Help me identify what killed our chicken please

Nov 11, 2020
1,429
2,389
286
West Virginia
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.
Sorry for your loss! Certain breeds (such as the silky) have a better chance of surviving if you cut the feathers out of their faces so they can see .Some of the short legged bantam breeds (bantam cochins) can't run fast enough to escape.
 

JTHawk

In the Brooder
Mar 29, 2021
8
12
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.
I lost two chickens to a raccoon, and the bodies looked exactly like this. I also lost three to hawks. The hawk pattern was just a big cluster of feathers as the hawk took the chicken with it. I trapped the coon and a friend disposed of it for me, and as for the hawks, I ran clear heavyweight fishing line over the yard-----in my case I let the chickens into a fenced yard during the day and I have a second story deck so I could tie off onto the deck and run the line out to a fence post. I did several of these lines, and attached "bird tape" which is Mylar tape with rainbow or other designs printed on it.

I cut lengths of tape about six to ten inches long, varying the lengths, and folded a strip of duct tape over the line and then over one end of the tape. (If you tie the tape it will break pretty quickly at the knot.) I spaced the tape irregularly----the idea is not not have a pattern----about 2-3 feet apart but staggered from line to line so there is never a big opening. This tape flutters in the slightest breeze and the metallic design catches any light and reflects it. This drives hawks and owls crazy. The motion makes it impossible for them to focus on prey or an attack pattern and the irregular flash of light disorients them. The flashes are very bright, like flash bulbs going off. The tape doesn't bother the chickens, but it does bother predator birds from above. It's fast, cheap, easy and kind of pretty.
 

PopoMyers

Songster
Aug 19, 2020
256
379
186
Kitsap, WA
I also put aviary netting over the large run that we have, even going around 2 fruit tree trunks. It has helped both ways, to keep the girls in( only a 4 ft. fence) and raptors out. I even saw a hawk perching on the coop roof one day. :drool Girls were safe. So sad to lose a feathered baby.
 

bruceha2000

Addict
9 Years
Apr 19, 2012
17,224
72,803
1,262
NW Vermont
The hawk pattern was just a big cluster of feathers as the hawk took the chicken with it.
That will depend on the type of hawk and the size of the chicken. A hawk can't carry anything that weighs more than it does. Even hawks that look big weigh less than many grown large fowl chicken breeds. For example a big red tailed hawk, one of the largest hawks in the USA, weighs 3.5 pounds. Even a large osprey only weighs 4.4 pounds. Seems like that pattern would more likely be an eagle or large owl.

I've lost a couple of birds to foxes and the "pile of feathers but no body" fits those kills too. I was able to find a trail of feathers here and there where the fox took the bird to the woods. Biggest pile was at the kill site right behind the barn. I have better fencing now! Little did I know that a fox can get through a 6" opening and pull a full grown large fowl back out through that size hole.
 

Joyfillednomads

Songster
Feb 11, 2021
253
302
151
United States of America
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.
Happens. No matter how down tight you think you got it. At every experience level. One lady in New Zealand lost her chickens she had been breeding a special new breed and developing for 15+ years... lost them all. It happens.
 
Nov 11, 2020
1,429
2,389
286
West Virginia
Old English or American Large Game Fowl are better suited for free ranging than regular domestic chickens (like Dominiques or Rhode Islands to name a few) Regular chickens don't have the agility, speed or instincts of a game bird. If they aren't kept in predator proof coops and runs they'll fall prey to predators much easier. I've never underestimated the drive of a hungry predator pitted against a well fed chicken bred to lay a lot of eggs (or one bred for just looks) I've never lost a chicken to a predator using this philosophy.
 

roosterhavoc

Enabler
9 Years
Jan 5, 2012
27,511
61,048
1,231
Old English or American Large Game Fowl are better suited for free ranging than regular domestic chickens (like Dominiques or Rhode Islands to name a few) Regular chickens don't have the agility, speed or instincts of a game bird. If they aren't kept in predator proof coops and runs they'll fall prey to predators much easier. I've never underestimated the drive of a hungry predator pitted against a well fed chicken bred to lay a lot of eggs (or one bred for just looks) I've never lost a chicken to a predator using this philosophy.
While gamefowl are far better suited for free ranging they still don’t stand a chance against a determined fox. They do very well with hawks though. Gamefowl are just far more aware of their surroundings and are quicker to adjust their behavior.
 
Nov 11, 2020
1,429
2,389
286
West Virginia
While gamefowl are far better suited for free ranging they still don’t stand a chance against a determined fox. They do very well with hawks though. Gamefowl are just far more aware of their surroundings and are quicker to adjust their behavior.
You're correct which is why I don't free range domestic chickens .They are much more likely to fall prey than games .They can't fly worth a lick in comparison nor defend themselves as well.Might as well get a big bag of cat food and feed the predators as to turning domestic chickens out in the open. People new to keeping chicken don't know the difference between the two. Theres as much difference between a greyhound and a basset hound as there are some of these domestic chickens .
 

Joyfillednomads

Songster
Feb 11, 2021
253
302
151
United States of America
You're correct which is why I don't free range domestic chickens .They are much more likely to fall prey than games .They can't fly worth a lick in comparison nor defend themselves as well.Might as well get a big bag of cat food and feed the predators as to turning domestic chickens out in the open. People new to keeping chicken don't know the difference between the two. Theres as much difference between a greyhound and a basset hound as there are some of these domestic chickens .
We do not free range white or light varieties of chickens any more either. Like hawk and falcon and eagle and owl bait...
 

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