Thought I lost one of my girls today!

jwsmith1959

Songster
Feb 23, 2020
93
191
116
Orchard, Texas
Exciting day after my 3rd full month of Chicken Wrangling (Yesterday now).

Started out like any normal day...I've had my Production Reds for right at 3 months. They were about 14-15 weeks old when I got them and I figure about 22-23 weeks when they started laying. I started with 6 hens but had one murdered at +2 weeks. Either a raccoon reached in through the chain link of the coop or a really big Western Rat Snake got it by the head. Either way, her head and neck were damaged but no bodily injuries. She got away from whatever got her, but the damage had been done. I've since buttoned up the chain link areas where critters might reach through.

We've had almost constant rain for about a week which gives everyone a bit of cabin fever. I let the girls free-range during this time and they would hide out in the barn, under vehicles, my front porch, under the BBQ pit, in their coop, or wherever they darn well pleased. We were rain free Saturday afternoon and yesterday so I let the girls out early and decided to do a little mowing today. I have about eight acres and the girls were happy to be out in some sunshine and chase me around the property a bit. They ate some figs, went to the edge of my Oxbow lake, kicked a bunch of leaves along a couple of edges of the property. It was a glorious day out for all of us. They stood their ground against a couple pushy Cattle Egrets and explored a bit more than normal. I am a "early to bed" person and usually put them up around 6-7 p.m. and they roost inside their coop at close to sundown at about 8:30-9:00.

At about 6, I went to put them up and there were only 3 who responded to my calls....Hmmmmm. Missing two. Okay...I figured they were enjoying some of our first sunshine in awhile. Went back out @ around 7:30 and refreshed their water and made sure food was full and noticed a small group of feathers outside the coop. Another mystery and I'm starting to get worried. At this time there were 4....so still missing one.

Went back out at about 8:15 and still only four of my girls, so I put them in the coop and closed it up. I made a run completely around the property on my mower...they will usually come out to the noise of the motor if they are hiding somewhere. No sign of my missing girl. I decided to look one last time as the light was fading. Went out and the four in the coop had already roosted and almost out of nowhere comes my missing hen. Thank goodness!! She was making some distressing noises and when I let her in the coop, she immediately roosted and I decided to leave her be and I would check on her this morning.

First thing this morning I let them out and no funny noises from any of them and the hen in question immediately zoomed off to lay. For some reason, they don't like laying in the coop. I have a small Well House and a Sago Palm that is very private that they prefer which is close to my house, but about 60 yards away from the coop. After she laid, I got a good look and she definitely lost some feathers from her left flank. She is walking fine and behavior seems to be normal.

The best I can "guess" is that maybe a Bobcat missed her. I live about 1/4 mile from the Brazos river and there are thick woods between me and the river. My immediate neighbor on one side has about 15 acres of overgrown pasture. I have seen Bobcats here, but none since I've gotten the chickens. I keep pretty much all of my 8 acres mowed, but still see some critters. I surprised (or he surprised me) a 3 foot Speckled Kingsnake in the coop a couple of days ago. I left him alone as they are mainly mice (and other snake) eaters. I do get the occasional Rat Snake that I will relocate when I can catch them. On the other side of the property is an Oxbow remnant of the Brazos which I do have alligators visit from time to time...but never seen one on shore. I have seen the lone coyote within a 1/2 mile or so, but never on my property and no packs I can hear at night. Believe me...I know coyotes!!!

The other possibility is Owls? I have a bajillion Barred Owls and some Eastern Screech Owls which I think are too small to tackle a chicken. There are plenty of Great Horned Owls in Fort Bend County, and although I hear them at night sometimes, it is rare. After a week of rain, they will sometimes hunt during the day...but crows will usually alert me to that possibility.

My best guesses are supposition, but based on my experience. I am a little bumfuzzled as to what actually happened, but I am glad to have my Girl back. My girls talk to me all the time, but I wished they could tell me the story from yesterday.

Sorry for the novel, but I needed to say it.

Good luck and all the best!

Joel
 

Vickischics

Life, is a Learning curve.
Premium Feather Member
May 6, 2020
2,354
5,980
506
On the East Coast of the Sunshine State
Exciting day after my 3rd full month of Chicken Wrangling (Yesterday now).

