1. If this is your first time on BYC, we suggest you start with one of these three options:
    Raising Chickens Chicken Coops Join BYC
    If you're already a member of our community, click here to login & click here to learn what's new!

First predator attack

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by feather13, Sep 18, 2012.

  1. feather13

    feather13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    137
    10
    111
    Sep 4, 2012
    southern california
    Hi all,

    This is my first post and I'm sorry it's not a more positive one! We recently got four hens--a lakenvelder, dominique, faverolle, and bantam (I don't know what she is, but she's cute, brown, and tiny!) and experienced our first lethal predator attack last night (an opossum). I haven't kept chickens since I was a kid, so am new to all of this. The chickens are around two months old and haven't started laying yet.

    Our chickens are in a wooden coop with a small run (something we got on Ebay) that sits on a wooden house door that is propped up on concrete blocks (good for cleaning and gives the hens a place to hide from the four kids who own them). The coop is housed inside a large, chain link dog run with six foot walls that is covered. We live in southern California where the dirt is really packed and full of large rocks, so it's hard to burrow under. We also put large rocks all around the dog pen (only two sides are exposed since it's set against a tall concrete block wall).

    I noticed that the lakenvelder wasn't feeling well yesterday afternoon. She wouldn't come out of the dog run, was dragging her wing, and was really lethargic. The other hens weren't bothering her, so I thought I'd check her out this morning. She was my least favorite and hard to catch, so I feel guilty that she was the one attacked! At first I thought she was ill, but now I think she may have already been attacked since we were away for the weekend. The hens are always locked up in the dog run when we're away, but I don't shut them inside the wooden coop.

    Around midnight I heard the hens making loud noises (they still peep, but it was a frantic kind of peeping). Luckily, their pen is right outside my window. When I opened the pen, the three surviving hens ran out and I saw that the opossum was in the wooden coop. I also figured that the lakenvelder was already dead because I didn't see or hear her. I caught the three hens, put them in a dog carrier, and kept them in the kitchen (make sure your flashlight has good batteries--I had to wake up my daughter and ask her to hold the flashlight and it was really dim. Hard to find chickens like that at night!). The opossum wouldn't move, so I just kept the pen door open, disposed of the dead chicken this morning, and cleaned the coop and pen out with bleach and water.

    I understand from reading previous posts that the opossum will probably come back (if it hasn't already paid the pen a visit) and if I had been more awake last night I might have tried to kill it with a shovel or pitchfork. I'm going to ask the city today if they have live traps we could use.

    In the meantime, I have a question for all of you: how can I better secure the pen? I think the critter got in by squeezing through the door. There are gaps on both sides and the door swings open into the pen. The door was shut when I went out, but this is the only way I can think it got in. Maybe through gaps in the tarp roof, although that is also pretty secure. I think I can use some hardware cloth to secure one side of the gaps in the door, but the latch side is a puzzle. Any suggestions? I'd be up for putting something on the door each night to close it up, but it would have to be something I could put up and take off without much hassle. In the meantime, I'll shut the hens up in the wooden pen at night so they are safer.

    Thanks in advance for any help you can give me and apologies for the length of this post!
     
  2. RoostersCrow HensDeliver!

    RoostersCrow HensDeliver! Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,920
    108
    188
    Apr 11, 2011
    SE Michigan
    A shovel works just fine for killing them, one strong blow to the back of the head is all you need. If you live trap it, just shoot it, PLEASE don't release it somewhere even far away from your house. It will just become someone else's problem if it can't make it back to your place.

    As for securing your coop. Maybe, you could "frame" some 2X4s inside the doorway so there is no gap. I couldn't imagine how you would secure the gaps with hardware cloth without making the door a pain to get open.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2012
    1 person likes this.
  3. feather13

    feather13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    137
    10
    111
    Sep 4, 2012
    southern california
    Thanks so much for the reply and advice! I called the city and they don't have any live traps for residents. Am thinking of buying one. I live in an urban area and don't have a gun. We hear gunshots at least once a month, but I'm guessing there are probably laws against firing one in the backyard.

