First four chickens ever: Predator got them all. What was it? what to do?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by wchalmers, May 14, 2016.

  1. wchalmers

    wchalmers Out Of The Brooder

    May 7, 2016
    Lewisburg pa
    I am new to raising chickens. My step daughter and I raised four chicks born on Easter Sunday. The Rhode Island Reds were beautiful and sweet as could be. We had moved them to their coop outside several weeks ago, and they were doing great. The coop was latched and enclosed. It was a coop purchased with a runner added. The chickens went up each night to roost in the "second floor". This morning when I got up and looked across the yard, they were not down running around as usual, and I noticed the door to the nesting area was unlatched and flopped open. I just knew this wasn't good. When I walked up to check...all four were dead. Two were missing their heads, one was completely torn apart and eaten. I had to break the news to my step daughter who was really upset. We are now "starting over"...but want to make sure we have a better plan in place to protect them. What would have opened the latch to the door? I am thinking maybe a raccoon, I know they are pretty cleaver. I am so upset about it and want to take the right steps to keep away the predators. I know that we have skunks around...which means we likely have other animals.

    We did put out a trap and will try to get the thing tonight. However, I want to make sure we secure the coop better...any tips for security would be greatly appreciated!
  2. Rock Sister

    Rock Sister Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 25, 2016
    North Florida
    Racoon. Raised them when I was younger. Typically tear off heads to get rid of noise and take eggs. Eggs missing.... Snake, possom or crow. I have crows that steal eggs and carry 20 ft into a tree and suck it out. Thats what I am hearing but don't know where you are.

    Ps... If it is a place with weasels.... Well worse than raccoon.
  3. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Racoon. They can undo just about any simple latch. With prefab coops, those always should be the first things that get changed. And it was probably too small for 4 adult Rhode Island Reds anyways. Do yourself a favor and next time, don't even look at the adorable little prefabs. Too small, no ventilation, and just not safe or durable. For a flock of 4 large breed hens you're going to need a coop that is about 20 sq ft, or 4 x 5. And the run will need to have at least 12 sq ft per bird. A covered run is a good idea if you get a lot of rain or snow in the winter months.
    If that much space is an issue, white egg layers tend to be lighter built birds and only need about 4 sq ft in the coop and 10 sq ft of run per bird. Bantams only need about 2 sq ft in the coop and 6 to 8 sq ft of run per bird.
    The 'Coops' section has lots of great ideas and plans. And most hardware stores will cut your lumber to the needed measurements. If you can work a drill, you can build a coop bigger and better than anything you could buy.
    1 person likes this.
  4. crazyfeathers

    crazyfeathers Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 24, 2013
    Auburndale, Wi
    Sorry for your loss, i hope your step daughter is doing ok. I am in agreement the prefab coops are a waste of money. Amish build excellent coops, or if your handy just build one. Maybe you have an out building you could reconfigure and make into a coop? If you have a barn you could easily build a secure coop inside of it. There are many ideas on the coop thread or check out YouTube. Good luck.
  5. ejcrist

    ejcrist Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 16, 2015
    Desert Hills, AZ
    Definitely sounds like a coon to me. I've trapped many of them in my life and they can be extremely problematic. I'm in agreement with everyone else and would only consider building what you need or having it built. It'll cost more than you'll spend for a pre-fab if you build the right size but it'll last you many years with regular maintenance and will secure your birds far better than any pre-fab I've ever seen. In the end that's what you'll probably end up doing if you're committed to raising chickens anyway. I built mine and have latches with locks on the nest boxes, the main door, and the run. We have coons around my neck of the woods too but the most prevalent predators are coyotes and raptors. The locks are only needed for the coons though. Coons can figure out how to unlatch just about anything, and heck, I wouldn't be terribly surprised if they eventually figured out how to pick my locks too. They're extremely smart and dexterous.

    I don't know whether you live in an area where you can trap and dispatch an animal or not, but as an aside, if you want to trap them on the first go-around, get a coil spring or long spring trap such as the Sleepy Creek # 1 1/2 coil spring (, cut a short piece of 2" pvc about 2' long and hammer it in the ground on an angle. If you don't want to buy fish oil just dump a can of sardines down into the pvc, and set the trap covered in sifted dirt directly below the pvc pipe opening. The coon will notice the pvc as something new and interesting, smell the fish, and stand on his hind legs to look into the pvc. The minute he does he'll step on the trap with his foot and you'll have him. It works 100% of the time. Just be careful when you find him because he won't be in a good mood. Don't do any of this though if you live in town because obviously you can't dispatch the coon easily on the spot if you haven't done this before. But if you're in a rural area and have a 22 and some 22 shorts you can easily make him harmless.

