What could this be -- chickens dead and missing.

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by MaiaA, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. MaiaA

    MaiaA Out Of The Brooder

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    May 17, 2009
    Yesterday morning my neighbor opened her coop and found a young chick/hen dead. Legs stretched out behind it, in a nesting box. Around dinner time last night she went back to the coop to check on everyone and found a full-grown hen, that was fine earlier, now also dead. She was in the middle of the coop, laying down, head tucked in to her wing. Both had not a single mark on them.

    This morning she went out to open up the coop and all of her chickens were huddled against a back wall and a head count revealed that another young one was missing. No signs of trauma, and the coop was fully locked up. We cannot figure out what it could be, as there were no signs of the coop being breeched. One of her hens was locked up separately, in the barn, last night and she is the only one acting normal. Hours later, and not one of the chickens will leave the coop . . .they are all in there and unusually quiet, even the rooster.

    Soon after, I realized that one of my hens was also missing (I have her on surveillance video this morning . . .so she disappeared mid-morning today, while lots of cars were coming and going, the trash truck came by, and lots of people walking in an out of the house, even our dog was in and out during that time). No feather pile. Nothing. And all of my remaining hens are hunkered down and not venturing out either.

    I believe a hawk killed my rooster last week (I didn't see it happen but came upon the hawk on a post nearby the body of the rooster) but the neighbor still has a rooster. I have a sinking feeling this is all related . . .it seems too much a coincindence for it all to happen at once. But I can't seem to figure out what it could be.

    My goal is to understand what it is that we are losing chickens to, and then I think I'll work on getting another rooster.

    Any thoughts? Ideas and suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. ChickyBangBang

    ChickyBangBang Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I say this on all my posts so it's probably getting repetitive, but I feel it's important. I am brand new to raising chickens and anything I say should be taken with a grain of salt.

    I'm very sorry about your chickens and your neighbor's chickens.

    This will sound crazy and you'll think I'm insane, but I wouldn't be so sure there's not a snake going between yours, and your neighbor's chickens. You said there's no visible markings on the animals, but if I were you, I would check their corpses for signs of internal injuries (such as being squeezed to death) IE: broken bones or discoloration of the skin under the feathers, etc. These injuries often can't be seen unless you specifically look for them.

    YES - snakes can burrow underground quite easily - most snakes are just lazy and prefer rocks and crevices. We used to have a corn snake and a friend has a python and both of them burrowed a lot.

    ...it's not just Boaconstrictors that squeeze their prey to death - there are lots of constricting snakes all over the world, including the US. Kingsnakes have even been known to constrict their prey (though it's not their normal method). Something as simple and seemingly harmless as a corn snake have even been known to squeeze their prey.

    Snakes are not as "aggressive" as people think, either. A snake happily constricting it's prey, and then getting clucked at by 20 chickens can and probably will change it's mind and take off....hence the bodies.

    If chickens are missing and the coop hasn't been breeched ....I would start removing everything near the ground of the coop and looking for snake holes. I'd also remove nesting boxes and anything else that creates 'crannies' for hiding spots and look carefully for any signs of snakes. IE: snakeskins. Their poop is similar looking to chicken poop actually - but chickens don't poop in cracks and crevices, snakes do.

    Snakes in colder climates also like to lay low in places that are safe and dry and have a food source from October to February (ish) because of the winter.

    Also - does your coop have a floor or is it straight into the grass? And...is it up off the ground even in the slightest? (like on top of pallets or bricks, etc)? I'd look underneath it too.

    My other thought was Coccidiosis because chickens huddle together when they are sick with Cocci and other illnesses, because they don't feel well. Oftentimes they're fine one day and succumb to it the next. I'd look at their droppings and make sure there's no old blood in it (but even so, sometimes chickens with Cocci never advance it to the point where there is blood in their droppings). If your neighbor has chickens that are sick with Cocci or another illness, they (neighbors) can easily bring it to your chickens. All they have to do is stand on your porch and knock on your door. :( If they stepped in chicken feces of a chicken infected, and then you step where they stepped...on your porch even...then it's on your shoes too. From shoe to yard, from yard to chicken.

    So sorry about your chickens.

    Personally - I think it's a snake and I don't know why I think that, but I do.[​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2012
  3. ChickyBangBang

    ChickyBangBang Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This has been driving me up a wall since I read it. [​IMG] ...and they're not even my chickens, I can't imagine what you must feel.

    I would assume sickness, except I'm sure that was the first thing you thought of - and the chickens were cleared of sickness (an ailment of some sort instead of a predator would make the most sense)...but I would assume your neighbors would clear them of any disease/ailment right away with the discovery of the first chicken, right??

    My husband says "check for spider bite entries and scorpion stings" but --- that doesn't explain why your chickens would be missing. It DOES explain dead without obvious injury, but not missing chickens. Neither of those things just take off carrying a chicken (that would have to be one HUGE spider to just trot off with a whole chicken!!)

    I still think it's snake(s) o.o

    Please update us when you find out what is causing this!! I keep signing off to watch a movie, read a book (stare at my eggs)....and I keep coming back to this blinkin' thread.

