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Most likely predator? Down two chickens

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Patoot, Jan 1, 2014.

  1. Patoot

    Patoot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Less than a month ago I posted asking what happened to one of my RIR. She was just gone. No blood. No sign of struggle. Just gone. About a week later, my neighbor asked me if I was missing a chicken because she thought she saw a dead hawk in her yard. I investigated, but there was nothing. I still have no idea what happened and I actually was worried that perhaps she had accidentally escaped with a good gust of wind and been trapped somewhere and died from isolation and starvation.

    Yesterday I got confirmation that she was in fact killed. I went to give the girls treats and saw I was down another one. This time, there were obvious signs that she was taken and killed. The coop is near the side of our house which has a tall wooden fence. There were large feathers with blood at the tips strewn on the ground in front of the coop (but not inside or even at the door of the coop or in the run). Then there were smaller fluffy feathers stuck to the side of the fence and all along the top. It seems like something dragged her up the fence, along it, and over. It has to be the case given how the feathers are literally stuck to the wood.

    What could it be? I took what material I had around yesterday and made the coop into Fort Knox. Nothing is getting in there. I'm sure of it. I'm not concerned about the safety of the remaining girls, but I would like to know what killed the two that are gone. My husband set up a video camera, but there was nothing last night.

    Here's all the info that might help you help me figure it out:

    - yard is completely enclosed with fence 6-8ft all around except one section which is slightly shorter at 4-5 ft and this is where the feathers were actually (feathers were also stuck to the 6 ft area near it
    - really suburban area with very little trees around
    - all the yards neighboring ours are not close to any area that seems like it would be a home to a critter
    - we live in Albuquerque, NM
    - no signs of activity in the actual coop or run
    - we've been home during the day surrounding these events so it does seem like a night time predator
    - only one chicken taken at a time with no blood and no signs of struggle in the coop or run
    - several weeks in between kills
    - no body ever found

    I looked up the likely culprits and it is obviously not a snake, rat, cat, or dog. It seems unlikely to be a hawk since it seems to happen at night. It's not a human. I don't know how it could be a coyote. A raccoon leaves a bloody mess from what I have read so it's not that. So an owl or a fox? A fox seems more likely, but I've never seen one here in 11 years.
     
  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

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    It sounds as if it is something able to scale a 6' fence while carrying a hen. Fox or coyote are possibilities, but a bobcat is an even greater possibility. Can you borrow and set up a game camera in your yard?
     
  3. grassfedchicken

    grassfedchicken Out Of The Brooder

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    possums and raccoons can climb. weasels can dig underneath. i am feeling possum on this one, they are sneaky. i had a giant raccoon 10 feet over my head in my barn's rafters, so scary
     
  4. Patoot

    Patoot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, it has to be something that can carry a full size adult RIR up a 6 ft wall. My husband did set up a video camera and there was nothing last night, though assuming it's the same critter, it waited several weeks before returning. I've had the girls for 3.5 yrs and never had a problem until now so I assume it's the same animal. It could be a bobcat, though I've never seen one. We are about a mile from the mountains, but it's A LOT of houses between there and my house and no woods for hiding or anything. The thing is that there is plastic chicken wire near the run mostly as a visual to keep the girls in when I don't want them in the yard. The other side of the run is a concrete wall that is 6-8 feet high. The animal did not go over the concrete fence and the plastic chicken fence was only slightly drooped in one area. I would assume a bigger animal would have totally destroyed it. It's only held on by tacks/small nails. This would be a very agile creature to completely leap over the 4 ft chicken fencing in the run and then out into the yard and up the exterior fence. Bobcat is possible for sure. It's just that every scenario I can think of seems to unlikely. Sigh; I may never know unless we catch it on video.
     
  5. Patoot

    Patoot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My understanding was that raccoons typically leave a bloody mess because they rip off the heads and eat the crops and stuff. That and they kill more than one bird at a time. I also didn't think they carried the bodies off, but I really don't know. I'm sure anything is possible.
     
  6. write2caroline

    write2caroline Chillin' With My Peeps

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    An Owl would fly in and grab and take off but they are more likely to take chickens roosting in trees at night and less likely to go into your coop. I lost a favorite Copper Marans Rooster to an owl once - Very early at Dawn - He went on top of the coop to crow and my husband witnesses the barn owl swoop down and grab him. It happened so fast there was no way to stop him. And my copper Marans Roo was HUGE!

    A fox is my guess. A fox would go into a dark coop grab a chicken and run off. They stop - rip out the feathers and dispatch the bird. I personally witness a fox with one of my roosters once. All I saw was the tail. I grabbed a walking stick and cried out like a Viking and chased him into the woods - it was early morning at dawn on a Saturday. I scared the fox and he let my rooster go. I am sure he thought I was nuts. He was standing over my rooster about to tear out his feathers when I found him in the woods. my rooster was being loud.

    Foxes don't usually tear out feathers at the coop because you will notice - they are crafty and want the food source available to them. They like to strike at dusk, night or dawn. when the chickens cannot see well.

    Last summer I lost a few chickens to the fox and I had to make sure I locked up the coop at night especially at dusk. I am installing a auto door closer because my job prevents me from coming home early enough to lock them down at dusk.

    Someone suggested using a baby monitor in the coop.

    I am sorry for your losses. It is never easy to lose one of our feathered friends.
     
  7. Patoot

    Patoot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Okay, new information. I just went over to my neighbor's and investigated their yard. My yard touches three other yards. A critter could only get in over the back or one side. The other side is way too high. The feathers were just along the side fence. I examined the yard to the back and there were no feathers. I examined the side yard and there were feathers there. Not a lot, but the critter went that way. There were a bunch of feathers in a hole under a bench, but those were there from last time...I just was able to examine it better this time. Anyway, whatever it is definitely walked along a 1/2 inch wide fence for about 5 feet, turned and jumped down into the neighbor's yard and jumped onto an interior garden fence they have which is also only 1/2 inch wide, then down into their yard. I can't figure out how it got out of their yard as the trail of feathers stopped. The fence they jumped in my yard was just over 6ft tall and then they walked down it to behind the coop where it goes down to 5.5 ft.

    So what is strong enough to carry an adult chicken while jumping/scaling a 6ft tall fence and then walk along a 1/2 inch skinny fence? Fox seems agile enough, but strong enough to carry a big bird? Bobcat is strong enough, but agile enough for walk along such a skinny board? Coyote seems unlikely. I no longer think owl either.

    Sigh.
     
  8. ChickyDoodleDoo

    ChickyDoodleDoo Out Of The Brooder

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    I don't mean to sound unreasonable but my friend had a similar situation where she couldn't figure out what was catching her chickens and smearing them around her yard but she was up late one evening and caught a man in her yard in her chicken coop. Some people are just sick. I hope you get things figured out!
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
  9. Patoot

    Patoot Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It would be a very sneaky human. Not totally impossible, but they sure went through an awful lot of trouble to make it seem like an animal dragged her up over a fence. There was a woman in town that recently reported all 16 of her chickens were killed with their necks broken and knows a human did it. People are sick. This just doesn't seem human like. I would assume if it were a human, they would all be dead and not one every 3 wks.
     
  10. ChickyDoodleDoo

    ChickyDoodleDoo Out Of The Brooder

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    That's true. I just thought I'd add the possibility. I only skimmed this and it reminded me of my friend's flock. I hope you solve your mystery, though. It breaks my heart to lose my chickens.
     

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