Urban Florida Hen Missing Without A Single Trace. Did a Hawk Get her?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by whiteybird, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. whiteybird

    whiteybird Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 16, 2013
    Sarasota, FL
    Hi Everyone,

    We lost one of our 1yr 4mo old chickens today and I am looking for some votes as to what could have happened to her. Here is a very detailed scenario:

    My boyfriend and I own a (very) small house very, very close to downtown Sarasota, FL. We have a decent sized backyard for living so close to downtown. There is a 6'+ high wooden fence between our right side neighbors and backyard neighbors, as well as between the front and back yards, and a tall chain link fence between us and a skinny wooded lot. We used to let our chickens free range but they ended up making the yard look like WWII and eating the leaves off all our vegetable plants so we made a 4' high welded wire and wood post fence so they had about 1/3 of the entire yard to themselves. The chickens are enclosed by that fence we built and the chain link fence. We built them a lovely coop out of cedar, about 3.5' off the ground, with privacy lattice around the bottom to keep predators out. The back lattice comes off for harvesting chicken poo compost for our plants. The chickens can go down a ladder inside the coop to dig around in the compost. The back of the coop has two doors that open to allow for access to the nesting boxes, and there is a smaller door on the front for the chickens to go in and leave the coop.


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    One of our chickens, a small and light americauna has for months now been flying up to the fence posts and jumping down into the groomed side of the yard to mess up our mulch piles looking for bugs. About a week ago we put something over the post she used 90% of the time and now she is rarely if ever on the wrong side of the yard. Occasionally she has flown up to and landed on the fence gate and in the process of jumping down has pushed the gate open, allowing one or two chickens to run out with her. Only once have we ever found a chicken on the wrong side of the chain link fence, in the wooded lot; it was about midday, we were home, and immediately helped her fly back over to the coop area. This was almost a year ago. Otherwise our chickens have never left our yard, even where there was a hole in one of the wooden fences.

    Wooded lot = perfect place to breed raccoons. When we first had the chickens, we bought a Poultry Butler automatic door for their coop so we wouldn't have to open it every morning at sunrise. Once or twice, before we had it on a timer, the light sensor closed the coop door too early, and when my boyfriend and I both got home well after dark, all our chickens were lined up on the ladder going into the coop, while raccoons were eating their food around them. Neither animal seemed to care about the other. A couple times when the coop door did not close we found a baby raccoon inside the coop trying to eat chicken food, but it was being attacked by the chickens and it ran away. We have found egg shells and egg whites in the boxes sometimes when the coons have gotten inside the coop, likely during the day, but never have we seen the raccoons actually interested in the chickens themselves. Now the automatic door is broken so we have to close off the coop door and open it at sunset and sunrise. PS, don't buy that door.


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    (Whitey is just to the left of the pot)

    So...I went to give the chickens extra scratch and to collect eggs yesterday afternoon, got distracted, and left the bottom of the coop open about 6" or 8", the back door open, and forgot to close the front coop door that night. I saw all 8 of my chickens then. We did not check on them until this morning. My boyfriend went to see them before he went to work, and noticed Whitey was missing. She is a Buff Orpington, not very big, but still relatively heavy (too heavy to fly over the 4' welded wire fence). She is the only one of our buffs who doesnt mind being picked up and pet. Whitey is gone. No body parts, no blood, no feathers, no sign of a struggle. At all. We didn't hear any chicken noises last night or this morning. I looked around the wooded lot a bit, we looked all over our yard, I took a walk down the street and around to the road behind our back neighbors, looking for a body or something for some closure. Nothing.

    We do have a lot of raccoons but they have never been interested in the chickens, only eggs. We have caught several and transported far away, and have shot a few also. We do have possums, but we have only caught one in a trap. We have seen hawks occasionally, but only a couple times have they been in the trees around our yard, looking at the chickens. The chickens always run for cover when they see the hawks high above them in the sky, let alone in the trees. I doubt there are coyotes this close to downtown. I wouldn't doubt that there are foxes, but there is no where to drag the body away; a fox or a raccoon or a coyote or any other land animal would have had to eat the chicken in the fenced area or carry it over the chain link fence, which would have surely left a mess.

    Our right side neighbors are Latin American and at one point recently had two chickens, which have since disappeared. I am not sure if they ate them or if they went somewhere else. They seem nice and have helped us a little with our yard, earnestly try to get us to have some Modelo with them when we are working in the front yard, and other than a little too much mariachi music, are fine neighbors. We don't speak spanish so it is a little awkward sometimes. Over the past summer my boyfriends mother house/chicken sat for us and said she thought someone was stealing eggs, but once she zip tied one of the front gates closed, she didnt have another issue. I am not sure but I dont think they took Whitey.

    At the moment the other front gate is only a metal frame; we are in the process of rebuilding it. However, there are no tracks at all whatsoever anywhere near the gate. It rained yesterday so tracks would be very visible.

    Is it really possible that a hawk grabbed our whitey and the other chickens are already back to normal? Wouldnt they we scared, or skittish, or make a different clucking noise? They are acting as if nothing happened. I really hope I find our Whitey bird but it doesn't look like she is coming back. I didn't see any chicken holes in the wooded lot...

    Sorry for the novel...writing all this is a little cathartic. If you have an opinion on what happened to her, please post. I just wish I had my Whiteybird :-(

    Thanks all.
     
  2. snowflake

    snowflake Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Belding Michigan
    Coons will eat chickens. as will possum owl, hawk, and a ## or other critters. coon could carry it away with out trouble, hawks usually kill on the spot, an orpington would be a bit heavy to carry away, a full grown coon could do it, if the coop was left open an owl could have gotten in also, perhaps you could put some netting over the top of your run, the heavier bird netting can be sip stripped on to you wire with out to much effort. could be snake also if you have any lg enough in your area, It is really hard to say. you may also want to put some welded wire 1/4 in. wire around the bottom to keep coons and possom out of your run, I have seen possom go through areas that you would think impossible. if she flw over the fence a dog or other critter could have carried her off.
    You may never know what got her but what ever it was may be back for more [​IMG]
     
  3. whiteybird

    whiteybird Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 16, 2013
    Sarasota, FL
    Thanks for your reply Snowflake.

    I just dont get why there is NOTHING left of her. It is like she never existed. I don't see how a coon or possum or any other animal with four legs could have gotten the body past any of the fences. The welded wire is 1"x2"; if the predator could get through, this chicken wouldn't (not in one piece). Ntm there would be a trail of feathers or something if it was dragged through or up and over the fence. If any of those animals ate her there would be traces left behind, if not a carcass. There is no sign of a disruption inside the coop either.

    Hawk seems like the likeliest scenario, but wouldn't my other chickens be creeped out for a while after the attack? Hiding and such? Maybe Whitey got taken last night before everyone went to sleep, and that's why the other chickens are acting like nothing happened, because they woke up this morning without her? Wouldnt there be some sort of mark where the hawk picked the chicken up and the chicken struggled to get away?

    I guess I'll just wish her the best and hope I can scare the hawk away when it comes back for more...if thats what it was...
     
  4. Kev

    Kev Overrun With Chickens

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    highly doubt hawk. they typically struggle with the bird if it fights and leave "halos" of feathers by standing on and plucking on the spot. they also cannot really fly off with a bird as big as a large hen without some effort. often a hawk will pluck and take apart the carcass some to make it lighter for flying off with.

    my guess would be human or bobcat. I've had bobcat attacks, they never left much trace of anything- it was like the birds completely disappeared, save for finding 2 or 3 feathers a good distance away from the usual area. they are also very strong and are more than capable of carrying a chicken over those fences- I have 6 foot chainlink all around and that does not stop a bobcat at all. They took *adult* chinese geese with no trace of struggle in the yard and never found their carcasses(some buried some of their prey(it was muscovy ducks) inside the yard- they cover them surprisingly well.. found some by scent a couple days later. and my back yard is completely bare of anything large, save for one bush and 1-2 foot tall grassy weeds). they have also went for some of my peafowl when I had some free range.. a couple also disappeared with only a tell tale sign of a clump of 3 wing feathers right by the fence.

    I recall reading a long time ago that bobcats were causing problems with attempted reintroduction of whooping cranes or is it sand hill cranes in florida? there was just so many bobcats and they were going after even the adults.

    btw as for possible egg theft, leave some eggs on purpose and see if they disappear or not.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2013
  5. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    She may be sitting on a clutch of eggs that she hid or stole away. Without more evidence the only other thing that I can suggest is that she may have become a quesadilla.

    That all said: I have even had hens steal a nest under the hood of a truck only to hop out when I stopped. One of them even survived long enough to steal a second clutch of eggs in the shrubbery where I banked and I was able to catch her and carry her home again when she started setting.
     
  6. whiteybird

    whiteybird Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 16, 2013
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    Hmm. I just assumed a bobcat wouldn't be this close to downtown. Our road connects two well traveled main roads. Drive 3/4 of a mile and you're on main street. Do they really wander that close to developed areas? I just read a post on another website about a woman a town or two south of us who saw a semi skittish bobcat in her development and mentioned her neighbor's ducks kept going missing. I also just read about how they can scale tall fences...maybe youre right.

    I didn't think to check the ground for a burial spot...we have a lot of hay (it was free) that we put down in the chickens pen, which could possibly hide a dug up and recovered hole.

    Kev, when you had your chinese geese go missing, how did you know to suspect bobcats? Was there really nothing to tip you off except missing fowl? Maybe my bf and I just didn't know to look for clues until we or our other birds had erased them.

    Btw, yes we (or I) call them sand hill cranes, though I have heard whooping cranes too, and I haven't heard of them having an issue with hungry bobcats.
     
  7. Kev

    Kev Overrun With Chickens

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    The first time, I was completely puzzled over the missing ducks and geese.. walked all over my yard and looked into the neighbors yards.... until I let my dogs into the backyard later.. they became very excited, smelling all over the place and the terrier started baying at the large bush in the back.. it was the bobcat holing up for the day with one exposed duck carcass. Boy was I ever so shocked(which turned into a livid feeling, lol). I walked right by that bush and never noticed the bobcat. it was so well camo'd.

    After that, when something seemed to totally disappear, I'd suspect bobcat and get out in the yard really early in the morning- most time I'd see a bobcat slinking away.. although I did see one at 11AM, he was walking across the neighbor's yard in the back, with a nice saunter and his tail was up doing little twitches just like a short tailed huge house cat(that was the one that went after free range peacocks).

    A couple times I never saw the individual bobcat(lets say the others never ate birds again) but knew by birds magically disappearing and also discovering an extremely well covered up carcass by smell a couple days later.

    I'm not adjoining any wilderness area or yards 'let go'... it's semi rural area with all houses on one or two acres with many streets criscrossing all around and most of them scrape or spray their whole yards to keep them bare of weeds. It's also basically a desert out here, almost all trees and bushes were planted so there's not exactly a whole lot of cover like in a wooded area. Yet almost nobody ever sees them. I probably would have never knew they were here if it weren't for free range birds.

    Her being broody and setting on a hidden nest could be a possibility... if you see her again and she is acting and sounds different(very noisy, fluffed up and with the most awful smelling poop) she's broody.. follow her back to nest to either secure it or destroy it and confine her to coop for safety- the raccoons WILL find and kill her.
     
  8. Kev

    Kev Overrun With Chickens

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    Sun City, California
  9. whiteybird

    whiteybird Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 16, 2013
    Sarasota, FL
    Still no sign of whitey, which basically puts the last nail in her figurative coffin. It's gotten really cold here over the weekend (high of 50 today), relatively speaking, which is making the raccoons somewhat desperate. they have been digging like crazy in the chickens area, looking for who knows what. I'm wandering back to the idea that they took Whitey, but there is still NO evidence at all. there is a drop of egg yolk on the chickens door frame on the front of the coop, but that's egg, not chicken, and it could be old anyway. I would think they/she'd have left feathers behind. and why wouldn't they have just pulled her out of the coop and eaten her there instead of trying to drag her over the fence?
     
  10. lmattke

    lmattke Out Of The Brooder

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    If it were me, I wouldn't trust those raccoons for a moment, even if in the past you think they have not been interested in the chickens. You may want to consider the Nite Guard, which could help deter (not prevent) predators accessing your area.

    http://www.niteguard.com/
     

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