Help me identify what killed our chicken please

jeffreybar

In the Brooder
Sep 30, 2021
3
15
19
We are new to chickens and have tried to do our best to keep them safe (electric pen, enclosed run with hardware cloth floor, etc.), but we got sloppy and were letting them free range in our backyard (they seemed so happy to run around out there! :( ). One day, around midday, while they were out running around the yard, our smallest chicken was killed (a silkie, probably about 2.5 lbs). All of the other chickens were visibly very upset, so they clearly saw something. We found her carcass in the corner of the yard with piles of feathers all around it...whatever it was had eaten her head, neck, and most of her front. Her legs and back were untouched. There were no other signs of struggle elsewhere in the yard.

My internet research suggests this was probably a hawk. Does that seem the most likely culprit? We definitely have hawks, raccoons, possum, skunks, coyote, foxes, dogs, feral cats, and black bears in the area.

Thanks for your help.
 

Angela Doyal

In the Brooder
Sep 30, 2021
2
18
23
We are new to chickens and have tried to do our best to keep them safe (electric pen, enclosed run with hardware cloth floor, etc.), but we got sloppy and were letting them free range in our backyard (they seemed so happy to run around out there! :( ). One day, around midday, while they were out running around the yard, our smallest chicken was killed (a silkie, probably about 2.5 lbs). All of the other chickens were visibly very upset, so they clearly saw something. We found her carcass in the corner of the yard with piles of feathers all around it...whatever it was had eaten her head, neck, and most of her front. Her legs and back were untouched. There were no other signs of struggle elsewhere in the yard.

My internet research suggests this was probably a hawk. Does that seem the most likely culprit? We definitely have hawks, raccoons, possum, skunks, coyote, foxes, dogs, feral cats, and black bears in the area.

Thanks for your help.
Most likely a possum, they eat the crop and breasts then leave the rest. But they are nocturnal... don't know if they would get to it during the day.

Sorry for your loss, it is sad to lose a part of you flock.
 

jeffreybar

In the Brooder
Sep 30, 2021
3
15
19
Do you have weasels?

Probably? It's the mountains of Virginia. I don't think I've ever seen a weasel around here, but I'd be surprised if they aren't here.

I have seen many large hawks (in fact there was one out there this morning circling our yard), black bears come through all the time, raccoons and possum are very common, and in the week before she was killed, I saw a coyote trot across our field not far from the house twice.
 

JustBabyMargo

Daydreaming of Polish!❤️
Premium Feather Member
Jul 7, 2021
4,420
17,842
731
Oregon
Probably? It's the mountains of Virginia. I don't think I've ever seen a weasel around here, but I'd be surprised if they aren't here.

I have seen many large hawks (in fact there was one out there this morning circling our yard), black bears come through all the time, raccoons and possum are very common, and in the week before she was killed, I saw a coyote trot across our field not far from the house twice.
Hmm. Not sure. I was told that raccoons go for crops and heads. We used to see many of them hanging around our chickens (before we moved) just in the middle of the day. They couldn’t get to them because they were in a run anyways.

I’m really sorry about your girl. I’m sure she knew she was loved.❤️
 

Allsfairinloveandbugs

Crowing
Premium Feather Member
Feb 10, 2020
1,024
3,250
481
Far north texas
@jeffreybar , i agree with you the predator was most likely a hawk. A mid-day attack, plus the piles of feathers around the carcass (hawks pluck feathers on birds before they eat), are classic hawk attack markers. Also, the fact the other flock members were visibly upset points to a hawk too. A hawk usually plucks and eats their prey where they killed it, & that causes a lot more stress to the other flock members that are forced to watch in horror, compared to larger predators that quickly carry their prey away.

As far as knowing what local predators are in your area (you werent sure about weasels), you can google (your county, state) native wildlife & learn your potential chicken predators. Ive never seen a weasel in my area either, but according to my local native wildlife search, black-tailed weasels are present here.

Its very true chickens are much happier with more freedom to range. Especially once they've tasted freedom outside of their enclosed run; before then they didnt know what they were missing. My flocks free-range daily in a wooded rural area with guardian dogs to watch over them. Still, over the years ive ocassionally lost chickens to hawks, fox, & even neighbor's dogs. Always during the daytime while they were roaming free. Its a constant, continual balancing act for sure. Very sorry for your loss.
 

cmom

Hilltop Farm
14 Years
Nov 18, 2007
29,358
29,488
901
Florida
My Coop
My Coop
:welcome :frow So sorry for your loss. It could have been most any predator. My suggestion would be to put up a camera because whatever it was will be back and then you will know what you're dealing with. I know your birds are very happy free ranging but it is a risk you take. Mine are in nice large pens. I do have electric wires around the coops and pens, good heavy duty netting covering the pens and concrete under the gates all due to losses from predators in the past. Lessons learned the hard way. There are ways to entertain your birds even in their pens. Now is the time of the year when fox kits are now hunting on their own. I have seen a couple of young fox as well as young hawks hanging around here. Good luck...
 
Sep 30, 2021
358
825
161
Utah
I have had hawks and raccoons attack during the day. It depends how comfortable the raccoons are. I have seen raccoons crossing the road in the early afternoon here. We've only had one attack but it was nearly dawn and I caught him in the act tearing feathers out of my chicken's neck while she was pinned in a corner of the run. He ran to sit on the fence when he saw me but then he stared me down while I threw rocks (big ones) at him and even pointed the air rifle at him (it was out of pellets or I could have got him between the eyes from three feet away). He was not scared in the least. The neighbor's dog started trying to climb the fence so he ambled off eventually. All that is to say I wouldn't discount nocturnal predators.
 

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom