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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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) (before it was done) (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) 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. 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. I would never be able to get over it if something got my rooster Ivory, too. 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. ____________________________ 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! 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.