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I guess Snakes...or the Rooster? UPDATE

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by MiniBeesKnees, Jul 13, 2011.

  1. I had a new mommy hen with four of them tiniest, perfect little chicks you ever saw about five days old.
    They were in an outside pen, covered. No four legged animal could get into it...not without leaving evidence anyway.
    So my dog (who I supervise) and no stray (my entire perimeter is fenced) or stray cat got them.

    Either the hen's husband...the rooster...got them, or a snake. There is no way to keep snakes out.
    Snakes are the only wild predators I've seen in a couple years.

    This morning I found the chicks gone or dead. No feathers or blood or pieces of chick. Mom and Dad have no injuries.
    Two chicks are just gone, and two were in the nest box dead. One just dead and one squashed enough the guts came out its rear end.
    I figure a rooster (he is a tame little guy) would not have left one squashed...and would not have eaten the other two.

    Whatever it was killed them between eight last night, and nine-thirty this morning.
    It could have been rats but I figure those would have left blood evidence.
    But...I never have mouse or rats in my feed or any evidence of rodents.
    Not in the chicken area anyway, in my house I have mouse evidence.

    The nest box is a Rubbermaid tub on its side with a hole cut into it.
    Nothing can reach into it from the outside of the pen. The pen is about seven feet square, and four feet high...and covered.
    I keep the different breeds, or different colors of Old English in separate pens.
    I guess a cat could get into it if it tried hard enough...and cats are nocturnal hunters. I do see stray cats.
    But nearby is another pen with ten incubator hatched chicks in it that is a lot easier to get into. It was untouched.

    Are snakes nocturnal? Do they hunt at night? All those I've caught I did in the daytime.
    Where I live I'm surrounded by thousands of acres of woods...the 'usual' predators avoid the small populated area in my 'neighborhood'...
    and live instead in those huge areas away from people.

    I have no answer but to keep the broody hens in the coop...and the chicks when they hatch too.
    But if it is roosters hurting the chicks then I can't do that because I have other roosters that free range.

    I'm getting ready to build a new pen but I know no way to keep snakes out except hardware cloth and that is not in the budget for the big covered pen I have in mind.
    Even the top would have to be covered with it because snakes climb.

    Any comments or suggestions are welcomed.

    Terry in Tennessee

    Last night something got all of my chicks but two. Two outside on the ground out of the nesting box, five dead in the nesting box, and one missing. One in the nest and one outside gutted, and one missing the head. But many killed just for fun, not eaten or wounded. I sold a bunch of chicks three weeks ago, these were my keepers.

    I'm going to rethink this whole chicken thing. I don't know what got them, but I suspect cat because I've seen stray cats. Or a skunk, because once in a rare while I'll smell one...in which case I don't let the dogs outside for obvious reasons. I still think a snake got the other ones, but had left these alone. Now eight out of my ten keepers are also dead. It is one thing if some animal gets them and eats them, it is another whole thing if they are just killed and left there. If the missing one was eaten (I see no feathers loose, not even in the nesting box where five were dead) and the head off of one then that's one thing. The wild creatures have to eat too and it is my job to keep my chicks safe. But just killing and leaving them really has me ticked off. Of all the chicks I've hatched, and the broody hatched...I have two left. I've lost no adults, only chicks.

    Yep, going to redesign the coop and keep everyone locked up. My pleasure came a lot from watching them free range in the yard and they seemed to like the outside pens as come dusk they'd return to them and not go in the coop with the rest of the chickens who live in that at night. All I know is whatever got this batch did not fly but could climb a four foot height and squeeze between the fence and the top of the pen...but that could be almost anything that is about cat size and up to even fox size...but it was not a dog and it happened during when it was dark for sure as I was out there until after dark, and out there this morning very early.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011

  2. StevieNacole

    StevieNacole In the Brooder

    Apr 27, 2011
    Guthrie, Oklahoma
    It could of been the rooster, but what about the two missing? I dont know, that is strange.... He could have eaten them. I seen a little bird get into ourchicken pen once, and those chickens caught it and killed it. Ate everything, because the next day there was no evidence of the bird. But a snake could have done it to, ate the others, but I dont see why it would kill two of them and not eat them...? [​IMG] I'm sorry for your loss! That is sad. [​IMG]
  3. mulewagon

    mulewagon Songster

    Nov 13, 2010
    If the rooster was going to hurt the chicks, it would peck them even when you were there. Also, the crushing sounds like a snake.

    I lost a bunch of little chicks to snakes - they just vanished from under the hens in the night. Now I have a cage covered with hardware cloth, and put the hen and chicks inside each night, until they're old enough to roost. It's much cheaper and easier than trying to snake-proof our coop.
  4. 1livelychick

    1livelychick Songster

    Feb 22, 2010
    So sorry for your loss. I'll lay odds on a snake. Had a five foot rat snake eat eggs, eat chicks and tried to consume a full size Silkie hen...he was not successful with the latter...so it regurgitated her and left her slimy and dead.[​IMG] Sorry to be so graphic..but it was terrible! Didn't figure it out until the hen was dead and her babies were missing all in the same day! So, from then on I kept the my next mother hen and her chicks in a pen wrapped in chain link, poultry wire, plastic fencing with 1/4 inch holes then put deer netting over it.I was on a tight budget so the only money spent was the deer netting. I know it sounds overkill but once you've lost lives to a predator it becomes a mission. She would then escort her clutch into a large cat kennel where nothing could slip through in the night to kill her or the babies. Deer netting is great because the snakes are deterred if they are not deterred then they get stuck in the netting. You can buy a roll of it at tractor supply for $20! Hope that helps you...it sure help my little ones! Good luck!
  5. Thanks everyone...I'm betting on a snake too...maybe a smaller one then the three huge rat snakes I've caught over six feet long...so maybe that's why it didn't eat them all. I caught one last month still in the nest box where it had eaten nine eggs...or that's how many were in there the night before. It threw up eggs for a half hour. I've seen smaller black snakes around too.

    I've seen stray cats but they don't come in the yard. I have a rat terrier that runs up and down the fence line and shrieks and barks at them and I think that keeps them out of the yard. But the chickens and the chicks go into the woods. I've bought a piece of land across the front of my lot and I'm going to convert the back yard mostly to garden and park the Blazer and the camper on the new piece. And I'm going to build a new run around the coop and this free ranging stuff is going to end. I can't snake proof all of it, but I can build a place separate with hardware cloth for mommy's that are broody, or have new chicks. Part of that area is always shaded, no sun gets there at all.

    These are really tiny banty Old English chickens and the rooster had been in with them every night since they were born...he always went in to roost with his wife even before she went broody, and while she was. Chances are if he was going to hurt them he would have done it sooner. She'd had them off the nest for more than four days, and had even brought them out into the free run area yesterday. And I don't know how he could have squashed out the guts on that one.

    I have a friend locally who does not have snake issues, but she had a huge mouse problem. I don't have rodent issues so maybe that's why I have snakes. I do know I was losing chicks that went into the woods all around me and never came back out. I'd lose a few here and there...but never a whole nest full.

    If anyone else goes broody then I'm going to make a snake proof enclosure for her and the babies to be. Snakes don't get in the coop...the only openings are eight feet up and I guess they go for the easier ones in the outside pens. But right now it is just too hot in the coop during the day to make anyone stay in it.

    It put a damper on an otherwise great day though...to lose those perfect, tiny, purebred chicks. They were keepers.

    Terry in Tennessee

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