Lost 2 chickens, in 3 days - Help!


In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 11, 2013
Madison Township, Ohio
Hello! I'm new here and new to raising chickens. We had 10 (10-week old) Leghorns that have an enclosed coop (with a small run) that free-range during the day (and have since they were 6 weeks old). The coop is backed up against a hedge of bushes (to protect from raptors) and is adjacent to a few acres of wooded land. This is the area where we have encountered problems.

Friday we lost sweet our little deformed runt, PeeWee. I went out after dinner to do a head count (the girls are very prompt about getting into the coop and roosting by dusk) and only had 9. I was hoping PeeWee was roosting in some brush, but never found any sign of her; no debris field and no body. Yesterday, between the hours of 9a-noon we lost another one. It started to rain, so I went out to make sure they were all in the coop and the head count came back at 8. Later in the evening I was walking around trying to see if I could find her roosting (hope against hope, again) and found some feathers and then located her headless body. On my way, a big gray tom cat passed me and ran into those woods, not sure if he is the culprit or not, but the body was located in some pretty heavy brush, so I'm assuming it was not a bird of prey.

I'm so beside myself. I was reading that we might want to get a rooster - any thoughts on that? I'm not interested in chicks, but if we collect eggs every day, I'm assuming that won't be a problem (until they come following their mama out from the woods :) ). They LOVE ranging, but I don't want to lose any more.
After reading and sorting through the posts on the predators thread, I've realized that free ranging, supervised free ranging, penning without a roof, etc will just add up to loss.
So many things like to eat chicken!

A roo might help you some, but they also get eaten by hawks, coons, dogs, etc too. What I've summed up from reading the threads is that if you want to range you'll have to accept some loss otherwise cover your run and use hardware cloth
I really wanted to range too, but then I had my first encounter with sky predators and changed my mind. It was amazing at how fast they respond. I think it was two hours between the time I put my chicks out for the first time and countless sky predators circled overhead. I only have three chickens so I can't really afford to accept some losses.
I'd get and set a box trap baited with part of the killed chicken. I was thinking hawk for sure until you mentioned the heavy brush. Fox, coyote, bobcats are generally snatch and run predators. Coons and opossums although fully capable of killing and carrying away frequently eat on site. In most instances a roosters greatest 'protection' is as a warning mechanism. Some will give their lives to protect the flock but many/most will warn and run. Fertile eggs are fine to eat, and depending upon strain your leghorns will most likely not go broody. Sadly enough, losses/predation are part of free ranging. I would keep thm in their run for several days. Devote a day to waiting, gun in hand, in a hidden spot and wait - the predator will come to the pen hoping for a meal. Good luck at eliminating the problem.
I had the same issue last year and know I will again this year. I also free range, in a similar set up. I keep them in a run for a good part of the day and then let them out for the afternoon hours.

It feels awful to loose a chick like that. Sorry for you.....

Last spring I lost 2 10 week olds the same day. I never found one, the second I found laying on the ground. No apparent injury. I know what happened here as I saw the fox out my window and ran out.....he was coming back for my lifeless leghorn, had already carried the other little chick away. It was about 11:00 in the morning- I have since found out in the spring time the fox are brazen and come out during the day and closer to civilization than normal as they are feeding their young.

I lost one in the late summer, when my rooster was matured, and never found a trace. I suspected the fox, but had no proof. We tried but could not catch the fox. I still have a rooster but I really don't think he can keep them all safe- He will yell out to them- but they are not always all together, they wander apart and only a few hang around the rooster.

I struggle with my decision to have happy healthy free range birds rather than safer confined birds. I often fluctuate back to confinement, but the ladies really enjoy their out time and they win their freedom back with their cackling and whining. I admit to being a terrible animal trainer and a no good disciplinarian.

My advice: while they are this young it may be best to be stricter with their free range. I am hoping that larger birds are somewhat safer- but I can't be sure of that........
One free ranging solution is to allow controlled free ranging. Only allowing the birds out when you are present and armed to guard them.
We let our chickens free range, but we also have dogs that help protect them! We have two Great Pyrenees so nothing gets near our chickens.

They are large dogs but are know to protect live stock, well worth having around if you are serious about having chickens.
i free range my chickens and no losses they free range in a field with a couple of trees around i have 27 chickens / ducks together and i have 7 roosters to protect my flock i have 4 big ones and the rest are small ones and mine do fine there are birds around where they live at my grandfathers but there are a lot of crows around they so they keep birds of prey away and foxes and other animals don't seem to come around
Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. I really want them to have their freedom because they love it so much and I love that they can have that life. That said and with your sage advice, for the time being, we are going to range in the evening while we are close, work on extending the pen in case we have those moments where we need to contain to run predator sweeps AND introducing a rooster. I found a few free ones on craigslist, so now I learn how to introduce new birds into the flock...time to read up!
but be careful when getting new birds keep them some wheres away from the hens so you can watch him and make sure hes not sick or anything after waiting for a week or something then you can put the rooster in with the hens
Sorry for your loss.We made the decision to not let our chickens free range anymore after losing one to a bobcat. We knew the bobcat would be back for more and since the chickens are our pets we expanded their run and they now stay safe in there. No more losses. Good luck.
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