Need Help With Predator I.D.!

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by ScarlettFever, Mar 19, 2013.

  1. ScarlettFever

    ScarlettFever Out Of The Brooder

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    (Okay, aart, this has now been reformatted!!)[​IMG]

    Around 11PM tonight I heard what sounded like a minor cat skirmish in the side yard (where our chicken resides). It sounded a little odd, but by the time I walked over to get a better listen my dog's barking seemed to have scattered the culprits. I shrugged it off, since feline "arguments" are a near-nightly routine around here. But I now think the dog had actually interrupted something going after the chicken, because about 20-30 minutes later I was startled by the 100% unmistakeable scream of a chicken.

    Ok, wait....I think I need to stop here & describe our chicken yard so you can better understand exactly what the predator did. Our solitary chicken has free reign of a whole fenced-in side yard which runs alongside our house & into the backyard, I'm gonna say it's about 12' wide by 50' long . Her coop rests up against our house, squarely in the middle of that length. We can access the yard through a gate on the far right side, or from the house on the far left side. (The door from the house actually opens onto a porch with its own little gate leading down into the chicken yard. There's a dog door giving our dog access to that porch overlooking the yard, but not to the yard itself. So when he hears something he can go out and bark, but he can't physically chase it off unless I open the porch's gate.)

    OKAY, so back to the screaming bird....both the dog and I heard her & took off for that door to the side porch. As luck would have it, that's also the direction she was being taken by the predator (which didn't surprise me, since the fence is only 5' high on that side & 8' high elsewhere). The dog was barking before I even had the door open, and by the racket I heard out along the fence I think we scared the critter good. Unfortunately it was PITCH black out, and the little porch light did nothing to illuminate the yard. All I could tell for sure was that the chicken was still alive, 'cause she was screaming....but I had no clue if the predator had dropped her & run or if was right there standing over her.

    When I went to open the little porch gate, I saw a cat or possum-sized shape scurry away....but, in hindsight, that could also have been the chicken herself, if she was free, since I was yelling and making a lot of noise. I sent the dog in, & because there was never any scuffle I'm convinced the chicken was alone by that point (although still screaming bloody murder).

    After fumbling around in the dark for a few minutes I noticed a small, screeching, shadow at my feet---she'd found ME! Much to my surprise, she stopped screaming as soon as I had her in my arms! Once in the house, I found some raw, featherless patches above her hocks, and a pretty bad cut just below a toenail. But I may well have missed other minor injuries---the cut bled really badly, so once I established that blood wasn't dripping anywhere else, I put all my focus on her toe.

    It looks like my bandaging efforts paid off, because she hasn't bled out! (I have her inside in a pet carrier for now.) So my next move needs to be predator-proofing! I spent several hours trying to research what kind of animal might have been involved. There were some scattered feathers in the coop, but not one feather dropped along the 20' distance to the fence. Then at the base of the fence, itself, was a disturbingly huge pile of feathers (hence her bald spots). So far I haven't found any tracks, even though the ground was soft from rain. Based on where I live & the details of the attack, it must be a raccoon, Owl, or even fox.

    Her coop has a little sliding door for the opening, but I often forget to close it at night (as I did last night). From what I've read, that door wouldn't have stopped a raccoon, anyway. But I also read that raccoons usually kill chickens on the spot, rather than hauling them off alive & struggling! Since I saved her, there aren't any remains to help identify the culprit.

    So I'm wondering if anyone has experience with chickens being taken alive, and did you find out what took them? Apparently an owl could be especially worrisome, since it seems they sometimes choose to hunt in daylight as well! That's the main reason I'm asking this question, actually. I don't want to let her out into her yard in the day if that same owl might just be waiting! At least a raccoon or fox is only a factor at night! Anyway, thanks in advance for any info you guys can give!
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2013
  2. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Overrun With Chickens

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    Paragraphs are wonderful things

    Set a trap and you'll find out what it is
     
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  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Ditto on the paragraphs.

    You need a good flashlight.
    You need to lock your chooks in a predator proof coop at night.

    Read up on predator problems and solutions on this forum, you'll learn a lot.
     
