Help! Something killed our birds!

Lauren Donnelly

May 17, 2017
We have two fully enclosed chicken coops with net tops and fully board bottoms. One coop held our mature layers and the smaller coop held our 3 month old layers. Last night around 4 am I heard something outside and sent my husband and dog out and something had already killed 2 mature layers and almost the whole pen of smaller layers (13), including my daughters fancy 4-H bird. Needless to say we are devastated, but has anyone else had this happen? We haven't lost any birds until last night, killing 15. Something killed them but didn't eat them. It looks like 2 birds something tried to pull thru the fence but the rest were just laying dead on the ground. What can do this? We are in Michigan and some people are saying weasels can fit thru the fence and kill. I've read on here owls, but the birds weren't eaten. Same with posts I've seen about raccoons but they aren't weren't mangled. HELP US! What is this?
Whatever got them went into a killing spree and I know foxes do that. But you would see an entry point. It sounds like something a weasel could do and it is varmint baby season.
sorry to hear of your loss... I have had whole flocks lost to predators so I know what you are going through.

raccoons will pull heads off through chicken wire.... legs as well... Weasels kill by grabbing the back of the neck. and they can go right through anything they can fit their head in.

Best protection for both is to use hardware cloth for your pens. Half inch or quarter inch is best.... It will protect against dogs and foxes as well. You may need to bury the hardware cloth or form an apron around the base of the coop... for digging predators.

I'm so sorry for your losses.
My first thought also, was fox. They do go on sprees and can kill many, many birds, and usually only carry one off. Unfortunately they often return to where they have successfully 'hunted', so you do need to really secure your remaining birds.
There are many other possibilities of what predator it was, that was just my first thought. Dogs can do this too, but I would think how they got in and out would be obvious.
If you can get or borrow a game/trail camera and set it up it may help to positively identify your predator. But securing the housing well will prevent access to almost all of them.
I have come to distrust any fencing except 1/2" or smaller hardware cloth for night security. And the coop has to be completely enclosed to be truly secure, that means top, bottom and sides. Many predators can dig under or climb over fence quite easily. And by netting I'm assuming you mean some kind of poly material or rope type, which will stop predatory birds, but not much else. Here is a link with some suggestions for security:
Again, I'm so sorry, losing them like this is awful.
4am in Michigan is still pretty dark this time of the year unless you're in CDT in the western UP. I assume they were all locked up in the coop with the pop door closed up? Are there any other openings other than the netted top (i.e. windows, gaps in construction, vents, etc.)? Weasels are very good climbers and could've possibly found a way to climb up and get through the netting up top. You did mention the culprit tried to pull a couple of birds through that the fence for a run? If so, then it sounds like your coop was open to the run? I'm trying to fully understand your scenario.
Our large coop is indoor/outdoor but netted top for both. So still completely enclosed. It was dark at 4 am and with a flash light he couldn't see anything. There were no dig marks, no openings from the outside visible or that there was a spot something had tried to mess with the fence. The smaller coop is indoor only and it completely enclosed with no disturbance to the fence also. No dig marks or holes anywhere. And yes, 1 mature layer was drug to the fence and something attempted to try to pull it thru and the small layers one was laying close the edge where it looked like the head it tried to pull thru. But the small pen had the 13 dead and they are scattered all around, not just by the edges so something had to have actually been inside. But left 3 alive.
I know from personal experience that bobcats kill in this manner, just breaking their necks. They are quite agile and can climb fencing (not the posts but the actual fence) and get under the netting. I had a mother bobcat teaching it's young to hunt, and lost 23 birds between September and December. 15 of them were in one day. Mine were daytime attacks (2-5pm), my birds are secure in their coop at night.

Stick the bodies in a trap and catch it.
My first flock 20 years back in north Florida, was "free range." They did fine for six or eight months (and I was so smug) then boom, one night, every one dead. Total massacre. In that case I think it was actually dogs. Since then, I have every year increased my protection and still have had problems. I have a family of coons who can open latches, tear chicken wire, and pull anything that leans on the wire right through. We raise geese and have arlo cams on them. We were away and had a goose sitter (but not at night) and the cam showed the raccoons jumping from trees into an 8 ft fence with netting and playing like they were on a trampoline. They busted through. Then they each (4) had a big goose egg and fell asleep in the coop! The geese seemed unconcerned and we just kept watching this every night thinking it was a symbiotic relationship. Uh-huh. Third night they killed three geese. We got home and set a haveaheart with marshmallows and every darn night the bait was gone, there was scat in the cage and it didn't spring. It only ever caught a huge angry possum. Now the pens are so Jerry-rigged with wire, wood and various fencing materials they look awful. But the birds are safe. I feel those dang critters laugh at me from the trees.

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