Studying a Great-horned Owl Going After Pullets

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by centrarchid, Sep 8, 2014.

  1. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    This evening I found signs of damage to two pullets used as broodies out in pasture. I found the carcass of a Dominique that was a few days shy of hatching. Game pullet with a single chick could not be located and was at least partially consumed at kill sight owing to presence of crop contents. Chick later found intact. Both pullets where underweight owing to broodiness. Weight of Dom was about 4 lbs and game was about 3.


    Carcass of Dom pullet. Not head and most of breast missing.
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    Perpetrator was easy to spot because it was in crag by pond to south of cockyard. I settled in to get a shot ..........with a camera in a lawn chair. At about dusk the owl began working the perimeter looking down at birds getting within 50 feet of me a couple of times. The I heard a juvenile to the NE of house and I have seen it fly to crag used by first owl. Two owls involved which explains loss of two birds in one night. I left carcass out to they would go after it possibly enabling use of a game camera if I can round one up.


    Problem was prevented most nights by me placing pens over hens. Health poor yesterday and I did not get job done.

    Still interesting observations to be made to better understand how owls operate.
     
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    In the time it took me to enter the previous post the Great-horned Owl came in and took carcass. Owl appears to have dragged remains to a tree about 60 feet away then climbed trunk with carcass. Tree foliage was dense and I could not see owl in tree with aid of flashlite. Dog provided insight into owls path.
     
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Somehow the juvenile owl is now in possession of carcass. Adult most have lugged that item over out house. Flight would have been overall downhill but midway bird must have been skimming grass. Juvenile still calling so serves purpose beyond request for food.
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Adult owl already out observing areas with pullets well before dark. I think they are catching something else as well. Most of the time pullets not accessible which will be situation tonight. Since owls have been working area for some time before this spate of chicken losses, my guess is primary target has been the abundant rats. The rats are a native species rather than one of the Eurasian invasives. My perimeter fencing and dogs are keeping terrestrial predators out allowing rat numbers to get unusually high. The rats are even impacting the vegetation in the effected area. Pest and predator management sure does get complex quickly with all the interactions. The owls are easy to thwart but weasels will be a real problem if they find my little honey-hole for rats.
     
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I placed another chicken carcass in same location as last owl took. So far the owl has not checked in on new carcass. Either owl has something else of interest or it can count. I suspect strongly it is the latter.
     
  6. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    I don't know if an owl can count or not but I'll guarantee you that they can read the toe marks and wing bands on pullets because it seems that they prefer to eat the ones that I want to keep..
     

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