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Please help me figure out what killed our hen!!

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by mothersin2ition, Nov 14, 2008.

  1. mothersin2ition

    mothersin2ition Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 2, 2008
    Othello, WA
    Okay bear with me while I write this all out.
    Today I was sitting on the computer when I heard a horrible squawking so I rushed outside to find a hawk trying to get at one of our 8 week old chicks that was inside our chicken tractor. So I shooed him off and proceeded to locate all the other chickens who were free-ranging. In the process of looking around the property, I found the decapitated remains of one of our hens- it had been a very recent attack, as she was still warm, and there were no flies/ants or other bugs on the carcass yet. her body was deep inside a side shrub (I found her while trying to get another chick out that was hiding in there after the hawk incident). I noticed a bunch of feathers under the bush a ways so I crawled in there and found her.
    My question is this: Could it have been the hawk? I mean it seems wierd that the hawk would kill a chicken that was twice its size and then drag it into a bush, decapitate it, and then come out of the bush to try and get the little chick??
    I'm pretty sure that it was two separate predators, but I've read the sticky thread at the top in this forum about identifying predators and I can't decide what it was. Here are the facts:

    ~Attack was in the middle of the day
    ~Bird was decapitated, feathers strewn about but no other parts of it's body was eaten besides the neck chewed off.
    ~Head and rest of body left in the same place.
    ~There was a large nest of eggs hidden in the bush where the hen was killed, they were all empty and broken.


    [​IMG] What would you suspect? I thought at first it must have been a skunk or racoon but I read that they hunt at night only. I'd like to know what we're dealing with so we know what to trap for. I don't want to lose any more birds, we all love them so much. It was heartbreaking to find Barbie- she was our favorite hen and my kids would carry her around all the time. [​IMG]
     
  2. Chicky85254

    Chicky85254 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 22, 2008
    AZ & CA
    I know that owls will eat the heads off of their prey and leave the remainder...but they aren't usually out in the middle of the day. Was this in the early morning or evening maybe? Sorry, not much help here....
     
  3. mothersin2ition

    mothersin2ition Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 2, 2008
    Othello, WA
    This was about 2:00 in the afternoon. [​IMG] And the head and body were next to each other, it appears that the neck had been eaten.
     
  4. BeckyLa

    BeckyLa Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 11, 2007
    N. Louisiana
    Was the hen that was killed the one setting on the nest with the broken eggs? Coons will decapitate their victims and they love eggs. They also will come out during the day. It's also possible, depending on how deep down in the bush she was, that the hawk went after her just as she was going into the bush and grabbed her neck decapitating her and the other scared hens could have trampled the eggs. hth.
     
  5. mtnhomechick

    mtnhomechick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 27, 2008
    Mountain Home, AR
    Any stray dogs in the neighborhood?
     
  6. Shared Acres

    Shared Acres Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If raccoons are sick they'll be out during the day.
     
  7. mothersin2ition

    mothersin2ition Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 2, 2008
    Othello, WA
    No stray dogs, we live out in the country, only surrounded by large mint fields.
    Was the hen that was killed the one setting on the nest with the broken eggs?

    The eggs were very old, and the hen wasn't sitting on them. I think she ran under the bush for shelter or was chased in there by the animal and killed there. Im not sure. Im wondering if a coon found that old nest with the eggs in it awhile back, ate them all and then returned and was there when she went in the bush. I dont know, Im just stumped but my gut tells me it wasn't the hawk. Course I could be wrong!!​
     
  8. mothersin2ition

    mothersin2ition Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 2, 2008
    Othello, WA
    If raccoons are sick they'll be out during the day.

    Really? That is so interesting. Wonder if that's what's going on. [​IMG]
     
  9. greyfields

    greyfields Overrun With Chickens

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    Mar 15, 2007
    Washington State
    The two main culprits for decapitation in our state are the Great Horned Owl (night time) and Racoons. They eat only the head and pull out the heart through the neck. So, it seems the hawk could have done it; but I'm surrounded by birds of prey and they've never bothered with chickens. There simply is too much easier food out there.

    Other predators, like bobcats or dogs, will eat the breasts and meat and often leave the heads.
     
  10. mothersin2ition

    mothersin2ition Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 2, 2008
    Othello, WA
    I'm surrounded by birds of prey and they've never bothered with chickens. There simply is too much easier food out there.

    That's what I was thinking. We've had free-range chickens for about a year now and have never had any attacks. There is soooo much wild prey around our house including mice, pigeons, wild rabbits etc that they never bothered with our chickens. And we even raised some barn owls that were orphaned in our barn and they never messed with the poultry. The hawk attack today was very surprising.

    So if we have a coon nearby- where do they live? Do they sleep in trees or dens etc?​
     

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