia, I'd agree with others you have a raccoon.

    I would not trust the light to keep a suburban raccoon away from my remaining hens. They tend to be used to more light anyway. I"m afraid, if you rely only on the light, we will reading another post about losing all your chickens.


    as others have already stated, beef up you coop, including an electric perimeter fence. Even if you only use during after the hens have been cooped.
     
  7. AlexisWriter

    AlexisWriter Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 9, 2014
    Suburban Portland OR
    I do have an electric perimeter fence but it's only about 12" high. I originally bought it to keep the dogs away from the enclosure. They aren't dangerous to the chickens but they were way too inquisitive and I planned to use it just to discourage that. As it turns out, they aren't a problem. All of the open walls of the hen house itself are covered with hardware fabric. I haven't covered the top because it's so danged hard to work in the coop always at a crouch. I couldn't make it taller because a neighbor to the far NW of my property has already gotten cranky that she can see the coop from her second floor window (!%$!). She said I was ruining her property value. >:[

    I'll try to figure out how to reinforce the structure with more hardware fabric. Thanks, everyone!
     
  8. AlexisWriter

    AlexisWriter Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 9, 2014
    Suburban Portland OR
    Well, dang, there's a new twist on this.
    So far, no more raccoons, thank goodness. But now with two girls left, one healthy, the other one pretty much healed but not the same (droopy comb, blind in one eye), the healthy hen is bullying my poor survivor. And she's pretty bitchy about it--some physical attacks. When I throw treats in, the bully won't let the survivor get near them. I know chickens have a pecking order but I think this is pretty bad.

    Should I separate them? I'm not sure how to do that. And would it be permanent? I've got two feeders and two waterers--I could trade off who has to be locked up so one isn't always punished.

    Ideas or suggestions?
     
  9. Busman

    Busman New Egg

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    Good luck with the light. I have a heat lamp outside the coop and am using a trail cam and racoons still come light on or off. Have trapped 4 racoons so far and still have at least one more that has been stealing bait from the live traps.
     
  10. KSGram

    KSGram New Egg

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    I lost a hen & another one survived another attack. We set traps and so far have caught 3 opposums. Motion detector lights haven't worked.
     

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