Newbie Predator Saga

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by PK, Feb 26, 2009.

  1. PK

    PK New Egg

    Feb 24, 2009
    Mooresville, NC
    I am quite new to raising chickens. My husband and I have a piece of property that had a coop already built and he thought it would be fun for our 7 and 5 year old to experience raising chickens. Back in September 2008 we ordered the Rainbow Layer collection from Mc Murray Hatchery. All 25 arrived in good shape. We kept them in the empty garage in a box with a heat lamp. We were foolish and learned a tough lesson when my husband found them all dead- too hot. We couldn’t tell the kids- they were so excited and I was sick to my stomach. So we ordered another batch (this time Ornamental Layers were the earliest available I think), kept the kids away and waited a couple weeks for them to arrive. This time we kept the chicks in the house in a box with a temperature controlled heater in the closed room. 23 out of the 25 made it. We were so excited when they were ready to go out to the coop. We gave a few of the pullets away and kept 18. My kids were loving them and named most of them. One, especially, was my daughter’s favorite and she carried her around everywhere. Imagine my shock when my husband called one day and said they were all GONE. He regularly went over to the property to check things out. One evening after feeding the pullets and cleaning the coop he left and everything was fine. He even stopped by during his lunch hour the next day and noticed nothing out of the ordinary. However, he didn’t actually go over to check out the coop. After work that day when he went to feed the chickens, they were all gone. All 18 of them gone! Something had gnawed a hole through the chicken wire and got them all, we guess. One was dead in the coop (body intact) and there were a few feathers, but no other remnants. They just vanished. He searched all over the property but never found any sign of them. Needless to say, he was very upset and he didn’t know what he was going to tell the kids. My 5 year old especially thinks of them as her pets and carries “Socks” around all the time. Well, we determined it was probably a raccoon because the way the wire was chewed through and turned in required a hand as opposed to a paw. It also had to be fairly big as the hole was about 2 feet off the ground. Something had to be sitting upright or standing on back feet. I also imagine it would also require a whole family to take away 18 like that. My husband had expected that perhaps something could get one or two, but never all 18. The section the raccoon got in was one small section that just had chicken wire. The rest of the pen had chicken wire layered over with a heavier gauge wire. So my husband reinforced the entire perimeter of the coop, up, down, as well as on the roof and installed an electric fence. Then came the task of replacing the birds. He luckily was able to replace 8 of them with similar, but older hens. The kids didn’t realize and he told them the rest were at the vet. He also got a rooster and a guinea – the person he got the hens from suggested they would help deter other predators. However, we still are trying to find a replacement for Socks. I researched and believe she was a Bantam Buff Brahma and I am searching local farmers and hen forums to find one already grown. Hopefully we can. So that is our beginning backyard-farming saga. I guess I should also say that my husband set traps and did catch 2 big raccoons, about 20 lbs each. But I am sure there are more where they came from, so he just decided to try to deter them with the electric fence.
    In the back of my head, this whole situation does not seem plausible. Are we just too “green “ or does this sound like it could really happen? Some of our family thinks that people had to have taken them- that raccoons would never have taken them all leaving no remnants. But people could have easily opened the door to the coop and walked in. We are in North Carolina surrounded by 5 acres, no one around us has chickens that we know of, they didn’t make noise or bother anyone. I just can’t imagine anyone even knew they were there. My next question is whether or not I should continue to look for a replacement for Socks. I doubt I will find a pullet or hen – it appears Bantam Buff Brahmas are hard to find anyway - so if I go though raising a chick, will this one be doomed upon being introduced to the other 8? And, of course, if I order from McMurray or another hatchery I will have to order a batch of 25 and I don’t have room for that. Any thoughts or suggestions?
  2. heyeddah

    heyeddah Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 15, 2008
    Milford Ct
    You are not green. Things like this happen in the chiucken world. They are quite low on the food chain. I have had a similar beginner experience. It sounds like you might have the coop reinforced. Hardware cloth is better than chicken wire. I understand the part about your children. We love so fiercely. On the other side it can be a good learning experience for them as well. My boys were very sad, but this is a small way to learn about grief which sometimes can be bigger.
    If 25 chicks are too many, post on here to split with someone near you.
    It sounds like you are covering the web for give away chicks. That is how we replaced our flock last summer too. Now my kids carry the replacement chickens around. Even to the bus stop in the afternoon and through the house.
    I hope you have a brighter day
  3. the_eagle69

    the_eagle69 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 1, 2009
    Far SW VA
    I do find it hard to belive that an animal would take that many at one time with out leaveing more feathers blood and a big big mess but it could happen. You will know soon sounds like you have done a great job of protecting your coop. Good luck with your new ones.
  4. Indiana hens

    Indiana hens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 25, 2008
    Pendleton, Indiana
    I did not hear mention of a dog as a protector! It could happen to anyone anytime! We can deter predators but not eliminate them!
  5. PortageGirl

    PortageGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 8, 2008
    Portage County, Ohio
    First off, Happy to meet you! [​IMG] Hope you enjoy our company!! [​IMG] WELCOME to BYC!!!