Started out like any normal day...I've had my Production Reds for right at 3 months. They were about 14-15 weeks old when I got them and I figure about 22-23 weeks when they started laying. I started with 6 hens but had one murdered at +2 weeks. Either a raccoon reached in through the chain link of the coop or a really big Western Rat Snake got it by the head. Either way, her head and neck were damaged but no bodily injuries. She got away from whatever got her, but the damage had been done. I've since buttoned up the chain link areas where critters might reach through.

We've had almost constant rain for about a week which gives everyone a bit of cabin fever. I let the girls free-range during this time and they would hide out in the barn, under vehicles, my front porch, under the BBQ pit, in their coop, or wherever they darn well pleased. We were rain free Saturday afternoon and yesterday so I let the girls out early and decided to do a little mowing today. I have about eight acres and the girls were happy to be out in some sunshine and chase me around the property a bit. They ate some figs, went to the edge of my Oxbow lake, kicked a bunch of leaves along a couple of edges of the property. It was a glorious day out for all of us. They stood their ground against a couple pushy Cattle Egrets and explored a bit more than normal. I am a "early to bed" person and usually put them up around 6-7 p.m. and they roost inside their coop at close to sundown at about 8:30-9:00.

At about 6, I went to put them up and there were only 3 who responded to my calls....Hmmmmm. Missing two. Okay...I figured they were enjoying some of our first sunshine in awhile. Went back out @ around 7:30 and refreshed their water and made sure food was full and noticed a small group of feathers outside the coop. Another mystery and I'm starting to get worried. At this time there were 4....so still missing one.

Went back out at about 8:15 and still only four of my girls, so I put them in the coop and closed it up. I made a run completely around the property on my mower...they will usually come out to the noise of the motor if they are hiding somewhere. No sign of my missing girl. I decided to look one last time as the light was fading. Went out and the four in the coop had already roosted and almost out of nowhere comes my missing hen. Thank goodness!! She was making some distressing noises and when I let her in the coop, she immediately roosted and I decided to leave her be and I would check on her this morning.

First thing this morning I let them out and no funny noises from any of them and the hen in question immediately zoomed off to lay. For some reason, they don't like laying in the coop. I have a small Well House and a Sago Palm that is very private that they prefer which is close to my house, but about 60 yards away from the coop. After she laid, I got a good look and she definitely lost some feathers from her left flank. She is walking fine and behavior seems to be normal.

The best I can "guess" is that maybe a Bobcat missed her. I live about 1/4 mile from the Brazos river and there are thick woods between me and the river. My immediate neighbor on one side has about 15 acres of overgrown pasture. I have seen Bobcats here, but none since I've gotten the chickens. I keep pretty much all of my 8 acres mowed, but still see some critters. I surprised (or he surprised me) a 3 foot Speckled Kingsnake in the coop a couple of days ago. I left him alone as they are mainly mice (and other snake) eaters. I do get the occasional Rat Snake that I will relocate when I can catch them. On the other side of the property is an Oxbow remnant of the Brazos which I do have alligators visit from time to time...but never seen one on shore. I have seen the lone coyote within a 1/2 mile or so, but never on my property and no packs I can hear at night. Believe me...I know coyotes!!!

The other possibility is Owls? I have a bajillion Barred Owls and some Eastern Screech Owls which I think are too small to tackle a chicken. There are plenty of Great Horned Owls in Fort Bend County, and although I hear them at night sometimes, it is rare. After a week of rain, they will sometimes hunt during the day...but crows will usually alert me to that possibility.

My best guesses are supposition, but based on my experience. I am a little bumfuzzled as to what actually happened, but I am glad to have my Girl back. My girls talk to me all the time, but I wished they could tell me the story from yesterday.

Sorry for the novel, but I needed to say it.

Good luck and all the best!

