losing birds

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by NicoleM, Jun 27, 2010.

  1. NicoleM

    NicoleM Hatching

    Jun 7, 2009
    You do something the same way for over four years and everything's fine and then all of a sudden . . .

    We've had a small flock (4-6 hens) here for over four years. They free-range in the back yard (about .25 acre), which is surrounded by a five foot privacy fence. Their wings are kept trimmed so they can't sail over the fence. We live in a residential area and have to keep the (some live-chicken-phobic) neighbors happy. We did lose one to a fox (we think -- judging by the scat) a couple years ago, but only once. Other than that, we've pretty much lucked out. We even had a hen hatch a couple of duck eggs last year, and the ducklings survived until we returned them to their rightful home-with-a-pond at the age of seven weeks. I know we risk predator issues because they free-range, but zoning will not allow us to build anything permanent. They roost in a chicken tractor at night. So far, so good. It's either do it this way or go back to store-bought eggs. I guess we could leave them in the tractor all the time, but I like letting them free-range, and this HAD been working.

    Then a month ago, something killed four of our six hens and injured one. How that one got away I sure don't know. She survived and continued to lay. This time we think it was a coon, again judging by the scat. We have both foxes and coons (and hawks) in the woods here. The four dead ones were mostly intact -- one was a little bit eaten, but the rest were just dead. What a WASTE!! Do coons kill just for fun? The next day, we left for a week-long vacation. The two living birds spent the week at a friend's house because I was afraid to leave them here, figuring the predator would be back. We borrowed a trap, but didn't manage to catch anything.

    Last week, I purchased two twenty-week old pullets. We tried the "sneak them in at night" method of introducing them, but it didn't go too well. The older two were picking on them some the next day, but it wasn't horrible. One of the pullets got out of the yard the day after we got them, so I clipped a couple more flight feathers and put her back.

    The day after that, on Friday, I noticed that one of the pullets was missing. :-( She must have disappeared between 4-6pm and couldn't have been gone for more than an hour or two before I realized it because I'd been checking on them a lot. It was the one that had gotten out the day before, and I know this because she had five flight feathers on each wing clipped, while the other had only four. I am very sad about this, and I keep hoping, "Maybe she will show up!" But it has been over a day, so I guess there is little hope left of that. :-(

    What happened to her? There's no mess of feathers anywhere, which makes me think she just hopped the fence again and took off. But the other few times a bird's gotten out, they've stayed right by the fence, even when it happened the day after bringing them home. I looked all over the area for her, and we walked around again the next morning. Would she have ran away if she was being picked on? If a hawk had gotten her, wouldn't there be feathers? The other times we've had predators, there have been many feathers all over the place. Maybe she hopped the fence and THEN something got her, but again, there is no sign of her anywhere. Could she really have gotten over the fence with five flight feathers on each wing clipped?

    So now I have one pullet -- it's two against one. :-( Yesterday, we kept the new pullet in the tractor while we were out to keep her safe from the older birds and from whatever got the other one, if something did get the older one. I don't know what to do about her. Should I try getting another pullet right away, or will that cause more problems? We might have enough eggs with three, but I'm worried about the younger one getting beat up. Do I need to let them establish their pecking order, and then they'll leave her alone? In the past when I've brought in new birds, they've outnumbered the old ones. Of course, after all this, I am hesitating greatly about getting any more just so THEY can be killed or missing. :-( In case it matters, my older birds are barred rocks, and the new one is some kind of red sex-link -- the seller couldn't remember exactly what they were.

    Advice welcome, but please be nice to me, I thought we were doing things okay. I mostly need to know what to do now about our one lonely pullet. :-( Help me put this into perspective -- I have wondered if it's time to give up.
  2. huntercf

    huntercf Songster

    May 17, 2010
    If the bird was small enough a hawk may have just carried it away and you wouldn't see any feathers.
  3. mikeksfarmer

    mikeksfarmer Songster

    Sep 16, 2008
    Bonner springs KS
    Fox !-
  4. aprophet

    aprophet Songster

    Jan 12, 2010
    chesapeake Va.
    Quote:X2 a fox will carry them off most times
  5. rancher hicks

    rancher hicks Crowing 9 Years

    Feb 28, 2009
    Syracuse, NY
    Well as I see it first and foremost you need to figure out how to keep them safe. After that you may need to figure out if your trimming enough feathers. After your sure they're safe then I would consider getting replacements. Regardless of "what's" getting them you have to figure out the "how" are they getting them.

    If you suspect a hawk then perhaps it would help to give them some type of shelter to hide under or built a covered run. Hawks need landing space and takeing off space. Reducing that may prevent them from landing in your yard.

    You may need to put up a taller fence and give more to occupy their time so they don't become bored and hop the fence.

    Pics of your yard and space would help to decide. Also choose a "heavy" breed that are less likely to jump the fence. Some breeds are heavier and less able to get airborn high enough to get out.

    Wishing you all the best


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