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Unknown predator killed hen...Help identifying???

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by 77horses, Oct 7, 2010.

  1. 77horses

    77horses ◊The Spontaneous Pullet!◊

    Aug 19, 2008
    [CONFIDENTIAL]
    Yesterday morning, I let the chickens out as usual in the morning around 6:25am. Then I left for the day and didn't come back until around 5:00pm that day. My sister got home around 2:30pm, and saw that all the chickens were free ranging around the perimeter of the woods near the house, like they usually do. It was rainging and storming all day, so she was inside the house all day.
    But when I got home, I went outside before dark to put the chickens in. They go inside the coop by themselves, and I just lock up the whole coop for the night. However, since it wasn't dark yet, and it was raining, they were all hiding under the 3-4 feet-high-off-the-ground coop. All of them, except for my buff Bantam Cochin hen, Pumpkin. [​IMG] So I thought, "OK, maybe she's roosting in the shed?" since she always does that when she can't get to her coop for some reason. For example when their coop door was shut by mistake, she was found roosting in the open shed. If it's getting dark out and she's not in her usual coop with the rest, she would always be hiding out in the shed. So I checked there, expecting her to be sitting on her favorite spot, a bicycle tire. But, she wasn't there. That's when I got worried. [​IMG] So I spent over a half an hour, walking around the entire property of the house, looking ANYWHERE she could be. But she was no where to be found. Her flock members, three young pullets whom she was a foster mother to and my rooster, Ivory, seemed confused that she was missing. But they went to roost when it got dark as usual. Eventually, just when it was really starting to get dark out, I lost hope and decided to wait it out until morning. Maybe she had hidden under something from the rain and it was getting dark so she stayed there? I didn't know. All I knew was that I had double and even tripled my search around the yard, and she wasn't anywhere, which was both strange and extremely worrying because I knew something wasn't right the moment I noticed she wasn't there. It's not like her to leave her flock. [​IMG]
    Well, after all the searching, I went back out to the coop one last time to check and lock up the coop. On this last time, my young cat, Nadia, had followed me out there. I was just locking the coop up when I happened to observe Nadia's behavior; she followed me to the coop, then began walking farther past the coop several feet. She crouched down while she did this, as if she was stalking something. A flash of hope went through me because I thought for a moment that maybe she had seen Pumpkin huddled under a bush or something. So I continued watching her for a few seconds, until she stopped several feet into the woods and was sniffing something. I walked cautiously over, and to my horror, there was a small, torn chicken leg on the ground. Pumpkin's leg, to be exact. [​IMG] It was getting dark, but no matter how much I wanted to somehow be mistaken, I knew what it was right away. I ran back to the house, crying and telling my sister to come outside quick because of what I had found.
    This time with flashlights, we observed the area where Pumpkin's leg was found. Now with the light, we found more than just a leg. Nearby were hundreds of feathers, scattered and matted down from the rain. We also found small wing parts and internal organ parts, such as what looked like intestines. [​IMG] [​IMG] There wasn't much blood that I could see, but the rain could have washed it away because it had been downpouring all day.
    All the other chickens seemed fine. I don't know how it happened, but it had happened sometime between 3:00pm-5:00pm when it was still light out. Since the middle of the summer, around July, when I first built the coop and moved my young rooster, Ivory, the three 3-4 month old pullets, and their foster mother, Pumpkin, into the coop, I've had no predator problems. I've seen hawks around here, and some feral cats, but they have never been a problem. My two labs don't bother the chickens at all. Nadia is still small and a fairly young kitten, so even if she wanted to she most likely couldn't have caused what we found. She could have killed Pumpkin, but definitely not eaten most of her. The largest thing she has killed is small red squirrels and chipmunks.
    But like I said, I've never seen any predators such as hawks and neighbor's cats around here. And they haven't been a problem. Although a few years or so ago, fishers have been seen around here, and maybe some coyotes (and white-tailed deer), but other than that nothing much.
    Until yesterday, that is. The culprit for this tragedy of losing poor Pumpkin is still unknown, and the three pullets and my beloved rooster, Ivory, are still out there. For now, the coop is secure and safe enough to keep predators out. Here is a description of it: It is 3-4 feet off the ground, with mesh wiring around the sides. The window is sealed and locked tight, mostly because when it rains it becomes stuck and even I can't pull it open because the moisture causes it to stick. The small coop door that the chickens use is closed tight and the metal latch is locked, with the wooden ramp detached and leaning straight up against it. The large door that I use to get into the coop is closed and has three different metal locks on it; one eye hook loop on the top, and one on the bottom, and then another metal latch in the middle. The bottom of the coop has two layers of plywood, with extra 2x4's for support beneath, and then a layer of mesh wire so nothing can chew through the wood. The roof of the coop is covered with a layer of plywood and roofing shingles. Around the top, under the overhangings of the roof, are open spaces covered securely with mesh wire that are about 2-3 inches wide and used as vents. There are two on the front and two in the back.
    Pictures of the coop:
    (front side)
    [​IMG]

