Hen gone, can't think of what got it

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by heinkmeister, Oct 1, 2016.

  1. heinkmeister

    heinkmeister New Egg

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    Oct 1, 2016
    Hello everyone,

    To start, I have a flock of seventeen chickens--we have seven chicks (two white silkies, a bantam black cochin, a bantam easter egger, a standard white cochin, a super blue egger, and a white sultan hen), three "teenagers" (a blue easter egger, an olive egger, and a creme legbar), and seven "elders" (two roosters--black and blue silkie bantams, then a partridge silkie bantam, a white wyandotte bantam, a mottled cochin bantam, and two silver-spangled hamburgs [standards]).

    My mother and I normally let our flock roam our backyard when we are home--our backyard is big enough for the flock to stretch out and be happy while being small enough for us to always have vision on them. However, we're having one issue right now: lately, a lot of turkey vultures have been circling our area whenever our hens are out and about. I've checked around and talked to some of my other friends in the area say that turkey vultures are not great at flying for long periods of time (without updrafts) and they're too heavy to be able to carry away a chicken (they would have to feel comfortable enough with eating their catch on the spot). A about three weeks ago, I saw a bird of prey of some sort--I could not tell if it was a sharp-shinned hawk or a peregrine falcon. I scared it away before it got anybody at the time, and had not seen it around since then.

    Today, I had woken up from a nap, and everything seemed normal. My mom later heard the chickens squawking a lot more than ever before and had me go out to investigate. Normally, the chickens will quiet down once they see me in the backyard, but this time they kept going at it, and wouldn't even quiet down when I gave them some chicken scratch (which always pacifies them). I figured something was wrong, so I started taking a head-count. Two hens were missing--one of our silver-spangled hamburgs and our mottled cochin. Starting to panic, I had my mom come out to look for them as I went to the side and front yards to look for them. Luckily, I found our mottled cochin perched on a camping stove, but the hamburg was still nowhere to be found.

    We've concluded that she was taken away by a predator, but can't figure out what it was. There's no blood trails anywhere, and we have not found and feather-piles that would mark any form of hunting haven occurred. We always clip their primary feathers, so she couldn't have jumped the fence (plus our missing hen has never been much of a jumper).

    Sorry for making all of you read through that extremely long rant--the reason I'm posting is because I was wondering if any of you could help me find out what happened. And aside from keeping them in a covered run at all times, if any of you have any suggestions to help prevent this from happening, please let me know. I've had a hunch that shooting down a turkey vulture next time it comes by would be deterrent to the rest, but I know that it will probably result in cops being called to investigate the gunshot, and the same idea cannot be applied to the peregrine falcons/sharp-shinned hawks because of international treaties.

    Thank you all for bearing with me through this long post, and thank you for your help.
     
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Welcome to BYC.
    Sorry for your loss.

    What time of day did attack occur..... I'm guessing it was an 'afternoon nap'?
    How high is your fence?
    I'm assuming that you 'free range' within a fenced backyard, correct me if I misunderstood.
    How 'cluttered' might your range area be....missing chicken may still be hiding under/behind something??

    What type of area do you live in...city, suburbs, rural?
    What is your geographical location....state/country?

    I believe that turkey vultures are protected under the federal migratory bird act...and shooting one wouldn't help much anyway if that is in fact your predator, which I doubt.

    Most Birds Of Prey cannot carry off a full grown bird...but depending on BOP and size of chicken it is possible.

    No matter what the predator was/is it's often best to keep birds confined after an attack as it's very likely that predator will be back for a second course.
     
  3. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    To piggy back onto what aart suggested, buzzards are mostly scavengers. Had the bird been dead in your yard area, yes, they would drop in to clean it up for you. Feather mess and all.

    Most likely culprit for what you describe is a fox. They often take a single bird without leaving a trace. If you do know where they took it, you might find small piles of feathers along the way they where maybe they stopped to get a better grip. Can a fox get in your yard? Unless it is a well constructed electric fence, the answer is most likely yes.

    As for birds, and eagle might do what you suggest and if they are in the air at some distance can be confused with a buzzard. But even so, most birds of prey will kill the bird where it is, and in doing so, likely leave some feathers behind even if they they take off to eat it some distance away. An eagle could kill and drag an adult bird off.

    And I also agree with aart.........best course of action in the short run until you can ID your predator and do something about it is to keep them safely penned up at ground zero. They won't like it, but better they be unhappy than dead?
     
  4. heinkmeister

    heinkmeister New Egg

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    Thank you to both of you for your responses.

    I live a semi-rural area in San Jose, California. We have 6'6" tall fences, but they only go down by about six inches into the dirt. The attack was sometime between 3-4pm while my mom and I were asleep during a (rather unexpected) afternoon nap. The hen that was taken was, as I mentioned in my original post, a silver-spangled hamburg. They're technically standard fowl, but the hens are more about the size of a bantam rooster.

    I did find out who the culprit was, and I found a pile of feathers underneath one of the bushes. It turned out to be a bobcat. I was leaning more towards a fox, considering there was just a small pile of feathers and nothing more.

    My pet (indoor) cat, Dusty, kept going between windows in our house, looking at something in the backyard. He normally does this in the evening, but what drew my attention to the backyard was that Dusty was going between windows more frequently than normal (changing windows every twenty to thirty seconds rather than once every five minutes, like he normally does). I turned off all the lights in the house, slowly approached one of the windows, flicked on the light in the backyard, and right next to one of our coops was a bobcat. It didn't run away from the light, but rather squinted its eyes as it tried to adjust to the change in lighting, then slowly walked away. I didn't have my gun nearby to be able to grab it and shoot the bobcat (hunting bobcats is legal in California, but you're only limited to five, plus you're allowed to discharge a firearm within city limits if it is an immediate threat to you or your property), so I ran outside, grabbed the aluminum covers to the bins we keep our chicken feed in, and started smashing them together while shouting. I haven't seen the bobcat try to come back ever since then.

    We've alerted animal control of the bobcat running at large in this neighborhood, but for now, we're having to lock up our flock.
     
  5. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Teachable moment from your experience......for you and others who will find this post.

    Once you get a predator who experiences a successful kill, it is almost a certainty they will be back. So don't think "may be".....think "will be".....and act accordingly. In general, that means lock em up......put them into protective custody until the predator is ID'd and dealt with.

    Also, even in day to day events, there are a lot of clues to pick up on if you are tuned in to being sensitive to them. You cat's behavior for one. The birds behavior for another. My birds were in the yard the other day and all of a sudden I noticed they were standing in a tight group, heads up. That isn't normal, so I head straight for them to see what was up. About 5' on the other side of the fence was one of our barn cats. Not doing anything......just watching. Could just as easily have been a bobcat like yours, dog, a fox, or any other furry land based varmint. The point is when normal behavior of the birds changes.......they act different or sound different, likely as not there is a reason. So be tuned in and on the lookout and check it out when you notice something that isn't right.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Well, at least you know what it is, I guess.
    Did you figure out how it got inside the fence....dig under, jump/climb over?
     

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