Missing...without a trace. Any ideas?


In the Brooder
8 Years
Jan 28, 2011
Davison, MI
We allow our laying hens to free range outside their run in the late afternoon/evening. Some of them have gone missing with no evidence as to what's happened to them--until this week when our neighbor told us he saw a Great Horned Owl carrying one of my hens away!

Two days later we found this feather laying outside the coop. It's about 12 inches long and comes from a very large bird. I'm just guessing that it was left by something that is after my hens, since we don't have any other large birds that visit.

Any ideas what kind of bird left this feather? Is is a bird of prey? Any ideas about how to discourage them?
Looks like a GHO feather. They are persistent killers. They will hunt at dawn or dusk and even during the day on overcast days as well as at night. Once they locate a food source they will continue to return until the source is depleted. A roof on your pen and supervised free ranging are the only way to protect your birds. One once entered my pigeon loft through unsecured bobs - my fault. I released him. He returned several times over the next couple of weeks. I would see him walking around the top of my aviaries trying to figure out how to enter.
We've had the very same problem, and the only thing that we can think of, depending on the time of day, would be a hawk or an owl. Most of ours disappear at night though, so I assume there's a big old nest somewhere with some fat baby owls in it, as well as the hunter itself.
I've not had a Great Horned Owl come around during full daylight. My birds are in covered runs at night and that is all it takes to protect them.

If your chickens are disappearing without a trace, it is no hawk or regular owl. The Great Horned Owl is just about the only one who can carry an entire adult chicken away. Him and the Golden eagle.

If the GHO has been seen with a chicken, then he is probably your culprit. However, he might not be the only one getting a free chicken dinner. Lots of predators large enough to carry away an adult chicken are round and about at dusk.

Once the local wildlife discovers your flock, you either pen them up securely, or you continue to have losses.
Our chicken's run has a flight net over it for security and my coop is locked up as tight as Fort Knox--thanks to my husband's carpentry skills. So I know they go missing in the early evening. The girls put themselves to bed around dusk, and we come out and lock them in at night. We've notice that they are retiring earlier in the evening than they used to. I've wondered if it's because they've seen the predators and are more cautious.

We have also been visited by a red tailed hawk, but the girls have been able to run under bushes and under the deck to get away.

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