    (before it was done)
    [​IMG]

    (side view...the colorful foam mat things around the bottom of the coop were used as padding inside the coop and were put on the floor for easy cleaning. The extras, as seen here, were used to put up against the mesh wire, which surrounds the bottom of the coop as well but you just can't see it because of the foam mats)
    [​IMG]

    The green mesh wire, which you can barely see in the 2rd phot (above), is what surrounds the outside (such as the ramp, etc.) and has been used as a temporary run area. But they have learned to jump over it, and it's very very predator-proof. [​IMG] So I'm planning on building a much sturdier run sometime soon. But for now, I've had to keep the chickens locked up in their coop all day because normally I left them out all the time to free range. Until now of course, because I don't know what killed Pumpkin and I don't trust leaving them out. Not even in their flimsy caged run area, even if I'm here, because when Pumpkin was killed, my sister was here but she never knew about it until I got home and found what I found. [​IMG] I would never be able to get over it if something got my rooster Ivory, too. [​IMG] Or any of the three pullets. So for now, they are staying in their coop until I build a secure run AND catch whatever it was that killed Pumpkin. I hate locking them up all day because they love free ranging. But if it happened again, especially if it was Ivory, I would never forgive myself. [​IMG]
    ____________________________
    Now, as for the predator that killed Pumpkin...I know, sorry this is so long. I'm trying to give as many details as possible. Whatever helps me figure out this predator and get rid of it. The more information I give about what happened, the more chance I have of possibly getting some answers as to what the predator is. At least that's what I hope! [​IMG] So I need your help in figuring that out.

    Whatever killed Pumpkin attacked in day light, in the rain and wind, and was pretty brave to do it with two adult labs around, and human scent. I spend a lot of time out near the coop, and my two labs wander around the yard all the time. And also, whatever is was also left a scent that scared my cat, Nadia. When she helped me find the remains of Pumpkin, she had been crouching and acting as if she was stalking something. This showed that she could smell whatever had killed Pumpkin, and she seemed afraid of it because of how cautious she was. She didn't go out very much that day, mostly because of the rain and she hates getting wet. So when I went outside, the rain had reduced to more of a drizzle and that's when she could smell Pumpkin's remains and she must have also caught the scent of the unknown predator.
    Also, whatever killed Pumpkin didn't eat all of her. Most of her, but the mess left behind might be able to explain what it was. I doubt it was a weasel, because they usually decapitate their prey to drink their blood and leave the whole body. And they normally attack in early morning hours, when it's still kind of dark. I also doubt it was a fox, because they normally carry their prey off quite a distance. The site of the attack was only several feet away from the coop, where Pumpkin most likely was close to, because at the time that it happened, she would have been nearby the coop because it was windy and rainy out and it was getting later in the day, when she often gets ready to roost for the night. It also wasn't a hawk, because if it was she probably would have just disappeared and only feathers would be left.
    My best guess would probably be a fisher. They have been seen around here in past years, though not very recently. They are known to kill poultry and the description of how they kill them, based on researching it on Google and reading some posts on BYC about them, seems to match what happened to Pumpkin.

    What do you guys think?
    Thanks for any help you can offer! I also need to figure out a way to protect the chickens I still have now, and capture the evil predator before it strikes again. [​IMG]
     
  2. 77horses

    77horses ◊The Spontaneous Pullet!◊

    Aug 19, 2008
    [CONFIDENTIAL]
    Anyone? [​IMG]
    Did I really type that huge long post with as much detail as possible to help someone help me find out what predator I'm dealing with, only to get not one single answer in over 12 hours? [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  3. GoldenCometLover

    GoldenCometLover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 23, 2010
    Freeville, NY
    Could have been a hawk - they don't always fly away, raccoons and fox both attack in the day and don't always "disappear" before they eat...sorry for you loss...is your pen covered with poultry netting? I can't tell in the pic....
     
  4. gottsegnet

    gottsegnet Chillin' With My Peeps

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    5
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    Mar 19, 2009
    Nebraska
    It's hard to say. A lot of predators will hunt during the day, and I'm actually a little more leery when it is rainy and foggy out. I see more foxes in those conditions, anyway. And not too long ago, I had a pack of coyotes watching me lock up the chickens. It was near sundown, but we don't normally hear nor see anything of them until long after dark. But my chickens were all wound up, fighting to get to the back of the coop and the ducks and geese were in early, though they normally go in at or shortly after dusk. The lab was going nuts & when I went out to see what was going on, there they were. A whole pack just sitting across the street watching what I was doing.