  4. BuffOrpington88

    BuffOrpington88 Non-Stop

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    These are just my ideas, I hope other people will come along also so you have different opinions. First of all, the cat fight sounds like a raccoon. They can make hisses and growls, while a fox will generally sound more like a dog. Also, a raccoon is more comparable in size to a cat. A fox could get over a 5' fence, and a raccoon could too. The wounds do not seem like the work of a fox, who will go for the neck, and a fox will usually kill many and hastily cover them with dirt, unless something was to scare them away. A raccoon will also kill more than they need. An owl will only kill a single bird at a time and eat them on the spot. They pluck feathers off cleanly. Usually wounds are on the back area, but since they are in the coop and could not have flied down that may explain it. I am not sure how common it is for an owl to go into a coop. The hock injuries may have been when the predator grabbed the bird from the roost. Just so you know, we have a fox that will hunt in the afternoon also. It's great that your bird survived, I would get a latch for that door or netting for the top of the run.
    Good luck!
     
  5. ScarlettFever

    ScarlettFever Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 6, 2010
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    Hey, now! Just because my paragraphs are morbidly obese doesn't mean they don't have feelings! Okay, okay, I can admit I have a problem. I promise to seek professional help. (Ironically you suggested a flashlight....I had a whole OTHER paragraph I could've added about that issue, but I spared you that one!!) Anyway, the more I think on it today the more I agree with raccoon. I now think the first scuffle was when it actually grabbed her from the coop. When the dog scared the raccoon off, I'm guessing the chicken made her way toward the porch light instead of going back to the dark coop. The biggest pile of feathers were probably at the fence only because that's where she was when the raccoon finally returned to finish the job. If I'd of realized this likely scenario earlier I wouldn't have bothered you guys with my questions! (Because I did spend HOURS going through the old predator posts so I had a pretty good handle on what to look for---I was just perplexed by finding her alive & mostly unhurt so far from the coop.) We have a small pre-fab chicken coop (which I've regretted buying from day one). There's wire over the vent areas, and its set on a 3' high raised platform to prevent tunneling under. The only safety issue left is these stupid sliding "doors" (thin little wood panels) which I can't figure out how to put a latch on. But I'll have to think of something, because crossing my fingers every night ain't working! Thanks for your time, everyone!
     
  6. BunkyB

    BunkyB Chillin' With My Peeps

    I have no idea about possum,being in eastern Canada but I would definitely say raccoon especially with the clumps of feathers in one spot, a good mouthful. The fact she escaped at all tells me it was raccoon. Dogs tend to go for the back, never mind the feet. If the hen struggles the dog clamps harder. Less of a chance of escape.. Sorry to hear that but as you know raccoons are the #1 predator of chickens... Best of luck healing the girl up.. Steve
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Isn't that much easier to read with a few paragraphs(where you actually put some spaces between your thoughts)??
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2013
  8. ScarlettFever

    ScarlettFever Out Of The Brooder

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    Quote: Ahhh....when you said "paragraphs are good" you were referring to the lack of paragraph-formation!

    I took that to mean you wished I'd only written a brief little paragraph.

    Well, I don't disagree with you, there!

    Although, I don't think my old English Lit professors would approve of your having separated some sentences that were, in fact, part of the same thought......

    I can't say this isn't easier on the eyes! :)

    (And MY system of not separating ANY sentences certainly wouldn't have passed muster, either!)

    In my humble defense, I HATE the tedious, clumsy, one-finger typing required for this IPad I've been using, AND I was literally awake all night worrying over the chicken and reading up on predators....so I was just trying to get the words on paper and be done!

    My apologies, again, for the eye strain I probably caused you!
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2013
    1 person likes this.
  9. ScarlettFever

    ScarlettFever Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks so much! I think you must be right! (I'm betting the raccoon was seconds away from taking its first bite when I showed up on the scene!) My hen's doing remarkably well and is back in her coop tonight! (I FINALLY figured out a way to rig a locking mechanism onto the sliding doors, & I'm going to give the dog access to that part of the yard at night for a little extra security!) Boy, I knew raccoons would take frogs & fish from my pond & eggs from my girl...but the visual image of one of them taking my big, fat, chicken is something else!
     
  10. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    Cats scurry, possums lumber. Owls elicit a lot of screams from their victims and leave many feathers mainly because they often begin eating or stripping feathers off their victims long before the kill is made. A fox is a superb killing machine of chicken sized fowl, no chicken can long live once a red fox gives it his full attention. Coons scurry but they also leave tracks that resemble small human hand prints and coons may also begin plucking a hen before she is dead.
     

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