Lost a chicken, trying to identify the culprit

liz_s

Songster
May 16, 2010
111
5
144
Washington State
Hi,

Well, the unthinkable happened and one of my girls was killed either Monday night or Tuesday morning. I thought my fiancé closed the coop, and he thought I had done it. In the morning I came out to feathers in clumps all over the yard and her body near the fence. It was all torn up and missing the head. I'm trying to figure out if it was a cat or a raccoon that got her. There were feathers in the coop, so it looks like at one point the struggle was in there, but I'm not sure if that's where it started. She wasn't feeling well, so she may have been sleeping on the floor of the coop, but usually she's up on the roost. One of my other girls is broody in her nest box. So I don't know if she was taken out of the coop and chased around the yard, or tried to get back in the coop and was dragged out. Regardless, I feel like the missing head and her being torn up pretty badly and missing a lot of meat should be a clue, but I just don't know. We get several cats through the yard; they usually leave the girls alone, but I know one of them doesn't get fed in the summer, so it could have been hungry enough to go after a chicken, and since she wasn't feeling well I'm thinking she wouldn't have been able to outrun it.

Does anyone know if a cat would take a chicken's head? I know they like to present their "prizes" to their owners, and that's all I can figure. From what I read on the sticky thread, a raccoon probably wouldn't eat the parts of the body, but a cat probably wouldn't take the head. We've got a trap out, but I'd like to avoid killing the cats if possible. I'd also like to think that my two remaining girls are safe during the day when they free-range in our yard.

I would really appreciate any help.

Liz
 

liz_s

Songster
May 16, 2010
111
5
144
Washington State
Thank you for the condolences. The more I read about it, the more I agree with you two that it was a raccoon. We caught our main cat perp in the live cage last night, but I let him go. I was glad to. I guess the best news out of all of this is that I didn't lose all of the girls. It sounds like that's what usually happens. Thanks again!
 

iwiw60

Crowing
5 Years
Jan 27, 2014
5,291
660
336
Central Oregon
Thank you for the condolences. The more I read about it, the more I agree with you two that it was a raccoon. We caught our main cat perp in the live cage last night, but I let him go. I was glad to. I guess the best news out of all of this is that I didn't lose all of the girls. It sounds like that's what usually happens. Thanks again!
Can you send some pictures of your coop and run...that way we might be able to help you with problem areas that we see but you don't. Did you find where the scumbag got in?
 

chickencoop789

Songster
7 Years
Jul 1, 2012
1,629
43
153
New Jersey
Yeah it was most likely a coon. Cats tend to tear open the abdomen of the bird, not take the head and leave. Usually, coons kill more than one bird at a time, so your very lucky you didn't have your whole flock wiped out (This might sound a little blunt but its the truth). I would also say it could have been a skunk (they only eat the head of no more than one bird), but im leaning more towards a coon, specifically because you said nothing about eggs being eaten (which is typical of skunks). I really am sorry for your loss of one of your girls and I hope you can catch the culprit. BTW - when you're trying to trap a raccoon but catching cats instead, switch the bait you are using to something other than a meat based bait (marshmallows, peanut butter, etc)
 

liz_s

Songster
May 16, 2010
111
5
144
Washington State
Thanks iwiw60! I think the coop is probably fine, though. The problem was that we left it open :(. Chickencoop789, I agree- we are very fortunate we only lost the one. I appreciate the tip about the bait- we'll give it a try! It's still hard without that sweet girl. It's messed with the dynamics of the other two. But, they're chickens, and although even now they're jumpy, they seem to be recovering.

Thanks everyone!
 

Wrooster

Songster
8 Years
Apr 13, 2013
150
33
136
Northern Florida
We had the same thing happen last night except that the head was not off. A few years ago coons would have been the only suspects but well-meaning neighbors have been feeding feral cats.

The last time something like this happened I put out a cheap driveway alarm by the coop and slept on the porch with the receiver to the alarm, a .22 pistol and a headlamp. The raccoon came back and the alarm went off about 12:30 and I took care of it. I think this time I'll just put out a trap.


About cats: I know they're cute, cuddly and have a huge fan base. Nevertheless, they are officially an invasive species. The recent Audobon Society report has cats being responsible for far more bird deaths than any other cause. They also kill anything else they can. I have had cats and would do it again, but you have to show no mercy to cats you trap - or could trap. Each cat you eliminate saves an average of more than one other critter per day.
 
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liz_s

Songster
May 16, 2010
111
5
144
Washington State
Thanks Wrooster! Originally we assumed it was a cat because there's one in the neighborhood that eats a ton of the wild birds. He's in the yard frequently. We'll take care of it if he gets caught, but for now I'm following chickencoop789's advice and using marshmallows and peanut butter. I really want to catch that a-hole. If it doesn't work soon, we'll switch back to the meat baits. Good work on your vigilance! I am super impressed! :D
 

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