Help with Predator ID

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by KF880372, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. KF880372

    KF880372 New Egg

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    Jan 24, 2013
    North Carolina
    Hi everyone! Long time lurker here, but I need your help so I'm finally posting.
    I wish it was just a cute picture or something awesome, but it's not.

    Sorry for a lengthy post, I'm just trying to give enough details.
    Also, there's nothing super graphic, so read on, unless you get the sads real easy. [​IMG]

    Like a lot of people on this thread, my birds are now dead...

    It should be noted that I did not build my coop. I needed a coop really quick when we bought a new house, as my old one was too large to move. I only had two birds so I went for something kind of temporary with the hopes of expanding my flock and building an amazing coop when it got a bit warmer. Also, I let my gals free range daily so I knew they didn't need much room in the run. My coop was the same design as the pic below, except the front side on the bottom opened up, not the top part of the run. As you can see it has two main doors... An upper door on the nesting/roosting area, and then the bottom door on the front of the run. Also the roof lifts up, making the front door kind of unnecessary, but good for ventilation. For my price range, and time frame, this is all I could do. I regret it daily... Trust me. Of course, you all see it's made primarily with chicken wire which is stapled to the outside of the frame. [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The first attack happened about ten or so days ago. I woke up, the upper door to the coop was open, and my favorite bird was gone. The other hen had went down to the bottom, waiting to be let out for the day and was kind of just like ??? with no marks on her or missing feather. All that remained of the missing chicken was a very small pile of feathers. No significant trail of them, I never did find her body. In fact, I hoped she had managed to get away and maybe she'd return, but that hope dwindled when she wasn't around by sunset. I think her friend spent all day looking for her around the yard. Once I calmed down enough to process things, I figured out that the guy who build my coop did not use the right size screws on the part that the bolt latches into. So when something finally decided it wanted in, all it had to do was wiggle and yank hard enough, and the screw slipped through the hole. Ridiculous. I hadn't noticed because I never use that door. In fact it was covered in plastic to keep drafts out for winter. Of course, I fixed it ASAP. We went back about our daily lives, and went on trying to figure out what we would do for our lonely chicken. I assumed I was dealing with a raccoon given the dexterity of the creature, and the time (overnight) of the attack. Though, I wasn't sure because she was carried off without a trace.

    Fast forward to this morning. My husband left for work, and immediately came back in and told me our coop was burglarized over night again. He said, "This time... It's real bad." I've been peeking at it from the back door, and I finally pushed myself to check it out just now. She's gone... All that is left is her one of wings, and this time there is a trail of feathers. The improvements to the door held, but the chicken wire on the upper door did not. It should be noted that we had an ice storm, so I had placed a bit of cardboard in front of the door, blocking it to cover the unsheltered part the run. I had also placed an old nesting box on top of that blocking the door. Whatever it was, knocked all of that stuff off, hopped up there, very efficiently ripped off the plastic, tore apart the chicken wire on the bottom, mangled my chicken and then drug her off. I'm convinced I'm dealing with a mythical forest creature with opposable thumbs. Sasquatch?!? [​IMG] lol.

    I live in central North Carolina. Chatham County, if it matters. I live on the corner of a highway, and not more than a mile from a river. What struck me as odd, judging by the feathers, it looks like it drug her toward the road. Also, the coop is pretty close the highway, just on the other side of a thin line of trees. I'm looking for help with identification. Then, honestly, it's got to be dealt with, lethally or not. I hope to then, build a coop that can withstand such a hungry beast and start over this Spring. I know we have a stray cat or two that I've seen lurking during the day, never messed with my girls though. I saw an opossum the other night in our yard. I did see either a fox or coyote run through our yard once at night... That was a while ago. I know we have foxes around, I'm not confident about a coyote population in our area though. I had convinced myself it was a raccoon, but now I'm not so sure. There are no digging attempts, but I had also laid down wood, and large stones in a thick border around outside of the coop to keep anything from being able to dig a small hole to get in.

    I'm carrying a lot of guilt about it. I know I'm their only defense, and I let them down. This was my first time raising chickens, so you live and learn, I guess. I have never prior to this, ever had a problem with predators. I suppose I wasn't vigilant enough. I'll do better next time.

    Thanks for anyone reading this. I appreciate any and all input.
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I'm so sorry this is what brought you here. In the end, all anyone can do is guess, maybe intelligently, but still a guess.

