Free ranging hen vanished without a trace

Petra Pancake

Jul 15, 2016
In the suburbs of Tel Aviv
My main flock consisting of four laying hens, a broody with her 3 tiny chicks and a Japanese Bantam rooster has been free ranging for the last 2 months. Today, my biggest hen (weighing about 3 kg) just vanished. No feathers, no blood, no visible signs of a fight. The others, including broody and chicks were fine. What could have gotten her and carried her off in the middle of the day? What would go for the biggest chicken of the flock?
Dog? Fox? Hawk? They free range in a back garden that is partially fenced and has bushes, rocks and a hollow space under a deck for cover.
Or would a hen just wander off and lose her way after 2 months in the garden? If it was a predator, can I still free range the others? They love it but during the day nobody is at home, we're working, so they're basically unsupervised. If I have to lock them up for their own safety, for how long would that be?
If she's missing and hasn't wandered off, my guess would be fox or coyote. Hawks strike and eat their prey on the ground. Depending on the circumstances, I've had fox take a bird with no trace and I've had fox attacks with feathers left at the scene. Hawks aren't capable of carrying a chicken off. What ground predators do you have in your area?
The good news: She's (still) alive. This morning I heard a scratching sound under my window - there she was, taking a leisurely dust bath. I had to deal with my kids first, so I just threw her a slice of bread through the window which she gobbled up. When I went to the back garden half an hour later to let the other chickens out, she was gone again without a trace. I suspect she's going broody and hiding somewhere out there. Not very safe - I hope I can round her up.

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