I had one of my super sweet, darling, lemon cuckoo orphington pullets killed today by some predator - highly suspicious of an opossum. I've had them since they were just eggs and hatched them out this Summer. We've got the Ft. Knox of chicken coup/pens that my husband made, but we let the hens and guineas free range during the day under the watch of our Maremma guardian dog. We have not lost a chicken since he came this past Summer (5 months ago). Our yard is totally fenced with field fence but our driveway gate is usually open.
This predator struck during a time when I was not home and my husband was unloading hay and weed-eating fence line over by our barn. There was about a 3 hour window when this could have happened. The pullet was cold and stiff when my husband found her this evening. The Maremma and our Aussie were over there at the barn with him this afternoon and this predator apparently was wiley enough to know that the dogs and humans were away! My husband did not notice any unusual behavior in our horses during this time but he did hear the guineas sound-off (which is not that unusual) once a day. Even more reason to suspect a smaller sized predator.
I am so sickened and upset at the loss of this sweet little girl (who I've had from an egg!). She was found tonight when we did our nightly "head count" when everyone was put in the coup for the night and we were one short. My husband and son went looking and found her right along the side of our house between the house and the pasture fence in an area about 30' wide by 75' long along that side of the house. There are some pretty decent sized pine trees along that side of the house. I seriously doubt it was a hawk and pretty sure it was not a dog - our dogs would have definitely noticed a strange dog even from over at the barn. We just DO NOT have stray dogs out here - we are on a dead end road just over a mile off the closest road (which is rather quiet). The pullet still had the head attached (damaged) but her abdomen was torn open and partially eaten. There were some feathers around her body and her head was damaged as well.
Does anyone have any other ideas? From what I've been reading and searching this evening, it really sounds like an opossum. We have not seen any around here in the past year or so but we have killed a few skunks and hawks and have shot at a few coyote. My husband did not smell any skunk when he came home this afternoon to unload hay. Coyote couldn't get into the yard except through the main gate down the driveway and our Maremma is ferocious toward coyote. That's why I'm thinking it was something smaller like an opossum that could get through the fence undetected.....?
I'd appreciate any ideas on what it might have been. We have set a trap and I will buy a couple more tomorrow to set as well. Our chickens are like our pets and we care for them as if they were our prized possessions (because they are).
Thanks so much for any suggestions/ideas!
cream legbar pair (Desi & Lucy)
3 pure Auracana hens and one roo
3 Lavender Orphington hens and roos
3 Lemon Cuckoo roos and now only 2 hens
4 Swedish Flower hens and one roo
One blue wheaten marans hen
one brabanter hen
one spangled Sussex hen
and 2 Americana hens (Barak & Michelle) yes, Barak is a hen (ooops)!