    When I had single birds being taken, it was probably a fox. When two or three were attacked and I found a couple of chicken parts like a leg around, it was probably coyote. I have chased off and trapped fox, and a neighbor once watched a few coyotes attack my chickens (from across a field.) I don't let them free range any more, and their 6' fence is lots stronger than chicken wire, but it's a large yard so it is not predator proof. For a couple of years, that has been enough, that and the dogs running around outside their yard. Knock on wood.

    I hope you will rebuild and not give up. At least there's plenty of information here about how to build as strong as you want.
     
  3. grandpaw roo

    grandpaw roo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Any pics of hair left anywhere?Any tracks left in the dirt or mud?Could have been dog,fox,yote,feral cat,etc.A trail cam set up would tell you what you are dealing with.
     
  4. KF880372

    KF880372 New Egg

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    Jan 24, 2013
    North Carolina
    Thank you both for reading and replying.
    Given the size of the hole in wire, I'm thinking fox too, even though I was sure it was a raccoon for a while.
    My husband is dead set on trapping it, whatever it is. Even then, I'll never know for sure that we got the right guy.
    He just got home, he said he saw her body in the ditch in our front yard. I'm not sure what was eaten, that might reveal some more clues. [​IMG]

    The area they were in was surrounded by leaves so no tracks. I looked really close at the wire, but didn't see anything except what look like black feathers from my hen.
    I'm going to go out here in a bit and check it out again, now that I'm a little less in shock. I'll let you guys know what I find.

    It's a huge bummer, but I really loved my chickens and would like to have more. This time I have more than enough time to build a chicken fortress.
    They're going to be one spoiled bunch...
     
  5. Campine

    Campine Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Game/hunting cameras are pretty cheap these days. I occasionally put one out around the house and sometimes get a surprising good pic.
     
  6. KF880372

    KF880372 New Egg

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    Jan 24, 2013
    North Carolina
    I'm definitely considering a game cam with all the cool pics people have been posting. I want to know, but I'd probably hate to see the pictures... Ya know?

    I walked down the driveway, I saw a big pile of feathers, but no body down there. So no help there, unless he saw something different.
    I went back and looked reallly close at the chicken wire. I saw a single white and a few black hairs that did not look like feathers. They weren't really long. They are solid colors.

    It looks like my chicken put up a pretty good fight. =/ She was always the more suspicious of the two.

    I took a picture of the damage to the chicken wire. Just a warning, there's a little blood and feathers, nothing too gross. [Sorry!!]
    That big red chunk is the plastic I was using for insulation.
    I should note that door is maybe a 12"x12" for some perspective on the size.
    I also got a picture of the black and white hairs.

    Thanks again, everybody

    . [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2013
  7. Shellz

    Shellz Chillin' With My Peeps

    A fox could definitely chew that wire, & pull out the bird. I suppose a raccoon as well. The foxes where I live have taken some of my free range birds in good weather. They always leave a trail of feathers, then find a quiet spot to finish the plucking, then take it to the den. Nothing gets them in winter here, as they have a Fort Knox yard & coop. To top it off, I got my firearms license and an excellent gun to TCB this year!
    Good luck, I hope you at least find out what the varmint is!
     
  8. grandpaw roo

    grandpaw roo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Fox and yotes will often eat then burry/stash for later.A dog in our neighborhood years back would kill and take home to its owner.Coon will often eat on the spot and come back for more.Tough call.We keep traps set on the property ALL the time to keep the bad guys at bay!
     
  9. KF880372

    KF880372 New Egg

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    Jan 24, 2013
    North Carolina
    Someone just confirmed for me, we definitely have coyotes around here too. I feel like that was kind of small hole in the wire for one of them, eh?
    The thing Shellz said about a fox plucking the feathers, seems about right for this too. Especially with that huge pile of 'em at the end of our driveway.
    At least I have a better idea of what I'm up against now.

    Thanks again, everybody. I very much appreciate it.
    I know none of you are psychic or anything, but having your input has been very helpful to me.
    It's been a rough day... I'm kind of looking forward to a fresh start tomorrow.
     
  10. spikennipper

    spikennipper Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Kent, UK.
    I am sorry to hear about your chickens [​IMG] please when you rebuild their coop use weld mesh or hardware cloth as it may be called, this is much more stronger than chicken wire which is very weak, it seems odd it is called chicken wire really as many people build their runs with it but it can only really keep chickens in but is no match for predators with teeth.
     

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