New to Chickens - predator in Virginia that eats or bites neck and eats heads of chickens

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Billwags, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. Billwags

    Billwags In the Brooder

    Jul 8, 2013
    I am relatively new to raising chickens. I have lost two chickens over the last week to a predator that seems to bite the necks or something and then eat the heads.

    I haven't put wire tops on my runs yet and they are open on top. I found the first hen in the middle of the run with just it's head eaten - totally gone. I then noticed my wheaten roo was missing feather on the back of his neck where something tried to get him. I assume the rooster tried to protect the hens. The rooster was the first sign of something going after the neck. Today something got a cream lebgar and the neck was stripped to the bone and head eaten almost completely.

    In both cases it was broad daylight and other chickens were in the runs with each of the victims.

    The runs are old chain link dog pens. I attached 1" chicken wire to the inside and it (an the chain link) come to the ground and then about a foot on the ground inside the runs. I even fixed chicker wire around the doors so there are no places for predators gain access. I checked and it doesn't appear anything came through or under the fence.

    I know I need to cover the top with chicken wire but the wire is so dam expensive and I need 4 rolls of 6' chicken wire that are 50' long just to make the tops.

    Anyone have any idea what type of predator I might be dealing with? I do have hawks and owls but didn't think they could eat the head or strip the neck like that. I live on a few acres in Henrico, VA and it is near a river - so there are fox, opossum and lord know what out there.

    Thanks for your help!
  2. Billwags

    Billwags In the Brooder

    Jul 8, 2013
    In thinking about it - on the first chicken killed the skull was completely gone (young, small hen). On the roo that was killed today it looks like something wasn't actually eat the bones of the skull....?
  3. CedarAcres

    CedarAcres Sunny Side Up

    Mar 18, 2013
    My Coop
    Hmm, I haven't had too many losses to predators, but we did have a weasel that ate the heads. But it did multiple birds all at once and it was at night. Maybe someone else will have some other ideas, but from our experience a weasel will take off the heads.
    1 person likes this.
  4. Majd

    Majd Songster

    Jun 22, 2012
    Same with a duck...
  5. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Crowing

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    Quote: Raptors will often pluck the feathers and then eat only the meat
  6. Billwags

    Billwags In the Brooder

    Jul 8, 2013
    Thank you @Bear foot - forgive me but is the hawk a raptor?
  7. samidodamage

    samidodamage Chirping

    Oct 14, 2012
    Northeast Georgia
    I'm not BearFoot, but yes, a hawk is a raptor. The only sure way to keep a hawk out of the run is to cover it. I have a much smaller run (about 200 sq ft) and I used deer netting for the top. I believe I spent a little under $30 for a 7' X 100' roll and some zip ties that I used to 'connect' the strips running over the top of the run as well as to attach it to the top of the chain link enclosure. I've seen threads on here talking about using fishing line and criss-cross (I'm pretty sure that's not a word...) it over the run area. There was a thread (that I can't find right now, of course) that showed how someone used clothesline and ran what looked like a grid over the top of the run. Obviously neither of these is a long-term solution. For my small area, that deer netting can be replaced each year if needed and the $30 will cover me for 3 years. Since this is the first year I put it up, I can't tell you how often it will need replacing...
  8. joan1708

    joan1708 Songster

    May 14, 2011
    DFW - mid cities, Tx
    I am so sorry for you loss. It must be horrible to go out there and find those birds. This is a another example of how chicken wire does not protect your chickens. Something may be reaching in to grab your chickens. Hardware cloth is expensive and a royal pain to work with but it will keep your chickens safer. And looks like the run needs a lid also.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  9. drake01

    drake01 In the Brooder

    Apr 1, 2013
    Dansville NY
    Opossum. They for some reason only eat the heads dont know why. Use a live trap with tuna can . Poke a few holes in the can that way it doesn't make a mess. Cheap fix too.
  10. Lisaa

    Lisaa In the Brooder

    Jun 1, 2012
    So sorry to hear of your troubles. I know you realize this but it bears repeating: you've got to get a cover on the run as soon as possible. It's no problem for many kinds of predators to get to your birds when there's no top. All they have to do is climb up the sides. Raccoons and possums are accomplished climbers. You have a lot invested in your chickens so far and it would be such a shame to lose it all now.

    My guess is a raccoon. Saw in another BYC thread a while ago that coons like to bite off and eat the head and consume as much blood as possible.

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