Missing without a trace, 4 in a week

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Mark, Nov 11, 2010.

  1. Mark

    Mark Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 13, 2007
    North Central Texas
    Over the last week, we have lost 4 of 16 chickens: 1 rooster and 3 hens. All were full grown. All free range. Each has vanished without a trace. One vanished within a 2 hour period between early dusk and 1 hour after dark. One night we thought we had lost two, but a hen (buttercup) emerged from the brush the next day. Maybe that is a clue, maybe not.

    We are used to the habits of skunks, opossums, and raccoons. Each leaves a lot of feathers as evidence. These chickens just vanished, even the big rooster. No pile of feathers, no trail of feathers.

    All the remaining chickens are locked up in two chicken tractors for now.

    We have 6 rural acres, but are surrounded by similar sized parcels. There are rarely hear coyotes, though they are obviously 'out there'.

    Our current suspects include hawks, owls, and foxes. We know that local owls will take cats, we found one way up in a tree 10 years ago.

    Any ideas on what might be taking our birds?


    Last edited: Nov 11, 2010
  2. Matt A NC

    Matt A NC Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 22, 2007
    Morganton, NC
    Sounds like a large bird of prey. They can swoop and take the chicken before you know it. Some will hit and kill instantly and then take off again in just a few seconds. The darker it is the more likely it was an owl instead of a hawk. Owls will also land and walk into a hen house through an open pop door. Then take the chicken out the same way. That is why my coops are shutup tight every night.

  3. Kittymomma

    Kittymomma Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 9, 2009
    Olympia, WA
    I'd guess coyote. When a yote targets my flock I hardly ever find anything. Sometimes if I get out there right afterward the dog will track it back into the bush and I'll find a pile of feathers where it finished killing and/or started to eat the bird, but there's never much of anything where the bird was actually snatched. I've only lost one to a hawk and there was a huge pile of feathers where it grabbed my slw roo--no blood, but lots of feathers.

    Coyotes will hunt at anytime day or night. I'll go months without a problem and then start losing a bird a day until I remove the offending critter. Mine go into lockdown as soon as I know they've been targeted and I start having my morning coffee on the back porch regardless of weather. There's a clear view of the field from there and nine times out of ten the coyotes come up from the creek and thru the field to get to the chicken yard....

    ETA: DH and I are tied at two a piece so far this year, so I've seen it a few times. Definitely the downside of freeranging the birds.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2010
  4. Lbrad7

    Lbrad7 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 19, 2010
    Ringgold, GA
    It's a coyote, bobcat or fox. More than likely a coyote.
  5. chickenlady08

    chickenlady08 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 27, 2009
    Eastern Shore, VA
    I am sorry for you losing your rooster and 3 hens. I recently have lost a Khaki Campbell drake and there is no trace of anything at all left behind, I beleive it tried to get one of my Delaware girls but she got away and then it moved onto my poor little guy.

    My husband has seen a fox roaming about nearby and of course he never told me so I could keep them up in their runs and prevent this but it won't get anymore of my babies. My husband is going to get someone to trap it or he will kill it if he sees it.
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    This time of year I would not be expecting a critter to take the carcass back to a den or nest for young. My guess, with no feathers left and around dark, is bobcat or coyote, maybe an owl. If it were just one bird with no feathers gone I'd include some others, but if four have disappeared without a clue, those are my top guesses. Of course, there is one other possiblity. A human.

    Good luck! This one be can be difficult. Can you possibly scatter flour or maybe rake a clear patch of ground to get a footprint?
  7. Mark

    Mark Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 13, 2007
    North Central Texas
    We found what was left of the last hen to disappear. No carcass or bones, just scattered feathers. The location was deep in some brush. It has been 3 or 4 days since the bird disappeared, so I'm not sure much can be deduced, but it wasn't a bird of prey that got it.

    One of the suggestions a friend offered was to create a walk in 'pen' so we can get the hens to 'come in' early with a promise of food, then lock them in well before dark or when we are going to be leaving for a while. Currently, we house the chickens in 2 chicken-tractors that each have small runs, but there is no way to get them in early.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2010
  8. halo

    halo Got The Blues

    Nov 22, 2007
    My Coop
    Id guess coyote, also. They grab and run.
  9. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

    Apr 15, 2009
    Quote:This would be my guess, as well. Sorry for your losses. Free-ranging may have to stop for a while until you have established what is happening and rectify it, otherwise you will keep losing birds until you have none left.

    Good luck.
  10. Mark

    Mark Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 13, 2007
    North Central Texas
    The thought that this might be a coyote is very troubling. We have 2 goats in a pen about 100 feet from the 'feather' site. We have had goats there for 10 years without any trouble from coyotes.

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