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Lost two hens in a week; both killed in daytime; carcasses partly eaten

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by margaret.b, Aug 31, 2016.

  1. margaret.b

    margaret.b Hatching

    Apr 7, 2009
    I've been keeping chickens for over 10 years now and have had a few hawk attacks in the past, but nothing for years. Now, within one week, I've lost two of my oldest "pet" hens, a brahma, and a buff orp. My hens have a lot of freedom, and there are a lot of hawks around, especially red shouldered, so I guess I should not be surprised, but I am, and very sad too.

    My hens have a nice house in which to roost and lay eggs, and retreat to in bad weather. It has two doors. One opens out into a fenced-in yard, and the other opens out into the back yard, which is also fenced and has flower beds, trees and shrubs, clothes line, etc. In hot weather they have freedom to come and go. My flock consist(ed) of 8 younger hens, and these two old girls I've had forever. Last week I found the brahma dead in the fenced-in yard, with feathers clustered in two places around the perimeter, and a drag mark leading from one feather pile to her body, which was in a small dark corner. Her head and neck were eaten; there was a large gash on her back, but no other injuries. This happened I believe in the mid-afternoon. I put up cording and netting across the top of the fenced-in area to keep it from happening again.

    Today, I'm not sure what time, around noon, maybe, the same thing happened with the old buff orp. Except this time I found a clump of feathers inside the chicken house, near her roosting spot, on the hay (she liked to sleep on a soft bed). The feather trail led out the smaller door into the fenced area, with several piles around the perimeter, like before. I found her in the same spot as the brahma. This time, the lower part of her back was completely stripped of flesh, down to the bones, No tail feathers left. The eyes had been taken out, the beak broken, and a huge puncture mark on her neck.

    Sorry to be so long-winded, but this has upset me a lot. Both these old girls had been out in the open with the younger ones, every day, eating grass and hanging out under their favorite bushes. No attacks on anybody. The predator struck while they were in and enclosed area, and killed them in that area too.

    There is a chain link fence around my back yard, so there are no dogs ever, except our own. (And they're friends with the flock.) I have heard of coyotes in the area, but they hunt at night, as do raccoons and owls. These attacks had to be hawks. They knew, of course, as predators do, to pick out the old and the slow. But would a hawk fly though holes in netting, and through a doorway, and into a corner where an old hen was sitting? And by old, I mean 11 years. Still happy and healthy, still taking care of the others.

    I'm hoping for some answers, though I'm pretty sure it was a red-shouldered hawk. Should I be keeping the remaining 8 hens inside all the time that I'm not out there?
    Any advice would be very much appreciated.

  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Sorry for your loss. It's really hard to say what did it.
    Sounds more like a mammal than a BOP to me, because of the dragging.
    Any predator will hunt during the day if the need and opportunity is there.
    Once a predator has hit, especially twice, I'd be locking them up in secure run for a few weeks.
  3. junebuggena

    junebuggena Crowing

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Coyote or raccoon. They are not strictly nocturnal. I have had a coyote take birds right next to my house, in the middle of the day. And until this predator moves on, your flock should be confined to a run at all times.
  4. Yes raccoons do hunt at night but they can hunt during the day. I would suspect that simply because of the fact that the first hen had neck and head eaten that sure sounds like an opportunistic raccoon kill to me. Raccoons can and do climb chain link fences. I know this for a fact because I have caught raccoons sitting on the top rail of our chain link fencing.

    Until you find out for sure what is killing your chickens, I suggest that you close them up in their coop for a few days and only let them out if you are there to give strict supervision. I also suggest two things. One, a game camera and two a live trap. One will let you know what is violating your yard and chickens and the other will take care of the problem. I would set it with a can of cat food. If you do manage to catch a predator, do not set it free elsewhere to become somebody else's problem. Please dispose of it in a humane manner and up the security for your flock.

    Very sorry that you lost your two geriatric girls. I sincerely hope that you catch the guilty varmint soon.
  5. M0thrOfChickens

    M0thrOfChickens Hatching

    Jul 24, 2016
    Sorry to hear!! We have coyotes and other predators here. We dug down 2 feet on both sides of our fence and filled it with stone to make it harder for animals to dig in. I'd keep them in until the danger is gone. I agree with the others, trail cams will let you know right away what is trying to get in.
  6. Poticus

    Poticus In the Brooder

    Jun 9, 2016
    I'm leaning towards raccoon. I've lost about a dozen chickens of all ages and sizes to a coyote in the middle day before I was able to take care of it. The coyote also removed the entire bird. Could be a hawk but they usually leave a large amount of scat at the kill site. I agree that a live trap should be set ASAP. Please don't relocate what ever you catch.
  7. Weehopper

    Weehopper Songster

    Feb 26, 2015
    Sounds more like a coon than a coyote. Most coyotes I've dealt with have come in (both day and night) nailed a chicken or turkey, and took off with it. Most coons have eaten the bird right here To show you how bold a coon can get: When I was raising rabbits I knew another breeder who did not have the heart to shoot at coons who came into his rabbitry and either opened the cages and drug the rabbits out, or chewed their feet through the bottom wire. I was there one day, and while we were standing there looking at rabbits, a coon family walked right in and started climbing on the cages, trying to get the rabbits. They totally ignored us. All my friend would do was yell. Coons were unimpressed. Bottom line. Coon proof your birds. (Which will pretty much coyote proof them too.) Set up a trail cam. Maybe you will get a picture of your predictor.

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