Lost 1/3 of my flock. Now what? (long story)

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by lizage, Sep 12, 2011.

  1. lizage

    lizage Songster

    May 13, 2011
    I had 16 chickens (~20wks old, some just started laying last week) - 14 pullets and 2 cockerels. They free range all day (I let them out in the morning before I leave for work until they head into the coop at night). We own 5 acres of land (half wooded) and are surrounded by farm ground (corn this year) and woods which are owned by my in laws. The chickens usually stay within a certain range of their coop, but had taken to venturing a couple rows into the corn as of late as it has begun drying/dropping. When I come home, they come running out at me so I know they haven't been going far.

    I came home Thursday evening and it had been raining all day (remnants of TS Lee) and there were 6 chickens in my yard and the rest didn't come out. Didn't think much of it at the time (it was raining and I figured they were bed down somewhere dry) and I was rushing to get my daughter off to her dance class. When I got back from dropping her off, there was still no sign of the other 10 chickens and I randomly noticed one hen pecking at another (which I never see them do). I went up to the hen (a beautiful NH Red) and noticed some blood on her back and thought one of my roos must have gotten a little rough with her (this was my first and only experience with an injured chicken). I brought her in our barn to clean her up and realized that she had several (4-5) open gashes on her back (and not up by her neck as I would assume a roo would hold onto). The biggest gash was about an inch long and down to muscle (organs?). Now I became worried because there was no way a roo could have done this and my other birds still had not appeared. I cleaned her up, put neosporin on the wounds (as I had read here many times), isolated her and went out to look for more chickens. None appeared.

    I went back into the house to call my husband (it was still raining out) and as I was looking out the window, I saw one of my bantams come out of the corn field where they usually hang out. This eased my fears a little bit and figured the others may wander back out of the field as it grew dark. I had to run out by this time and pick my daughter back up from dance and my husband returned home as well. We walked the perimeter of the field (which is over 20 acres) and found 2 birds together at the back of the field. In the meantime, 2 other birds had made their way back to the coop so I was only missing 5 now of 16.

    Needless to say, it got dark quick and no other birds returned. My injured girl lasted through the night, but was dead when I got home from work later the next day (Friday). We walked the perimeter of the field many more times looking and calling to no avail. The only 'evidence' we found was a few (as in 3-4) of my roo's feathers at the back of the cornfield. One roo had made it back, but my alpha roo hadn't along with 4 hens.

    We live in northern IN and have coyotes and foxes around so do I assume this is what got them? Assuming there were no "leftovers" that we found? And also considering that we lost 6 of them at once? How on earth did one get fatally injured, yet make it back if they were as far back in the property as I think they were? We believe that whatever happened happened at the back of the property, and not in our immediate yard/area, but how can I allow my birds to free range again? Will a predator such as a coyote or fox come looking? I let them out for an hour last night before sun down and stayed out there with them.

    Sorry this is so long, but I feel pretty miserable for what happened. The birds were not named and we were actually planning on having the roos processed this week (go figure). I knew the risks of letting them free range during the day, and obviously will not allow them to in the future unless we are around.
  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Free Ranging Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    A few years ago, we had coyotes living in the cornfield right by the barn. My free-range chickens disappeared that summer, one or two at a time. They also wiped out a dozen barn cats in a week. When we harvested the corn that year, we chased out 3 of them. (I wish we'd have known they were there - maybe we could have had someone on the end of the field to shoot them as they came out)
  3. True Grit

    True Grit Songster

    I'm sorry, you obviously care about your chickens. Maybe you could electric fence an area for them to free range in. It's so hard to keep them in when they want out so badly, I know.
  4. WillieBoy

    WillieBoy Chirping

    Sep 1, 2010
    I would say your accessment is correct,coyotes and foxes grab the prey and run.Keep your birds under lock until you can get rid of the killers.Sorry for your losses.They will surely be back looking for more.!
  5. epeloquin

    epeloquin Songster

    Mar 11, 2011
    Western Massachusetts
    Agreed, coyotes and foxes both carry off their prey. Unfortunately they will continue to return looking for more of the same. I would build a solid, strong run and not risk freeranging unless you're around to watch out for them..
  6. lizage

    lizage Songster

    May 13, 2011
    Thanks for the replies! We have considered electric fencing, but haven't looked into it. We are in the process of having a larger enclosed run made (probably over the winter) so maybe I won't feel so bad about them having to stay locked up if they can have more area to forage. We did let them out again after we got home last night and they were so happy. [​IMG] And they stayed really close to the coop. The dynamics of the group has already changed without the alpha roo around as our other roo has a much less aggressive personality. We also got 2 brown eggs from our standard size hens (our first, we've only been getting bantam eggs) yesterday so that lifted our spirits!
  7. Ole rooster

    Ole rooster Songster

    Jun 25, 2011
    Milner, Georgia
    Experences such as yours it the exact reason I cannot leave my birds out on the run no supervised. When they're out I'm with um with my .22 in my hand. If anything gets one of mine it will be because I missed.

    Sorry for what happened but thanks for telling.

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