Lost 2 hens this week - raccoon? (pic of scat for the queasy)

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by ryanc, Sep 17, 2016.

  1. ryanc

    ryanc New Egg

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    Sep 17, 2016
    Hi folks
    I joined today in hopes of finding some answers. My wife and I had 4 hens, and have been issue-free for the 19 months we've lived here aside from one monster snake that we had removed (a 6.5 foot black rat snake my wife thought for a quick second was a hose, lol). We keep the 'ladies' in an enclosed coop (it's wooden and has a completed enclosed outdoors area attached), and they roam inside a fenced off area of the yard during the day. Until recently, we kept the coop open at night so they can come and go.

    Wednesday afternoon my wife texted me saying one of our ladies was missing. There were feathers scattered inside the coop, and I found her remains about 20 feet away, inside the fenced in area of their range. Our fence is 5ft tall, has 3 horizontal 1x4 slats, and chicken wire stapled so that it's closed off to the forest behind us. The remains were mostly intact, but the head was missing, and a little was eaten from the front and back. I found no tracks.

    Last night, I had locked up our three ladies around dusk; immediately attached to the coop is a fully enclosed area (about 5x7) with a door, which I closed (but did not latch). The coop itself has a wooden door that swings down from above (closed, not latched). I dropped off some grapes at the time, and all three hens were inside.

    This morning I go to let them out, and only two hens were inside. Both the drop down wooden door and the gate door were closed. The wooden door actually wouldn't open from the outside (I have a piece of 550 cord tied to it so I can pull it open from outside the fence), so I went inside the coop to break it free, and noticed the missing bird.

    I found her remains in the fenced in area, about 20 feet from where the other bird was. Similar damage although more was eaten from the breast.

    I can't figure out how a predator and the bird would have gotten out, I couldn't open the coop door and the other one was closed too much for a bird to pass through. Unless the predator was inside the coop when I went in there, and was the 'third' girl I saw on the roost? It was dusk but not dark, so I think I'd have noticed a furry chicken... and I hadn't had anything to drink by that point of the evening.

    I have looked at the sticky threads here and done some other research, so it smells like a raccoon is my likely culprit?

    We have a lot of hawks and eagles, and I saw a hawk yesterday that got the girls all riled up, but I don't think he would have gotten a kill inside the coop.

    I live in eastern CT by the shoreline; we also have coons, fishers, foxes, coyotes, and apparently there have been several bobcat and mountain lion sightings within a half mile recently (or so my barber tells me, and what barber would ever stretch the truth).

    I got this photo of the scat; it's fairly meaty, for lack of a better term, and had seeds. It was 3 feet from the second set of remains.

    [​IMG]

    I also have a photo of the remains of hen # 2, although I won't post it unless requested. As last time, I found no tracks.

    Since the first girl was killed, we've also only had 1 egg, whereas in the past we'd get 3 per day. I don't know which bird was the non-layer other than it was one of my RI Reds, since we would get 2 browns and 1 white per day, and I had 3 reds and one spotted hen.

    I assume that they were killed in the coop then removed for eating?

    Thanks for any thoughts!

    Ryan
     
  2. Eggsoteric

    Eggsoteric Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Is the top of your fenced in area covered? Both raccoons and fox are expert climbers; no experience with fisher cats so I cannot attest to their ability to climb. My first guess would be raccoon as my experience with fox has been the hen simply disappeared or only feathers remain. You might want to invest in a game camera to see what predators you have to deal with in your area. Best of luck.
     
  3. ryanc

    ryanc New Egg

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    Sep 17, 2016
    Thanks for the reply!

    the larger fenced in area is not covered, but the 5x7 area attached to the coop is. There are several trees and a lot of square footage, so I am not sure covering that area would be practical. It's probably 1500 square feet or so.

    I did some more investigating yesterday (just call me CSI RyanC) and have pretty much figured out what happened. The mesh covering the 5x7 area is plastic, and there was a small section torn open by the raccoon right alongside the ground. It climbed in through there, then lifted up the wooden door, killed the hen inside (there was a blood smear on the wall of the coop), then took her outside. He removed the head, which I found, about 3 feet away from the coop, then moved the body 10-15 feet thru some brush to finish up.

    I am pretty sure it was a raccoon because I found a tuft of gray fur in some hardware cloth I used elsewhere on the coop, and it had a half dozen black and white hairs in it. He tried to get into the coop by climbing up to the top, but couldn't find a way in and went back to the ground where he chewed or ripped he was through.

    I bought a couple of traps at Tractor Supply plus a game cam yesterday. I used some hardware cloth to cover up the intrusion through the plastic mesh as a short term fix. One large trap is alongside the coop where the raccoon got in; a second trap is on a small log that is leaned against a tree trunk inside my fenced in area. Nothing was caught last night, but he didn't strike 2 nights in a row so I wasn't expecting to find him.

    The game cam is pointed towards the break in site and the larger trap.

    Once/assuming I catch this little fella, then comes the followup. Theoretically, would an 1150fps pellet gun dispatch a raccoon? I know it will deal with a chipmunk from close range, but not sure on the raccoon. My only other available caliber is a little too powerful to use in the yard on anything short of a zombie or invading hordes.

    Ryan
     
  4. RonP

    RonP Chillin' With My Peeps

    Garbage pail full of water?
     
  5. BarbiD

    BarbiD Out Of The Brooder

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    It's best to leave the raccoon in the cage and then drown them. Quick and humane.
     
  6. Millworker26

    Millworker26 Out Of The Brooder

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    Assuming you got the large trap you would need roughly a 55 gallon drum to do this. But it is indeed an effective way to dispatch the critter if you are doubtful on the pellet gun.
     
  7. tthekraut

    tthekraut Just Hatched

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    I always use a situation like that to justify a new firearm purchase.maybe a low cost .22lr.maybe that's just me though lol.

    The pellet gun might do the trick but it could take more than one. I hate to have anything suffer.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2016
  8. snowflake

    snowflake Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You might try an electric wire around your coop and run, not to hard to install, problem with killing them is there is always one more to take its place. the scat in the pic looked like coon for sure,. they also like to eat the heads., good luck hope you catch this critter.
     
  9. chicklady60

    chicklady60 Just Hatched

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    So sorry to hear about your hens.
     
  10. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think you are on the right track, both as to ID of your problem and in the short run, how to deal with it.

    Yes, an air rifle with that type of velocity will terminate your problem. I have one that tops out around 900 fps and I suspect it would put a .177 pellet through a 3/4" pine board.

    Right between the eyes or just above?

    Long term, now that you know how clever and determined these guys can be, you need to "proof" the coop to defeat them. It can be done and in reality......needs to be done.

    I have coons visiting all the time, but to date, none have gotten in. Not saying they won't, just that they haven't. But things around here are pretty tight. I would not be happy if they did get in, but I would be impressed.
     

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