    What is the best, most humane way to kill an animal in a live trap? Would it be possible to tip it on its side and hit the critter with a shovel or is poison an option? I have a live-and-let live attitude about wild animals, but imagine this possum will come back for the other chickens and don't want to go through this again night after night. Thanks again! I really thought I had a secure pen, but I guess it doesn't pay to let your guard down!
     
  4. RoostersCrow HensDeliver!

    RoostersCrow HensDeliver! Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,920
    108
    188
    Apr 11, 2011
    SE Michigan
    Honestly, I have no idea how to kill a possum that's already in the trap. It's iffy, but maybe you could get a makeshift noose over its head and pull it out of the trap so it doesn't get away. That makes me nervous because I know just how vicious those things can get. Whatever you do, DON'T get bit because they carry bacteria in their mouths. Those things are DISGUSTING with all capital letters.

    Sorry, I really don't know what to tell you to do. I rely on heavily on my armory of guns, but I also live on a farm out in the country. Best of luck to you.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. dlarimer

    dlarimer Out Of The Brooder

    12
    1
    23
    Nov 15, 2011
    Basically you need to cover any opening (it maybe a opossum now and a rat next time) with either hardware cloth or wood. Sounds like since your door opens to the inside you might attach some 1X4's or 1X6's to the door frame so the door will shut against them.
    As for the opossum more than likely it will be back. If you catch it in a live trap you could take to a rural area, perhaps a wildlife sanctuary, and release it. Or more than likely this will not be the only predator you will have to deal with you might purchase an air rifle, quiet but effective.
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. RoostersCrow HensDeliver!

    RoostersCrow HensDeliver! Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,920
    108
    188
    Apr 11, 2011
    SE Michigan
    Dlarimer,
    Releasing it is a BAD idea. It already put two and two together, now it knows that people equals easy food. You'd just make it someone else's problem. The best course of action is to humanely kill it.
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. feather13

    feather13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    137
    10
    111
    Sep 4, 2012
    southern california
    Thanks so much for your generous responses! I grew up in a very rural area where we got most of our food from hunting, trapping and fishing, so urban farming and chicken keeping is something altogether different!

    Just called the local humane society and they said they provide traps for residents and will pick up the trapped animal. They claim that they take it to a sanctuary and release it, but who knows? I don't know if it's better to kill a trapped animal or release it somewhere where it will be disoriented and probably get eaten anyway. I personally have a hard time killing critters, even insects, so am grateful that the humane society offers this option. Good news for some urban chicken keepers for sure! They will also haul away chicken carcasses.

    Thanks, too, for the advice about closing the door gaps. I've used chain link hooks and zip ties to secure the roof and sides of the pen, so could probably secure some wood pieces to the frame that way too.
     
  8. feather13

    feather13 Chillin' With My Peeps

    137
    10
    111
    Sep 4, 2012
    southern california
    Caught it! Rented a trap from the feed store yesterday (there was a wait list at the Humane Society, although they loan them for free) and caught the possum last night. I baited the trap with a can of tuna and set it outside the coop pen door. I also zip tied hardware cloth to the coop pen door to secure the gaps. Left the trap out on the porch and the Humane Society will cart it off for free today. My daughters had fantasies last night about how they would kill the critter, but this morning they practically wanted to adopt it as a pet! LOL. I admire those of you who can kill wild creatures, but I'm glad there's another option for those of us who are more faint of heart [​IMG]
     
  9. RoostersCrow HensDeliver!

    RoostersCrow HensDeliver! Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,920
    108
    188
    Apr 11, 2011
    SE Michigan
    YAY!!! I'm so glad you got him! ;)
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. chickathon

    chickathon Chillin' With My Peeps

    135
    5
    93
    Aug 12, 2011
    West Virginia
    [​IMG]I'm so glad you caught the thing. You just have to love kids and their big hearts for wanting to keep that nasty smelling UGLY creature. My daughter thought that coons were cute (although I told her thy were hateful buggers) until it hissed and charged at her while it was in a live trap. She calls them chicken killers now and wants to try her hand at shooting the next one.
     
    1 person likes this.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by