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I'm at a loss

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by AsbillHomestead, Jul 3, 2016.

  1. AsbillHomestead

    AsbillHomestead In the Brooder

    May 24, 2016
    I started off with 11 buff orps, and now down to 7. I have them in a 15 foot by 15 foot chicken run that's buried about a foot down on all the walls. I have chicken wire on all sides and partially buried as well, and a tin roof. But something keeps getting in and biting my chickens heads off. I live in southwest missouri so no weasels. My first thought was raccoon, but I have gone over EVERY inch of the run and can't find anything that an animal could get through. No signs of digging, no signs of entry, nothing. There's not even feathers on the ground suggesting the chicken put up a fight. It seriously looks like someone is opening the gate, walking in, chopping off the heads of my chickens, and walking out. However, all the bodies have been found by the exterior walls. So maybe a coon is reaching in? I couldn't imagine a chicken walking up that close to a coon though.i don't know, it's been going in and killing one at a time the past 4 days. I finally set a trap today and putting up my game cam tomorrow. I moved the remaining buff orps to a more secure location in the mean time. But I need to address this problem immediately due to more chickens coming of age to go outside. So any advice would be great!

  2. SueT

    SueT Crowing

    May 27, 2015
    SW MO
    I also live in SW MO, so I want to follow your story, but I have no idea what killed your birds. Are they full grown? Did this happen at night? Or are they locked in a coop at night? I am not so sure there are no weasels....
    I have 4 hens free ranging for about a year and two youngsters in a less than secure run. But all are securely locked up at night. No problems so far.
  3. AsbillHomestead

    AsbillHomestead In the Brooder

    May 24, 2016
    They are 12 weeks old. They have a coop inside their building but the door stays open because the run was so secure (so we thought). We've had geese and ducks in the same run for 3 years with no incidents. I even had my father come out today and we walked every inch of it trying to find something, but to no avail. I've moved the orps closer to the house in a run and coop that gets closed at night. Those poor birds have been through alot lately so I sat in their new coop giving them frozen fruit.
  4. Shaunassy

    Shaunassy Chirping

    Apr 2, 2016
    My guess would either be a raccoon or an owl. this is a excerpt online about owls "owl will usually only go after one of two birds, using its talons to pierce the bird's brain. They'll will only devour the chicken's head and neck. Look for feathers on a fence post near where you keep your chickens. If you see dead birds in your area with surgical looking cuts on their necks, you can be sure this was an owl’s doing. "
  5. Kyanite

    Kyanite Loving Life!

    May 27, 2016
    SE Idaho
    How frustrating and sad. I'm sorry you are losing your chickens like this. [​IMG] Have you thought about putting out a game/trail camera to see what is trolling around your coop at night or when you aren't there? You could also try a live trap.
  6. SueT

    SueT Crowing

    May 27, 2015
    SW MO
    There's another thread here that says raccoons can reach through mesh and decapitate chickens.
    Someone else mentions that weasels eat the head first.
    The MO dept. of conservations says long tailed weasels are found throughout the state. [​IMG]
  7. Post some images of your setup, couple close ups of things like the gate and suspicious areas, and a couple wide shots would be helpful.

    Where are you finding the dead chickens?

    Just need more information.

    Addendum to my post:

    Here's a nice trick...

    Even if a predator is trap shy and will not enter a trap....a lot of times they will still go right up to the mouth of the trap, they just won't go in.

    If I think this is happening, but the ground is hard or there is too much leaf litter to allow me to check for sign, then I'll dig a shallow depression in front of the cage trap, right at the mouth, maybe 13 or 14 inches across and fill it with play sand. Any critter that comes by will leave their prints in that play sand. You'll get perfect animal tracks, and it's easy to erase, just smooth it out each day.

    This little trick will work around the coop and run as well, when you are trying to figure out how the heck are they getting in...or what the heck is killing my chickens. Play sand at key locations will give you all you need to identify the perpetrator.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2016

  8. carlf

    carlf Chirping

    Jul 2, 2016
    Mobile, AL
    My advice is to get them locked in a sealed coop tonight and every night until you catch the critter.
    This should have been your first step back when you lost the first couple of birds.

    Every run should have a coop that can be sealed up except for windows with hardware clothe screens.

    I vote for weasel, they are found throughout the US except for desert areas, and definitely in Missouri.
    They are known for coming back until a flock is decimated.

    Do you have a coop that can be locked every evening? Are the birds still sleeping on the ground or up on a roost?
    If they are sleeping on the ground against the fence, then it could be coons grabbing them & pulling the heads off.

    If it is a weasel, you need a small box trop, a large rat snap-trap or #1 long spring with some sort of fresh meat for bait (not nice to think about, but part of one of your dead birds is good bait.
    Call your local Ag Extension office for advice how to catch it or here: http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/trapbmpsweasel.pdf
    1 person likes this.
  9. CluckerCottage

    CluckerCottage Songster

    Weasels are pretty much everywhere and they turn into liquid when squeezing through even the tiniest space.
    We have them here and found one checking out our CX's VERY secure tractor during the late afternoon hours.
    Needless to say, he is no longer around to bother my birds. Nothing is going to eat my CX's-- those are for MY family.

    Good luck catching the little buggar and I pray that you have no more losses.
    I am sorry for you.

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