Flock wiped out in a couple hours!

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Jen55359, Apr 11, 2017.

  1. Jen55359

    Jen55359 Hatching

    Apr 11, 2017
    What could have killed 11 of my 15 heavy birds in broad daylight? I'm guessing a hawk. They were free ranging over a couple acres, and I found 5 dead bodies, 3 with no injuries, and 2 with back/side puncture holes. Six were completely missing, only a circle of feathers remaining. If my guess is correct, why would they take so many? I've seen hawks around here, I live in rural Minneapolis, MN area, but only flying alone. It doesn't make sense that 6 are gone and that they would leave 5 on the ground. Too heavy to cart off? None of them were eaten on the ground. My hubby thinks maybe a pack of something came through, but we have no dog issues and it was in daylight. We have seen fox around here and eagles, too. I was thinking maybe the non injured ones were too heavy and dropped so as to break their necks.

    Any ideas to protect from air predators and still free range? We have wooded areas, but there were still some feather piles and bodies found among the trees (though there's no leaves on the trees right now).

    My good birds were just barely a year and in their prime, and I'm devastated. Well, it's spring, and I guess time to start over again with chicks. Thanks for any advice!

  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Free Ranging Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Hawks don't make multiple kills like that. They kill one, and generally eat it where they killed it if it's a heavy bird. I'm guessing you had a ground predator - maybe canine of some sort. The ones you found - did the feathers look wet at all, or like they had been wet? That would possibly indicate a dog, and they're usually the first suspect in this sort of situation.

    There really is no way to effectively protect them while they're free ranging. A good dog would help, but if you want the best protection, a secure run and coop is your best bet. Mine free range, and I have lost some over the years. It's a risk you take.
  3. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

    Mar 9, 2014
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC
    That sort of devastation points to ground predator, not air.
  4. Howard E

    Howard E Songster

    Feb 18, 2016
    There are a large number of predators that will kill adult chickens, but only a very few of them will kill a large number of them all at the same time. Those are dogs, raccoons and weasels, or one of the weasel cousins.

    For some reason, when dogs attack, they seem to kill for the fun or sport of it. It can be one dog or a pack of them. Most birds are left dead and scattered about. A pack of wild dogs may kill a lot, then take and eat some birds.....domestic dogs may kill the whole flock, yet leave them where they are. In daylight raids, dogs are the number one suspect.

    Raccoons and weasels are normally night time visitors, but sometimes will come around during the day. Pattern with them is to go at the heads and necks, so you may find bites to the back of the neck or even missing heads. Coons will eat some, take some or do none of the above and simply leave dead birds scattered about. Weasels mostly operate at night and will kill a lot of birds, but only take one or two, if any.

    From what you have described, it seems to be either wild or free ranging dogs, or raccoons. All predators are raising their young this time of year, so predators are active. One really bad aspect of coons is their tendency to teach the little guys how to kill stuff, so this time of year, coons go at a flock and kill them all, seemingly for practice on how to do it.

    As to what to do about it, in my opinion, a person may get away with free ranging for a while, but predators will eventually find a flock of birds and kill most if not all of them. Once they start, they will continue until all easy to kill and tasty birds are gone.

    You can try to ID this particular predator and a good way to do that is to setup a trail camera outside of where any surviving birds are located. This predator will be back. Then deal with him on a one to one basis. But that is a one at a time solution, and there are a lot more predators than one or two.

    So my advice is to decide what is a reasonable area to allow them to roam around in and enclose that area with electric fences. Fences designed for chickens keeps the birds in and establishes a perimeter zone of protection most predators are reluctant to cross. The exception might be weasels, but since those are mostly night time visitors, a tight coop is the best protection against them.
    1 person likes this.

  5. keesmom

    keesmom Crowing

    Jul 28, 2008
    I had coyotes wipe out a flock of 15 in short order one late April morning a few years back. There were a couple of bodies left behind but mostly all that was left were piles of feathers. Our first flock of 6 was taken out by a mother fox (a long, long time ago). Either of those, or a loose dog, would be my guess.
  6. Eggsoteric

    Eggsoteric Songster

    Nov 25, 2010
    Definitely ground predator. I'll add another predator to the mix. This is the time of year fox are feeding their kits. If left unchecked, a fox will go in, kill as many birds as possible in a frenzy and remove them one or more at a time (depending on the size of the birds) to feed their kits or cache. So sorry for your losses.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017
  7. Jen55359

    Jen55359 Hatching

    Apr 11, 2017
    Thanks guys, I guess hubby wins that argument. Will have to fortify or electrify with fencing. I'm leaning towards it being fox or coyotes, but have only actually seen fox in daylight here, one at a time. It was sure a lot of kills for one fox though. Have never seen any dogs on our property, wild or domestic. Did not see wet feathers or any bite marks like raccoons, and heads were all on. The puncture holes I thought were hawk talons may be narrow fox mouth bites. The neighbor said he'd lost about 10 in the last few days too. Just sad.

  8. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Welcome, and so sorry for your losses! I think dog, coyote, or fox. Definitely not a raptor, and raccoons aren't fast enough to make multiple kills during the day. Keep your survivors in their safe coop and run until this situation is resolved! Your varmit will be back, so be ready, and maybe you can get a good shot at him (her) this week. I lost ten of my nice hens one afternoon a few years ago to a fox, seen by a nearby carpenter! It was a very ill mangy fox, and he returned a couple more times to retrieve hidden carcasses, during the day. We couldn't get a good shot at him, but I visited all the neighbors, and another chicken keeper up the road was able to shoot the poor guy. He didn't get into my live traps. Electric poultry fencing would have prevented my losses! Set up live traps, let your neighbors know, and be ready for return visits. Mary

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