    It may be too late now, but you could try going out with some flour or something and sprinkling it all around to see if you can get a track if/when it comes back to check out its kill. Or at least look all around where you found the kill for a track. Now that it knows you have tasty treats, it will likely be back and it would be worth putting something down around the outside of your run that will let you have some idea what is snooping around at night and when you're gone.

    Badgers, skunks and raccoons are all known to maul their victims if they have a chance to get them away from where they killed them. Opossums will as well, but I don't know that they can catch a free ranging bird. They can all be stealthy, and bold when food is available.
     
  5. 77horses

    77horses ◊The Spontaneous Pullet!◊

    Aug 19, 2008
    [CONFIDENTIAL]
    Quote:No, it's not. It's just a flimsy metal chicken wire fence that was, at first, intended to just keep the chickens in a small area nearby the coop when they first moved into their new coop. Then the three young pullets grew up and learned to jump over it, and so I've been just letting them free range around the yard. They learned where their coop was and how to get back to it before dark and for food and water. Everything was going fine, until Pumpkin was killed. Now, I don't even dare to leave the chickens in their fenced run/pen area in front of the coop, because for one, they can jump over it and they do jump over it, and if the predator came back, it could pretty easily get into the fenced area if it really wanted to. So I'm keeping the chickens locked up in their coop, with food and water and enough space, while I'm not home to supervise them. Only temporarily, though. I hate locking them up so they can't free range, because they love to free range around the yard. But until I build a sturdy run/pen area to replace the one they have now, they will have to stay in their coop for their own safety. [​IMG]
     
  6. gottsegnet

    gottsegnet Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 19, 2009
    Nebraska
    Oh, and hawks will make a bit of an explosion. They hit the birds hard and feathers go everywhere. Sometimes they realize they got more than they bargained for because domestic poultry weigh more than the wild stuff they're used to. If they can't fly off with it, they'll consume what they can there and there'll be no tracks.

    They also don't care that much about dogs, though they could chase it off a kill. I've heard them taking birds right in front of people.
     
  7. GoldenCometLover

    GoldenCometLover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 23, 2010
    Freeville, NY
    I have a similar set up temporarily - I am having a sweet pen built for my girls next week , but until then have a fence made of hardware cloth and poultry netting on top so nothing can get in easily and the girls cannot get out when I am not there. I got a 14 ft X 14 ft piece at Lowes for about $5....might want to get it and drape and attach it over your fencing so they can get out a little during the day time until you get a more permanent run done...
     
  8. 77horses

    77horses ◊The Spontaneous Pullet!◊

    Aug 19, 2008
    [CONFIDENTIAL]
    Thanks everyone!

    gottsegnet- It's definitely too late. Any tracks that were there are gone now because it was raining all day that day and that night. Plus there areaq where it happened was in the woods, and there are dead leaves all over the groun so no prints could have possibly been made. But thanks for the idea! I'll keep it in mind if I ever need it in the future. [​IMG]

    There are just so many possibilities with this...The likely ones, in my opinion, are fox, fisher, badger, and maybe even skunk. Just last week or the week before that, one of my labs got sprayed by a skunk nearby the house. It was so nearby that the smell got into the house, too. [​IMG] So maybe a skunk attacked her? I don't know how fast skunks can run, but Pumpkin wasn't very fast either, due to her small size and short, feathered legs. That's probably why it happened to her; she would have been a more easy prey for a hungry predator out of the rest of the chickens.
     
  9. HorseFeatherz NV

    HorseFeatherz NV Eggink Chickens

    Do you have Ravens (not the smaller crows but the larger Ravens)?

    They are the bane of my day right now. The Ravens in my area have killed 6 of my bantam chickens this year. They kill the bird and eat it where they kill it.
     
  10. mmtillman

    mmtillman Chillin' With My Peeps

    You might have a coon? My husband and I trapped 4 within a 10 day period. The fall of the year seems to be the worst time of the year for predator attacks....atleast it seems to be our experience here. So sorry about your loss.....I lost an entire flock ...our first one....to coons ....so we built a fort knox and so far the coons are only hanging round outside the coop and run. Have you set out a trap to catch it yet?? The havahart traps are great!! We relocate our prisoners in the Mark Twain forest away from homes and near a creek.
    Again, sorry for your loss and thanks for sharing your experience with us! God bless you !!! [​IMG]
     

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