Forensics analysis required... What killed her?


6 Years
Aug 31, 2013
Catskills, NY
Hi all,

First time poster, but I've been reading for a while. My girlfriend is already a member. ;)

I've been racking my brain to figure out what took one of my chickens the other day. I don't like unsolved mysteries, so maybe you can help.

The attack occurred mid-day (between 12:00 and 2:00, I know, because I heard the roo's squawking around that time). When I finally went out to check, I found a trail of white feathers (mixed with a few from my least brave roo, but he's molting as well, so I don't consider that in the evidence) heading off into the woods. I followed the trail for about 100 yards through high grass and dense brush. I finally found a kill site with loooots of feathers, and a suspicious pile of material that I can only accurately describe as something that came from inside an animal (not flesh or guts, mind you, this was more like scat or vomit). From there... NOTHING. I looked for hundreds of yards in every direction (and yes, I even looked UP), but I never found any part of a carcass, blood, or even another feather!

Now, on to the most likely culprits. My public enemy # 1 is the neighbor's outdoor cat, that I've caught watching our chickens in the same spot where the feather trail leads. However, if it was the cat, how did it manage to disappear the carcass so completely from the kill site? My next best guess is a hawk. I've caught them scouting the chicks before, and they sometimes take frogs from my pond. Though the tree cover was dense, a big bird might have been able to take off with a dead chick from the kill site. BUT, would a bird drag a carcass, maybe 50 - 100 yards through high grass and brush? I don't like it.

Finally, there's the less obvious. We've had a bear try to get into the coop before, and coons, opossums, and other rodents are common around this area. But this happened mid-day in broad daylight, so the night-time offenders seem like unlikely suspects.

Any ideas? We like to free range our chickens, and we've been hesitant to do so until we figure out what took our first.
A hawk would drag a chicken, definitely. But a hawk is only a couple of pounds, it can't lift a chicken that weighs as much as it. But from the sound of it, I don't think it was a bird predator.

We did lose a chicken once in broad daylight to a bobcat. Coyotes are also pretty daring in the middle of the day too. A fox, maybe. But every fox I've run into prefers hunting in the dark.
Thanks for the reply!

This was a fully grown hen that we lost, and the only hawks I've seen are smaller than my flock.

Coyotes are like fleas around here... They're everywhere, but in my entire life, I've only ever seen ONE of them (and that one was rabid and standing in the middle of the highway). I do here them baying at night thought.I find it hard to believe they'd be so brazen as to take a chicken in the middle of my yard in the middle of the day, but it's CERTAINLY possible.

Bobcats... Yeah, I know they're out there... But anytime I head a bobcat blamed for ANYTHING, I kind of have to tilt my head and wonder why. When you hear hoof-falls, don't think zebras!
That sounds like a fox to me. If theres a den close by, that would also explain why the carcass would just disappear. Its not uncommon for them to come out during the day when they're caring for young. Maybe it grabbed to the bird, carried it a little ways while it was struggling, then killed it in the bushes?

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