Lost a bird. Questions about chicken fears and warning calls.

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by mechanic57, Jan 3, 2016.

  1. mechanic57

    mechanic57 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I lost one of my layers today. They were all in the run (1x2 welded wire fence with bird netting over the top) and I found one up against the fence minus a head and some chest feathers pulled off scattered outside the fence. Looks like something ate on the neck and chest. The roosters crow so much that I don't go checking every time I hear them, unless I hear something unusual. Actually its the opposite. Kind of like with kids. The sound of silence is more disturbing because you wonder what they are doing. Anyway, after looking around, nothing dug under, nothing got through the fence or netting anywhere. Definitely looks like something pulled her from outside which leads me to believe it was a raccoon.

    So why would a bird walk up to the fence with a coon sitting right there? Are they not naturally afraid of them? Obviously not. I live in the woods and I've seen my birds out of the run foraging when turkeys, deer, and barn cats come strolling through. They pay these animals no mind. I've seen the rooster chase off the neighbors tea-cup Chihuahua, they crow when hawks circle overhead, they crow where squirrels climb in the trees. For some reason they don't worry about the cats. So now, after witnessing a raccoon kill a bird, would the others now fear it if it were to come back? I some how doubt it. They haven't seen a hawk kill any of their number, and they seem to fear hawks. I guess this incident has me more interested in a chickens cognitive learning ability and survival instincts.

    Also, I wonder about my roosters crowing. They make the "cock-a-doodle-doo" sound all the time. They do that when hawks are circling, they do it when wild turkeys wander through, they do it at midnight, and all day. The only other sound they make is a deep clucking sound when they find food and call the girls. And that call is the only call that it seems like the hens respond to. The hens are about a year old and the roosters hatched last May. Is warning the flock something they still have to learn?
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2016
  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    From my experience the usual rooster crows are not alarm calls. I have read that chickens have about 50 different calls, and for sure my flock makes a very different type of call when predators are around - kinda more of a growl than a crow. That's just my experience though.

    Ct
     
  3. mechanic57

    mechanic57 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Your experience sounds more like what I've read and was expecting. I've seen YouTube videos of roosters making different sounds when other animals are around. I've seen they make different sounds for air threats vs ground threats. Mine don't seem to make any other sounds besides the normal crow and found food crow. One is a silver laced Wyandotte and the other is a Production Red.
     
  4. hayley3

    hayley3 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    From what I have heard, some predators, such as foxes sit very still for a long time to get the chickens used to their presence so that eventually the hens pay them no mind and then they can just pounce on them...Could be what happened in your situation. I've heard on this forum that a hawk can reach through chicken wire too and I just cannot visualize how they could do that. I can see a raccoon reaching through but don't understand how a hawk could do that.
     
  5. mechanic57

    mechanic57 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Wow, so a fox or raccoon can be that patient huh? Impressive. There's hundreds of acres of woods around me with open fields here and there too, so there's lots of hawks, but I don't think this incident was a hawk. I would think there's lots of easier prey and road kill around me for a hawk than a full grown leghorn in a fenced and covered run, but since its possible, I'll keep an eye out for them landing around the run. I will be putting my game camera out tomorrow and see if I catch anything stalking around the coop or run. Its right on the edge of the woods so the coop is shaded in the summer and away from the house. But it also puts the birds on a predators doorstep.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2016
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Need a picture of your setup. Timing of loss I question. Possible it occurred at night?
     
  7. mechanic57

    mechanic57 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have pics on my iPhone but the mobile app doesn't let me upload pics. It freezes up and stops working when I try. The coop is completely enclosed within the run. The coop roof extends over part of the run. The extended part of the run is fenced with the same 1"x2" fence up to 8 feet high and is covered with bird netting. I don't think it happened at night. I let them out yesterday afternoon and I was outside with them until after dark. I remember because I was adjusting a new LED motion light I put on my garage so it wouldn't come on when cars do down the road past the house. The birds went in before I did and I closed up the run before I went in the house. In the morning they can come out of the coop but cannot get out of the run. I don't let them free range all day for various reasons. I let them out just a couple of hours before dusk.

    The bird was laying parallel to the fence with its neck curved 90 degrees to its right and extending out through the fence. The head was missing. There was blood on the ground under the neck. The feathers were removed from the neck and upper breast and were spread out on the ground outside of the fence. This fence is on the side of the run furthest away from my house. If you come from in the woods, you would get to this fence first. The entire setup is 1 tree row back into the woods when looking at it from the clearing behind the house. The woods aren't so dense that you must only walk on the trails, but the trees are big enough that there is shade all day in the summer.

    I definitely want to know what it is so I can protect against it as best as possible. Since 1 bird was killed and appears that something from the outside tried to pull it out, at least enough to eat the head, I'm thinking it happened during the day while the birds were in the run. I don't see anywhere that suggest something got into the run to drag the bird out of the coop and there was no blood in the coop. All I can think of that could get in and out through the 1x2 welded wire would be a weasel. If it tried to leave with the bird and couldn't fit the bird through the 1x2 rectangle, then maybe it would chew the head off and leave with that? It seems more plausible that something grabbed it from the outside. I found it around 3:00PM. The blood was dry and the body was pretty cool to the touch. It was 40 degrees high temp with a 15 mph wind today so it would have cooled of relatively quickly.

    I closed the pop doors tonight as well as the run doors and I'll be setting my motion camera up to watch what approaches from the woods. I know there are raccoons in the woods, I've seen dead ones on the road and I've seen them on camera when I had the camera set up to see the deer movements.
     
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Most instances I have seen as you described involved chicken being attacked at night when seeing for chicken is poor. Chicken for one reason or another needs to be close enough to your run perimeter for predator to grab it. If attack done during day then predator did an ambush grabbing chicken as it foraged, loafed, or dust bathed against fence. Raccoons are not good at that. A fox, hawk owl and bobcat could do it. Stopping the daylight problem would be easy by applying a strip of chicken wire over the existing 1" x 2" wire for the lower 1 foot of perimeter. Chicken wire by itself does not stop most predators but it denies the rapid snatching at head and neck through fencing very well. What concerns me most is if attack occurred at night. Then chicken already out and likely due to a disturbance either by predator(s) or social discord in coop. Setup as described would not exclude a raccoon. At night the list of critters than can grab a nearly blind chicken gets a lot longer than listed above.
     
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I would bait a live trap outside perimeter near kill site using remains of dead chicken. Predators like to come back. Fox and raptors not likely to go into trap.
     
  10. Hholly

    Hholly Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You could add some chicken wire or hardware cloth around the outside bottom of the run to make it harder for predators to reach through. Do your chickens ever stick their heads out through the wire to get grass? Maybe that one was taken by surprise while pecking at grass that way. The rooster alarm noise is definitely the low growl thing. When mine does it everybody stops what they were doing and listens. My hen who raised most of my birds also made that sound. Not sure if she taught my roo, or if he knew it from instinct.
     

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