Fox? Bobcat? Losing one bird a day, need to identify.

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by QueenMisha, Jan 4, 2016.

  1. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Well, after a pleasant 2 year spell with no predation whatsoever, it looks like my good luck has finally run out. I've lost 3 birds in the past 3 or 4 days; two at night, one in the day time. The first two were small, a 4 month capon and a Buttercup hen. All I found was feathers and the capon's crop. There was a small hole in my fence on two different sides; on one side, it appeared to have chewed through welded deer/garden fencing and on the other it pushed/bit through the chicken wire (this part of the fence separated the chickens from the garden only, it also had a garden/deer fence around the perimeter, but someone left one of the gates open). Today I lost a third, sometime during the day; a full grown Plymouth Rock hen. This time the carcass was there; eaten into from the lower side of the bird. It mostly munched on the gizzard and ate the meat off the leg, leaving the bone. Some of the feathers were plucked from the bird.

    I found fox tracks the night the capon was taken; but isn't plucking far more characteristic of a feline predator?

    Thanks for any help you can offer.
  2. Wisher1000

    Wisher1000 Bama Biddy

    I have seen a lot of predator kills, but I'm far from an expert. Mostly, foxes will take the whole bird, as will coyotes (first bird.) I would suspect an opossum based on the point of entry being the rear end, but they usually just take the body to the nearest hiding place to eat it. I have found carcasses in the nest boxes where a 'possum was dining. A hawk will sit on top of it's kill and pluck the feathers and discard them in a circle around the body. Could also be a raccoon, but they like to have the head first. My advice is to secure your coop much better (1/2" hardware cloth is about the only one that is dependable to keep most things out, and then to set some traps for your varmit.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016
  3. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 6, 2014
    Melrose Park Illinois
    What you describe on the Plymouth Rock sounds like a opossum munching on it. A fox would not have done so little eating and left the rest behind. I have no knowledge on how bobcats treat prey.

  4. HotDesertChick

    HotDesertChick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 4, 2015
    Southern New Mexico
    Plain ol' ugly roof rat? Any chance of a mink? Both have the capability to chew through light wire. And squeeze through just about anything else. Either one, could try for a kill in daylight, especially if they have been successful before. Most mammalian predators would prefer to take prey at night, when it is ridiculously-easy to have, or cart off, a chicken dinner.

    That said, I have not seen rats, or mink, try to "pluck" the victim. Just too darn easy, to tear into the chicken and have a quick, or longer, snack. A rogue cat might be the varmint, but I rather doubt it. Any chance, that you have more than one type of varmint snacking on your chickens?

    Is anyone around during the day, to keep an eye out for enterprising killers? I agree with setting up some sort trap. If you can monitor any openings with a game camera, all the better, ... to I.D., the successful varmint. That WILL be back!

    Fortify your run, or lose all of your chickens?

    Good luck!
  5. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    Thanks for the input. It's not a hawk, all the birds were killed under heavy manzanita cover - no way a hawk could fly down through that. I wouldn't have guess opossum - wouldn't it be bizarre for one to take a bird during the middle of the day?

    My coop is Fort Knox, as we have bears in these woods. The birds that were taken at night had both been trying to sleep outside, and it can sometimes be hard to round the stragglers up because of how thick the manzanitas are. My fence isn't particularly secure - 5 foot tall, 2x4inch, no buried wire. My run is 4,000 sq. ft. and burying wire would cost a fortune.

    I've got a trap out now, with the rest of the Rock tied inside it.

    Wow, another vote for opossum. Now I'm second guessing my ID of those "fox" tracks - they would have been the right size for a opossum as well. Thanks for the response.
  6. barkerg

    barkerg Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 28, 2015
    Salado, Texas
    Here in central texas fox and coyotes nab go without leaving a trace. Coons will eat the bird through the wire. What your describing sounds like a possum or skunks if you have them. Skunks normally eat the head and the nutrient rich liver and gizzards for protein. Keep us posted im interested.

    Gerald Barker
  7. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    There are other birds of prey besides the three species of chicken hawks. Some are very well adapted to hunting in chaparral like you have. video footage

    However I still don't think that you have a problem with a bird of prey.

    If the chicken was eaten or hollowed out behind the ribs, or in other words in the abdomen than a possum is likely your predator.

    Could be a skunk. A bobcat will leave little meat behind returning to feed again and again. Therefor a bobcat likes privacy so they carry off their prey.
  8. hayley3

    hayley3 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 16, 2007
    Southern Indiana
    Could be a possum found the carcass and something else killed the chickens. I would think a possum would eat the entire bird. They are like vultures, scavengers of dead flesh.
    So one chicken just vanished right? And the other two were killed at night while roosting in trees?
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I think the reason folks are saying possum as it's often stated that they usually start eating at the rear end...tho I have no idea if that's accurate.
    I have also read that a bird of prey will follow a target on the ground into the underbrush or wherever it goes, like right into a coop.
    Even if you catch something in a trap, it's not necessarily going to be what killed and/or ate your birds.
  10. QueenMisha

    QueenMisha Queen of the Coop

    We got skunks, had em take 30 babies a few years back... but like I said, one bird was killed in broad daylight. The birds come out at 10 am, I put them away at 4:30, and the carcass was already fully cold and in rigor mortis when I found her so I figure a couple hours from death at least. That puts the killin at 2 or 3 in the afternoon.. and I've seen plenty of coyotes and opossum driving our roads at night but never during the day.

    I've seen a red shoulder and a peregrine falcon out here. But like I said, two of the birds were taken in the night, so I agree Hawks ain't the problem. (Hawks seem to be the smartest predators around here actually, they followed my two strike rule - you get one freeby meal and if you come back you get a trap or a shotgun!)

    "Hollowed out behind the ribs" is exactly the way to describe the eatin. I'm still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea of a opossum out during the daytime though...

    Nice signature by the way, that's hilarious.

    Opposite, two vanished at night with feather piles left, one was killed mid afternoon and half eaten through the abdomen.

    I understand the sentiment, but we don't get many predators around here. We have 4 dogs and so far this little critter has been the only one brave enough to go after my flock since we got out GSD (well, besides the GSD herself). Even the Bears stay away nowadays. So I'll be betting whatever I get in the trap is what killed the birds... I leave it out a bit longer afterwards, just in case.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by