Help identifying predator

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by KarenPQ, Mar 25, 2013.

  1. KarenPQ

    KarenPQ New Egg

    Mar 25, 2013
    I'm new to this site, but I've had my backyard flock of 3 Rhode Island Reds for nearly two years. I have not had any issues with predators until this winter. Been battling mice/moles/rats, but they only seem interested in the chicken feed, not the hens. Then, on Friday morning when I went out to the coop I found one of my girls running free in the snow (which was very odd). I picked her up and when I got to the coop saw that the door had been clawed through. Our coop door is similar to screen door: wood frame and chicken wire with latches. Inside the coop, the heat lamp was shattered, the nesting box was turned upside down...big mess. I found a second hen huddled in the roosting box (which is fully enclosed except the access ramp) and no sign of the third except a pile of feathers. No blood, no body, just gone. We resecured the door with wood planks that day, leaving just a foot way up top (higher than 6 foot) with just the chicken wire...I did that for ventilation as the rest of the coop is covered in tarps for the winter. That night though I closed up the ramp door and locked my two remaining hens in their roosting box. Next morning, whatever it is climbed up the door and shredded the chicken wire again to get into the coop. The feeder was tipped over, but my two girls were safe - although terrified. Any idea what it is that's getting in? I found tracks in the snow that look like racoon, but also other tracks that look like a large dog. I'm sure a dog couldn't get in, but would a fox? I know we have red fox in the woods about a 1/2 mile from our house. What predator would carry a 6 lb. hen away? Help!

    We've moved the girls into our neighbor's barn until we can fully predator-proof the coop. Suggestions for doing that would be appreciated as well.
  2. nova022

    nova022 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 3, 2012
    Fox can and do climb and I would think they are quite capable of carrying off a hen. My experience with raccoons is that they kill on the spot, eat right there and leave a bloody mess. I also think a raccoon would have killed them all just to do it.

    I hope you figure out what this predator is and secure your coop against it. Good luck
  3. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    How big was the opening in the wire?

    If the chicken wire is the 1 inch hex hole variety I would say a dog. Dogs are more than capable of "shredding" 1 inch chicken wire. A red fox I think not so capable. With enough time a raccoon can also tear it apart. If you are using the 2 inch hex opening chicken wire any coop made out of it is just a drive through predator feeder station regardless of what predator has its eye on your chickens.

    A red fox can climb. Maybe not as well as a raccoon but well enough to get in a chicken coop. A gray fox can climb almost as well as some house cats climb. Gray foxes are smaller than red foxes and I don't see one doing this kind of damage to a coop.

    The second visit sounds vaguely like a coon because after finding that a warm chicken dinner was out of the question he had himself some coon finger food by raiding the chickens' feeder.

    "I also think a raccoon would have killed them all just to do it."

    Coons often destroy things, (not just chickens) out of cussedness or curiosity. Ask anyone who has, or better yet who HAD a pet coon.

    My money is on a big raccoon since I doubt a dog could climb or rear up on a door over 6 feet tall, shredded the chicken wire while in that awkward possessions and climb the door to get inside. But as the poet said, "One picture is worth a thousand words."
  4. littleoak

    littleoak Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 26, 2010
    Ashmore IL 61912
    Could be a fox or a coon. I lean more toward the fox since I've never had a coon carry off a chicken. I don't say it's impossible bet I've never had it happen. I have had foxes destroy a good fence and carry off a chicken. Things would also be knocked around if the fox was chasing the chickens. Trap or shoot the predator. whatever it is.
  5. JanetS

    JanetS Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 22, 2012
    Sorry for your loss. Whatever it was will keep coming back. I would use 1/2" hardware cloth instead of chicken wire. If you are using actual chicken wire it only keeps chicken in not predators out. Maybe use 2 x 4's and plywood for a more solid door and have a window covered with the hardware cloth. That's one thing I have learned about having chickens is you have to stay one step ahead of the predators. Do you have any pictures of the damage?

  6. scott4030

    scott4030 New Egg

    Mar 25, 2013
    Not sure where you are, but here on the coast of Central California where I live when a chicken completely disappears it is usually a bobcat. We also have a lot of coyotes around here but they usually leave a big mess. Also, foxes as mentioned.
  7. KarenPQ

    KarenPQ New Egg

    Mar 25, 2013
    Thanks folks for sharing. It seems that I will probably never know what exactly carried my Ginger off, but I am wiser for the experience.

    I honestly don't have it in me to trap and kill the predator, but I will do my best to make my coop predator proof. the suggestion for using the hardware cloth rather than chicken wire is top on my list. We will build a stronger door with a more solid frame, get our motion light back in action, and maybe get one of those remote cameras to see if we can spot what's sneaking around out there at night. I will also close up the ramp to their roosting box at night.

    We live in a small town outside of Rochester, NY. Our property is near the Leghigh Valley trailbed. I have seen fox when out walking/biking. I know there are coyotes in the area, but I've never heard or seen them near our property and of course there are plenty of coons, ground hogs, skunks, possums, and the like.

    I love raising chickens and I don't plan to quit. In fact, I will be picking up three new pullets at the end of April to add to my flock.
  8. salt and pepper

    salt and pepper Chillin' With My Peeps

    I vote for a fox, or feral cat. We have plenty of those in my areas, and my neighbor had one climb, and carry off one of his wife's hens, just feathers were left.

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