    Be advised that coons are very persistent and you'll either need to kill him or build Fort Knox of a coop because they'll keep coming back if you don't. If trapping him isn't your cup-o-tea you can always contact your local trapping club (find them online) and I'm sure they'll be more than happy to help you remove him, or at the very least they should be able to refer you to someone who'll do it. You can catch him in a live Hav-A-Heart box trap but don't have any illusions that you can release him far away and he won't come back because they will. Also you could get bit while in the process of releasing him.

    Sorry for the long post but I just wanted to tell you everything I know about fixing coon problems because they can be very frustrating for people.
    1 person likes this.
  6. beginnergirl

    beginnergirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 25, 2015
    Pacific Nortwest
    So sad. I've had problems with raccoons dismantling my hummingbird feeder. They were very persistent. I finally had to bolt the feeder to the tree.

    Because I saw how clever they can be, I have padlocks on every door in my coop along with the nest box door, 1/2" hardware cloth stapled around the perimeter of the coop on the ground and hardware mesh on all the vents, doors and windows. I also tuck dog hair around the perimeter of the yard. My LGD loves to bark, so that might be helpful too.

    I didn't build my own coop but hired someone to build it. Don't skimp on the space for your hens. I did follow the general guidelines others have mentioned. But that means I only could add one chicken. Never thought I would want more girls, but chickens are so much fun.

    Best of luck to you in moving forward after this tragedy.
  7. Rock Sister

    Rock Sister Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 25, 2016
    North Florida

    i am getting two, one for each side of wooded area and see if these work. I know that I have solar motion lights simular that comes on with movement and does help with cats and possums but these would be better and not freak out my water girls! Meyer hatchery page above, prob can get cheaper.
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Place more than a single latch on door such as one in middle and an additional in the upper and lower corners. Inspect the actual walls of coop providing pictures of materials walls are made of. Consider using a light fence charger for a very small fence attached directly to the coop. The fencing will be very effective against most predators of larger size and is easy for small kids to learn how to avoid and for larger kids to disable when they are accessing the coop.
  9. BrushyHillGuide

    BrushyHillGuide Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 17, 2015

    I wouldn't waste your money. That's not going to work. Especially after it has already figured out your coop. Coons are very smart and very brave. That device will only (at best) prolong the inevitable - another attack. You must remove that coon. The best device is a "dog proof coon trap." They will not catch your pets or kids but will catch their foot in a tube that coons can not resist. Throw some baby marshmallows in the trap and sprinkle a few on the ground and you will catch EVERY coon that comes near your coop. Trapping is a part of my predator control business and I use a brand called Z-Trap, the white ones. Google them and you'll find them for about $14 each. I catch about 600 a year for clients without even trying very hard, lol. They're not a focus animal for us - we target coyote, bobcat & fox - but we catch coons as a bonus for the ranches that hire me.

    These kinds of products really anger me because they're selling snake oil to people with real problems. I can't tell you how many clients complain about the hundreds and thousands of dollars they've wasted on this type of product before they reach out to a professional trapper like me.

    Good luck with your coon problem!
  10. Rock Sister

    Rock Sister Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 25, 2016
    North Florida
    My regular small motion solars keep everything away from our coop. Its the perimeters we are working on now. I am a Ky girl born and bred lol. We considered coons pets and raised many. Even brought with us in 1978 down to Florida. I walked them up and down the street in Orange Park for yrs lol.

    I got them because these regular motions, paid like 16 a piece on Amazon protects our chickens and they are locked up at night so they can't get in there.
    I have one on each end on a post, of our 1 acre pond and NOTHING goes past them. I have seen foxes run, coyotes, armadillos, possoms, back to other side of property lines.

    Now... Red eyes near a pond for raccoons mean an alligator to them... They are going to run, promise you.

    Also, if possible, I NEVER allow my chickens to come from a coup into a run without me letting then out. That is why we do not have runs attached to our coops.
    Must have solid box. I show you what we have...


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