Predator help needed!

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by atmaclean, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. atmaclean

    atmaclean Chillin' With My Peeps

    493
    16
    126
    May 21, 2012
    Belews Creek, NC

    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!

    Angela
    mom to.....
    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)!
     
  2. Marten / ferret

    99.999% sure on this.

    They killed by biting the back of the head and rarely eat it, usually just the head or around it.
     
  3. bigoledude

    bigoledude Chillin' With My Peeps

    434
    64
    156
    Jan 16, 2011
    SE, Louisiana
    I have had the least success using live traps. You mention you have dogs, you sure wouldn't want to use crippling or lethal type traps on your place. I have used the DP (dog-proof) traps to catch possums and coons. I have read where they work well for skunks also. Here is a link to the DP traps.

    http://www.rpoutdoors.com/dudpcotr.html

    Several companies make traps based on the same design. I've read where trappers claim there is not much difference between them as far as performance goes. They sure work for me.

    These traps have a trigger that must be PULLED UP to be tripped. This requires an animal with hands-like front paws. They absolutely will not catch a dog or a cat. They are very effective for catching coons and possums. Possums are by far the most frequent killer we have down here. My coops and runs are pretty predator proof but, I keep the DP traps baited and set at all times. Possums continue to come and they pay dearly.

    I had a momma mink that would rob me occasionally of a duck that I would kill while out duck hunting. They are so rarely seen down here, I was happy to help her feed her young. Every once in a while she'd eat the bird within sight. It appeared to me while watching her eat, that minks and, I'm assuming weasels, ferrets and martins might also have the dexterity with their front paws that coons and possums have. If so, this would also make them catch-able with the DP type traps.
     
  4. atmaclean

    atmaclean Chillin' With My Peeps

    493
    16
    126
    May 21, 2012
    Belews Creek, NC
    Thanks for this info. Yes, we will use the traps you mentioned - they are a cage type trap that you can put canned cat food in to lure predators. Our dogs are entirely too big to fit in them - but they may try with the canned cat food in them - we will have to figure that one out...... we have a Marema and an Australian shepherd. Our little dogs too but they are in and out when we are here. You are correct in that we would NOT want to use the clamp type traps!!

    I have never seen mink or weasels in this area and I'm not sure if we have them. I'm becoming suspicious of an opossum since her gut was partially eaten.

    I surveyed they yard today in the day light and did no notice anything unusual - no bent fencing, no odd marks on the ground like scratching, etc. I let the roosters and guineas out this morning and am monitoring them. I'm still afraid to let my hens out yet. Seeing the pile of feathers this morning just made me so sad and sick :( I found a few feathers with blood on them but had to look very closely to find them - in other words, there was not a lot of blood at the "scene".

    I will also be looking for a monitoring system to mount outside so we can have another way to keep an eye on things outside....
     
  5. bigoledude

    bigoledude Chillin' With My Peeps

    434
    64
    156
    Jan 16, 2011
    SE, Louisiana
    The traps I mentioned are NOT the cage type traps. Cage traps are expensive and are the LEAST effective for me. Go to the link I gave you to check out the Dog-Proof types. For possums I make a strawberry preserve and fish guts bait. My friends that don't fish use sardines instead of the guts! They cannot resist this bait. The possums I mean.

    Here are a couple more versions of the same type of dog-proof traps.

    http://www.rpoutdoors.com/cooncuff.html
    http://www.rpoutdoors.com/dufdogresrac.html

    The target animal must reach down into the "can" portion for the bait and PULL UPWARDS.

    As for a monitoring system. I have used at my place and helped a number of friends rig this set-up. I bought a set of those outdoor security lights that come on if something passes through the (I guess infrared) sensor. Well instead of using both lights, I screwed into one light-socket a plug (110volt) receptacle doohickey that an extension cord could be plugged into. I ran the wire into the house and to a radio or something that makes a racket. When the radio came on, it meant that something was near the coop & run area. I usually went out and shot it. The other side of the security light had a spotlight screwed in, so I had enough light to see what I was shooting at.

    Another option is a cheap game-cam. They give real nice photos that show exactly what critters are lurking in your yard. They however, do not alarm you. You must pull the little SD card and see what times the predator is appearing. Then you must be watchful at those hours to eliminate the predator. Or, place a trap wherever you observe the path/route the predator is taking.
     
  6. atmaclean

    atmaclean Chillin' With My Peeps

    493
    16
    126
    May 21, 2012
    Belews Creek, NC
    Yes, I did see that the trap was different when I clicked on the link. Does it just grab their hand? Can't they just walk off with it? I must just be dense as I am not sure how it works.

    Thank you SO Much for that wonderful idea about the radio and light activated by the movement sensor. That is awesome. We will do that asap. I let the guineas and roosters out yesterday and no trouble but I was home all day and keeping an eye out. Didn't see a thing. I finally let the hens out for a few hours and, luckily, all went well. I'm back at work today so the hens and roosters will remain up in their pens til I get home. I know they will be mad but at least they will be alive. Only work two days this week so I will have time to get this set-up done (in-between cleaning and cooking for the holiday! LOL).

    Thanks again - this is such valuable info for anyone with precious livestock!!

    By the way, if you do have to shoot the shotgun, do your hens lay fewer eggs the following day? Hubby shot over a stray dog the other night (very unusual) and the hens laid a lot fewer eggs the next day....>?

    Angela
     
  7. Lee Quaintance

    Lee Quaintance New Egg

    3
    0
    6
    Mar 17, 2012
    Edgerton Kansas
    I'm thinking your problem is a hawk. The smaller predators will normally start eating the head. A coyote will grab the entire bird and take it to a "safer" location to eat it. If it were a dog, you will find several dead birds with nothing eaten at all. I hope this is helpful to y'all.
     
  8. atmaclean

    atmaclean Chillin' With My Peeps

    493
    16
    126
    May 21, 2012
    Belews Creek, NC
    We do see hawks around. We contacted a falconer several months ago but he has yet to come out and get the hawks so we are taking care of them as best we can. The poor little hen was up against the house between our house and the fence line which is maybe 25-30' wide. There is a tree line along the fence as well. I didn't think the hawk could make a dive in that close an area but he could have just landed in the top of those pine trees and then flown down. If they get hungry enough, I guess they will do what they have to. Husband told me last night that mainly just the wattles were left - the head was gone....so gross. I'm glad I didn't see it.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by