Predator questions - cause of death

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by lehouseofdog, Feb 17, 2019.

  1. lehouseofdog

    lehouseofdog Chirping

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    I lost a hen this morning. She was my 8 month old speckled sussex hen. Beautiful little bird, very sweet disposition. Anyway, I found her at 10am and am trying to work back to TOD and probable cause to figure out how I can proceed with management.

    I am not sure how anyone feels about graphic photos so if they aren't allowed, please tell me to take them down. I will post them at the end of this

    I found her on the far side of the yard. I heard my oldest hen alarm clucking and let the dogs out and my little pit bull ran straight to her carcass. I told her to leave it and she ran back to me. It was then that I realized it was my SS pepper. I looked her over, she was stiff but still had some body heat. The blood appeared wet. The skin was torn off her neck and her crop was gone. There was fresh seed stuck to her neck muscles so she had been out and eating that morning. The skin was completely gone around her neck and part of her chest with no remnants. There were feathers everywhere. That type of predation reminds me of possum or raccoon (going for the crop) but the time of day is wrong.

    I let the dogs out for the first time around 6 or 7 am but did not check on the birds as I haven't been feeling well this weekend. My husband let the dogs out at 8 and fed them. My two pit bulls jumped on the bed. The female laid in the dog bed and started dry heaving. I put her back outside, then let her back in and put her in the crate and took a shower. I didn't notice anything amiss with her, she's white and wears a sweater. She was clean, no blood (but the dry heaving is concerning)

    My dogs ages are 7, 8 and 11 and have never bothered the chickens. The 7 year old is the one that dry heaved.

    I have an automatic chicken door that opens between 530 and 6am and closes at night around 730 pm. I don't think something got her right as it opened this morning because I think she would have been stone cold, not still with warmth. It also rained yesterday and misting last night and she was dry and fluffy.

    I feel like if the dog did it, I would have had to call her off the carcass and my husband would have had to as well. She wouldn't have been waiting at the back door to come in.

    Would a hawk kill look like this? I have been blissfully predator free since getting chickens so this is my first predator loss and I'm really worried. That means they will be back right? unless it was my own dog. My little white dog, the youngest does have high prey drive and did not act like there was a raccoon or possum in the yard. She has caught 2 before but has never killed anything. When they play dead she looses interest and I can pick them up and put them out of the yard so they can warn others. It has been 2 years since I've seen a possum in the yard, I have security lights that keep the yard fairly well lit. I have a 8 foot fence and live in a suburban environment.

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    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019
    ButtonquailGirl14 and rjohns39 like this.
  2. EggSighted4Life

    EggSighted4Life Free Ranging

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    So sorry for your loss. :(

    Definitely sounds like an aerial predator... hawk or maybe great horned owl as they also hunt during the day. I know they do have specific eating patterns of plucking and going after the breast... but not sure which is which.

    I have hawk watching my flock quite often. :barnie
     
  3. rjohns39

    rjohns39 Addict

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    It's hard to tell from pics is the head and most of the neck gone, no trace?
     
  4. Molpet

    Molpet Free Ranging

    I vote hawk or owl too
     
  5. lehouseofdog

    lehouseofdog Chirping

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    Jun 4, 2016
    richmond va
    the head is still there, but from breast to head, she has been stripped of feathers and skin. I could see breast muscle and the neck muscles and it was a bloody mess up by her head. Her head though was still attached. Feathers were all around the corpse but the skin is gone with pieces of skin on the ground. Crop is also gone.

    The red you see in the second photo is her bare mutilated neck muscles up to the base of her head. You can just see the waddle at the top. You can see some of the fresh seeds I had thrown out yesterday where her crop should start.
     
  6. rjohns39

    rjohns39 Addict

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    I'm a bit perplexed. I've never seen an aerial predator fail to take the head and neck. Generally, they'll take that first, then if they feel it's safe to return, they'll come back and work on the carcass. My best guess is that what ever it was, was scared off by the dogs. About the only thing I can rule out is a skunk, as you'd know if the dogs ran one off. Here, we've had skunks and opossums hunting in broad daylight for the lasts couple weeks. Sorry I'm not really any help :hugs
     
  7. FlyingNunFarm

    FlyingNunFarm Crossing the Road

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    I’m sorry for your loss.

    I’m also thinking aerial predator. Owls are starting to nest about now so will be out in daylight hours hunting and courting. Completely silent fliers they can easily swoop in on an unsuspecting chicken. I would keep the others safely under cover for at least a week.
     
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  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    Raptor almost certainly. Note you can see where meat was picked from neck, not gnawed where feathers would be wet at least right next to wound site. What makes me lean away from Great-horned Owl is that consumer to great care to remove feathers. Great-horned Owl in my experience tends to eat a lot of the feathers. If allowed to eat to point of full, the owl will eat more than than what appears consumed on dead bird.
     
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    I would leave carcass in place and train a game camera on it.
     
  10. Chick-N-Fun

    Chick-N-Fun Almy Acres Farm

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    I am so sorry for for the loss of your sweet hen! Bear hugs! :hugs
     

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