HELP! My Hens have been scared out of the house...

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by RenneRae, Nov 14, 2014.

  1. RenneRae

    RenneRae Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 2, 2013
    Rolla, MO
    We had a critter ( of unknown species, possibly more than one type) in our hen house last winter, it got several of my hens, and then late in the spring after we thought we had got rid of it, my chicks and a sitting hen. We have slowly been conjoling my remaining hens back to the henhouse, and Now we have seen in the nest busted eggs licked clean. (possum? Coon?)
    We didn't mind so much them roosting in the trees, but now that it is getting cold they will not come to roost in the barn. In fact they act terrified to go in there at all. This morning I have 3 hens on my back deck huddled by the door. It is a frigid 25 degrees out there.

    HOW can I get them back in the barn. And we do shut the doors promptly when it starts to get dark, I don't know how this thing gets in, there is no opening. I am afraid they will freeze to death being out in the open, and I'm sure they are afraid they will be carried off if they go up at night. They also are harder to catch as we have tried catching them and putting them up. They used to be very docile.

    It's as if something knows the laying schedule of my hens. I check for eggs every day. My girls usually lay in the afternoon around 2, I have been out there at 3 and found an egg broken. They've taken to laying in the planter pots on the porch, the toolbox in the garage, an odd plastic crate under the deck.. This can't keep happening, not only is my husband tired of their droppings on our deck in the morning (as am I) but the eggs that fall out of his toolbox drawers are not as funny to him as they are to me.

    Any suggestions? Burning the barn down and building another one, while it has crossed my mind, is not feasible.
     
  2. chicknmania

    chicknmania Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Jan 26, 2007
    central Ohio
    We had that happen once. I don't remember what we did in the interim, I think they were roosting in the garage and on the front porch as I remember, and we just waited til they were asleep and then carried them back. But the only way you're going to get them back in there is to show them that the predators are gone. And the only thing I know to do is set a live trap , or stake out the coop,and eliminate whatever it is. In the meantime, do you have a garage or anything where you could coax your flock into with feed and let them spend the night in there? When we had a serious predator problem we actually did stake out the barn one night, it was quite interesting, actually, to see all the wildlife activity, and then we were able to figure out how to deal with it. You could use a trail cam though and achieve pretty much the same results, if you just want to know what it is before you tackle the problem. As far as the eggs being eaten, that sounds like a skunk to me. A little more tricky in livetrapping those, but there are ways. And your flock WILL know when the predators are gone. I can tell when there's a skunk hiding in the barn, by the way the flock acts, and where they roost. After you eliminate the predator, just keep trying to coax them back to their real coop, by feeding them in there right before sunset, maybe they will learn faster that all is well again. And then predator proof your coop as much as possible. Lots of ways to do that.
     
  3. chicknmania

    chicknmania Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Also, if it is a skunk, it's already in there. It went in through the door during the day, and found a place to sleep until evening. That's what happens to us all the time. They see no reason to leave..why should they? Although not all skunks will kill chickens (I think usually they look at it as too much work) some do if there's an easy target like a setting hen. We lost a broody bantam and a chick this past late summer, and I'm pretty sure skunks were responsible for both. Skunks are mostly active in the evening just after sunset, and in the hours right before sunrise. So if you walk out there half hour after sunset, you might be able to see it without having to get a trail cam or anything. (They also can be active during the day too though, which would account for what you're seeing). Just ask your husband to be patient. I think eggs in the tool box are a nice surprise, they're trying to make sure he has breakfast lol!
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2014
  4. RenneRae

    RenneRae Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 2, 2013
    Rolla, MO
    We've had several different "things" get the hens. We had a bob cat and took care of it. We had a raccoon ( I think) that would just take the heads off, but not eat the chickens. At the same time we had something unlatch our rabbit hutch and kill several baby bunnies. We were thinking coon because we couldn't figure out what else would have the dexterity to unlatch the hutch that the kids had trouble doing. We've trapped and released a possum, and later killed it when it came back. Our dogs normally run off (and get stunk up by) any skunks in the area.

    I will try feeding in the barn. 2 of our older hens get in the tree in the front yard, 2 completely disappear and we've not yet found where they are roosting, and 2 camp out on the deck. We had 12 hens, and are now down to 6. Our rooster refused to go in the barn as well over the winter and froze out in the cold. He stopped doing his job and was always the first in the tree.

    We've been considering clearing out the barn, selling the chickens and starting over. BUT, I hatched 3 of these and hand raised them, and my reds are just hard to come by... and the other is one of my first chickens. She no longer lays but is our "mother hen" and breaks up any type of pecking order issues. I have attachment issues with my chickens.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2014
  5. chicknmania

    chicknmania Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Well, of course you get attached, that's normal. I don't know what else to tell you besides get a game camera, or else find a repelling device (and there are several good ones...I've heard that motion activated sprinklers and another device that has glowing eyes are really good deterrents. I'm sure you know what the options are but it depends on your individual set up, what you can use. If you can absolutely make sure there's nothing in your barn, they should go back,. Electric fence is another thought. Can you put high roosts in the barn, or can they fly that high? Our barn has high roosts that most of them can get to. That helps. .
     

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