Joel
Im sorry you had to experience that fright. But, you just got lucky and need to ramp up the hen protection.
Secure your coop from including all areas as small as a quarter to make sure nobody else gets inside. Make sure you eliminate all food and water inside your coop. Since your girls seemed to be trained, fed them away from the coop and pick up any remaining feed and water. As this attracts preditors hungry and thirsty in the heat
It will help you to put a night camera in your coop. This will tell you who the preditors are. The Kingsnake will kill your chickens plus eat the eggs. They aren't known to be rat/mice specific.
Me, I would secure my run until I could find out who the preditor is and get rid of it and/or place a high voltage electric fence around the run and zap the hell out of it!
Or trap it and dispose of it.
My question is: Why aren't your girls laying in their nesting box?
That is where they need to be laying the eggs. The coop needs to be their safe haven for egg laying and roosting.
Put some ceramic eggs in their nesting box and see if you can train them to lay in their Safe Zone.
Perhaps, its not so safe therefore, you'll need to make it safe so they hang out by the coop.
Keep us posted.
 

cmom

Hilltop Farm
Premium Feather Member
14 Years
Nov 18, 2007
31,520
35,451
971
Florida
My Coop
My Coop
I have several cameras up on my property. I see fox mostly. We do have a bobcat that shows up once in awhile. I'm not trying to sound rude but when you free range you will loose a bird/birds to a predator at some time or another. It's a risk you take. I have lost my share. Lessons learned the hard way. Now I have nice large pens for my birds. Good luck and have fun...
 

cmom

Hilltop Farm
Premium Feather Member
14 Years
Nov 18, 2007
31,520
35,451
971
Florida
My Coop
My Coop
To get my birds to lay in their nest boxes I have golf balls. Once they get into the habit of laying elsewhere, it's hard to break their habit. Again, good luck...

In one of the coops I built a community nest box. They kept laying on the ground in their pen. They like their new nest box, but they all want to lay in the same place. The golf ball is in the middle.
 

Attachments

  • 20210629_194438.jpg
    20210629_194438.jpg
    344.8 KB · Views: 8
  • 20210629_194453.jpg
    20210629_194453.jpg
    397.7 KB · Views: 8

jwsmith1959

Songster
Feb 23, 2020
93
191
116
Orchard, Texas
I have fake (wooden) eggs in the coop boxes where they will lay periodically, but they prefer the well house and that sago. I really don't mind as they are both very close to my back door and I usually collect them within an hour of when they are laid.

Believe me when I tell you that I know that there are predators out there. We had 100+ chickens growing up, but I wasn't the "chicken wrangler" in the 1960's. lol Our barn and laying areas were way more open than what I have now. Of course my Mom had a replacement program back then...and was a more severe taskmaster.

I free range my girls because I think it is the right thing to do. They have only gone outside my 8+ acres a time or two and I have cut off one of those exits. I relocate snakes when necessary, but leave the smaller "Western Rat" and "Speckled King" snakes around for free rodent control.

I have a game camera pointed towards the river at the back of the coop and have had it inside the coop too for many days. I've not had any nighttime predators that have popped up in the couple of months I have tried to catch anything.

I have trapped a number of raccoons in one of my back goat pastures and I have no issue in dispatching them.

I know the local wildlife and am comfortable letting my hens free range here. They are locked up at night when the most danger is about. Next winter, I might have to make some other accommodations.
 
Nov 11, 2020
3,555
5,797
426
West Virginia
I have several cameras up on my property. I see fox mostly. We do have a bobcat that shows up once in awhile. I'm not trying to sound rude but when you free range you will loose a bird/birds to a predator at some time or another. It's a risk you take. I have lost my share. Lessons learned the hard way. Now I have nice large pens for my birds. Good luck and have fun...
Thanks for the suggestions! I've almost finished framing up the top of the 8 x 16 run I made out of pallets.I'm painting the framing and pallets wood with a lime wash before I attach the wire. The run will have 1" chicken wire on top and 1/2" hardware cloth on the sides and buried a foot. It also has concrete blocks around the bottom. Electric fence would have made this project a lot easier.I hope to put an electric fence around the coop and runs soon.
 

Hip Hillbilly Farm

New chick mamma!
Premium Feather Member
Nov 7, 2021
749
1,799
226
Georgia, USA
I have several cameras up on my property. I see fox mostly. We do have a bobcat that shows up once in awhile. I'm not trying to sound rude but when you free range you will loose a bird/birds to a predator at some time or another. It's a risk you take. I have lost my share. Lessons learned the hard way. Now I have nice large pens for my birds. Good luck and have fun...
This is what my hubby says too. He is always saying "Plan for it; get extra birds cause its gonna happen". 😔
 

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom