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Is it a predator?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by SeaShell741, Dec 28, 2010.

  1. SeaShell741

    SeaShell741 Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 28, 2010
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    I've had 4 birds die in the past 2 1/2 weeks, one at a time a few days apart. The only wounds I can find are gaping bloody holes at their vent. When the first hen died, I thought maybe it was prolapse, but would 4 of my birds prolapse so closely together? Could it be a predator? What would only kill 1 bird and then return twice a week or so? All birds are kept in a coop. Thanks for any help?
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
  3. janinepeters

    janinepeters Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 9, 2009
    The only thing I know of that bites chickens in the butts is the opossum. I'm pretty sure weasels do go for the head. Also, a weasel is more likely to kill multiple chickens in one fell swoop, rather than spreading it out over multiple days.

    Have your birds been laying eggs? Opossums often go for those, too, sometimes leaving shell fragments around after feasting.
     
  4. SeaShell741

    SeaShell741 Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 28, 2010
    Virginia
    Thanks for your help. The hens have been laying...they haven't slowed down at all. I had 11 and was getting 4-8 eggs a day. Now I only have 7 hens, but still got 7 eggs today.
     
  5. theFox

    theFox Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 21, 2009
    Standish, Maine
    The other birds can also cause death by pecking the vent areas of your birds.

    It could be cannibalism you are seeing, however other things also will chew on the chickens, rats, opossums, weasels and their kin (although they tend to go for other parts of the anatomy first).
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010
  6. janinepeters

    janinepeters Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You are right about rats, thefox. Hadn't thought of them, but they will do that, too.

    If you are not leaving eggs in the coop overnight, then lack of egg predation doesn't rule out opossum. Rat and opossum would be highest on my list.

    Weasels and their relatives (such as mink and fisher) might bite a chicken on the rear, but this pattern of taking one every few nights, and not eating much of any one chicken would be very unusual for any of them. They are intelligent predators who often kill many at one time, more than they can possibly eat. This is very adaptive in the wild, where they can cache the excess kill and save it for future consumption. People think of this as selfish and vicious, but it is much the same as a human buying lots of steak at the grocery store and freezing it for future use. Anyway, this caching behavior is so characteristic of members of the weasel family, and the pattern you are seeing makes them really unlikely.

    Also think about how large an animal could sneak into your coop. Is there any opening large enough for an opossum?

    Please let us know if you solve them mystery!
     
  7. theFox

    theFox Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 21, 2009
    Standish, Maine
    While the infamous weasels and minks are noted for large scale coop killing sprees that isn't always the case.

    They are smart critters so I never count them out, even when birds disappear one at a time.

    My money would be on rats first, then Mr. and Mrs. slowpoke, unless there was prior evidence of the other birds being nasty.
     

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