    There’s TONs of info here that might help you with some ideas. Up in the “Learning Center” at the command bar at the top of the page, there’s a list of predators and stuff. I sure hope the third times really the charm for you and it sounds like you’re taking the right steps. Us BYC-ers will try to suggest and support you, and it CAN be discouraging, but I for one am kinda glad you are trying to work it out! Good on ya!

    I agree it probably it was animals. It sounds like the property where the chickens are is separate from where you live, that makes it hard to watch them well and I suppose it could have been some humans too but unless you can put up a surveillance camera, not sure how you can tell. It also sounds like you’ve reinforced the fence and the coop and electric wire is usually good, though raccoons are pretty smart and might figure out a way around/past/through it, but probably not. Still it’s what most would recommend and a good idea, hopefully a good zap on the nose will send em back to the woods.

    I suppose losing ALL of them that way would be a bit much on such little kids, but chickens die, so eventually they’ll get exposed to it… if they’re around them a lot, it will get impossible to ‘protect’ them from it all the time. Sounds pretty complicated to me though. With at least part of the truth, they could help with picking out the new ones and such. *shrugs* Hehe, I grew up knowing where all the food in the grocery store and our freezer came from though. Rode on the tractors and got cow poop on me and everything!
  6. DDRanch

    DDRanch Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 15, 2008
    Welcome and I am sorry about your first experiences. There is a lot of good advice and ideas on this site, especially for new chicken folks. I still consider myself "new".

    I think one of the most important things is a predator proof coop and run. Unfortunately, a chicken has so many enemies. The extra time and even expense to ensure a safe area for your birds is well worth the effort in my opinion. Sometimes though, even the most secure area will be breached by clever or strong predators.

    Sounds like the property where the chickens were kept is far away and can't be monitored easily. Anyway you could move the whole operation closer to your daily activities or where you live? Good luck.
  7. beakkeeper

    beakkeeper Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 20, 2008
    My Pet Chicken has a minimum ship of three chicks--and they have BBBs. Sorry about your loss! [​IMG]
  8. Faverolle

    Faverolle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 12, 2009
    I am sorry for your loss. It can be difficult sometimes when you loose birds especially when there are children involved. Its quite possible that whatever did get your chickens scattered the remaining flock and they may have gotten lost or then prey upon by something else.
    I personally have lost more birds after they were "scattered" by the neighbors dog then I did right there on the spot by a predator. Right now is prime time for getting birds so depending on what you are looking for you may have to wait a few weeks. You may want to keep an eye on the for sale section here and try to get some nice birds from another member.
  9. PK

    PK New Egg

    Feb 24, 2009
    Mooresville, NC
    Thanks for all the kindness and encouragement. I really appreciate all your suggestions.
    I guess I just needed to vent, so thanks for listening.
    The hardest part is not knowing for sure what occurred. I understand that these things will happen. I am not sure if knowing the raccoons got them all is better than worrying that they were scattered in the woods and fell to other predators. I suppose I am a little too much of a softie not having been exposed to where food in grocery store comes from as a youngster. That is part of why my husband and I want to do this for our kids- but we didn’t want to have to expose them to total devastation so soon. Besides, we have to get used to it ourselves first, ha:)
    And I think that is the biggest part. My husband put most of the time and effort into the chickens and I think it hurt him more than he will admit and he didn’t have the heart to tell them either. It is all part of our learning process. Our kids probably would have been more resilient than we give them credit for.
    The fact that we don’t live on the property full time is also a challenge. It is close enough that we can go over there every day but we usually aren’t there at night except of the weekends. We have also installed motion sensor lights so that might frighten them off. Hopefully the electric fence will work at least for a while.
    I am glad that I found this forum. You all have been so kind.
    I realize there is a ton of information on here so I will continue reading and learning.
    I will be checking out the hardware cloth. I have read a lot about it but have not yet seen it. And I will keep checking for BBBs. I will check out My Pet Chicken or possibly ask someone close to my area to split an order. And who knows, maybe picking out a couple of new chicks would be fun. I will have to research introducing them to the new ones.
    Thanks for your comments and concern- I will update you on what happens!
  10. PortageGirl

    PortageGirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 8, 2008
    Portage County, Ohio
    Is there someone near the coop, a neighbor who can look out for them or keep an eye on things? If they get a share of the eggs, it might well be worth it!

    Keep your chin up! [​IMG]

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