    If I were you I'd be completely freaked out (not trying to freak you out). =/

    There are all kinds of reasons chickens die, from being eggbound to mites to lice to all sorts of things, but the fact that some are now gone missing, but no signs of struggle or feathers scattered or blood, etc - that's the part that has me just stumped.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2012
  4. MaiaA

    MaiaA Out Of The Brooder

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    May 17, 2009
    Thanks for the thoughts. . . Hmmm . . .I had considered a snake (though I've rarely seen any in this area, and those I have seen were tiny). What I don't get is why the chickens were huddled on the floor. It seems like a snake sighting would cause them to get up on the roost, away from the snake. But I don't know if that logic is sound.

    My girls are all acting normally today, and no losses overnight. The neighbor also suffered no losses, though all of her mama hens are keeping thier "babies" inside today. The rooster finally came out, as did some of the other hens, but even those out of the coop are staying tucked away under the bushes today.

    To answer your other questions, the chicken house is raised, inside a fenced coop. It is up on legs, so no snake hidey-holes under there anywhere. The coop is fully-fenced with hardware cloth on the bottom two feet (over chicken wire that extends to the top) and fencing on top as well.

    We are definitely freaked out here. It's hard to rest easy when you don't know what it is you are battling for your chickens. And it's difficult to prevent losses when our previously impenetrable coops are obviously not safe anymore.
     
  5. theGrizzFan

    theGrizzFan Out Of The Brooder

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    Missouri Ozarks
    Raccoons often carry off chickens to eat them. They are more nimble than most people realize. If you do a radius search from your coop you may find the remains and know for sure. When raccoons hit my chickens they took them about 20 yards away to a stone fence, which is like a small predator highway. Weasels and raccoons often use stone fences to travel on.
    Which state do you live in and are you rural, urban, etc? Different areas have different predators and it might help the people here to narrow down the possible offenders. You could also have a combination of things going on.
    Best of luck to you.
     
  6. cubbysan

    cubbysan Chillin' With My Peeps

    I had a snake twice in my duck house this summer. One of the times I think I locked the ducks in there all night with him, when I let them out in the morning, they wouldn't come out, they were not quacking, and they were huddled in one corner together. I opened the roof to find a snake ( about 10 ft ) curled on the other corner. I had animal control take care of him, fortunately this snake was only looking for the eggs. Then when I was on vacation, my neighbors were taking care of the ducks and the same thing happened.

    Now if the ducks are hesitating to go to bed at night, I always check the house to make sure it is snake free. This is the first time we have seen snakes in two and half years of having ducks.
     
  7. MaiaA

    MaiaA Out Of The Brooder

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    May 17, 2009
    Grizz, I am in Oregon. Rural/semi-rural. We are on 5 acres, but there are four of us with houses relatively close together (and each of us has the bulk of our land on the opposite sides of the house from the side that is near the neighbors). There is always quite a bit of activity with cars, dogs and people coming and going . . .which is why I am so baffled by something swiping a chicken mid-morning, on a particularly busy morning, and not being seen. And for it to completely evade security cameras just blows my mind! I can only guess that I am not seeing it because I'm not really knowing what to look for.

    We have lost a chicken to a raccoon in the past but boy did they leave a bloody mess behind . .. awful! I walked a huge area around the coop . . .about 10-15 acres in total. Nothing! Not a shred of evidence. It's been hot and dry here, so it's not as if the rain washed away the evidence. I will do some more investigating re: snakes in this area . . .I suppose it is possible, though I know many chicken owners and no one has ever had a problem with them. Cubbysan, your description of your ducks' behavior sounds exactly like the chickens yesterday. I will check the coops for snakes in the morning, I guess.

    We also have weasels, I am told, though I've never seen one, nor evidence of one. Though this time of year there is no water nearby, and I'm under the impression they need water. You'll also see the occasional possum, though I've never actually seen one on our property anywhere. And my reading tells me that these predators typically leave a mess.

    By late afternoon today everyone was back to normal. Now we just sit and wait for something else to happen . . . <sigh>.

    Thanks for your input. I'll be sure to post again if we ever figure out what it was.
     
  8. theGrizzFan

    theGrizzFan Out Of The Brooder

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    Missouri Ozarks
    When I had a raccoon problem they were rather stealthy, leaving little to no sign until I caught them in the act. Once the nights start getting colder they are on the push to fatten up for the winter and will be more bold. I've never had hawks get them, but I've seen one (redtail) fly off with a rabbit so I would venture to guess that they could carry off most chickens as well. I mention hawks and raccoons for the simple reason that they were the most common chicken stealers when I had birds in upstate New York. Less people hunt and trap so predators are much more common now than a few decades ago. I also wouldn't be surprised if it was a fox as they can jump and are good climbers. - This was posted by Deerman on the forum here on 7-17-09.
     
  9. Enchanted Sunrise Farms

    Enchanted Sunrise Farms Overrun With Chickens

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    i think you and your neighbor may have a couple of unrelated issues going on. When you find chickens dead with no sign of predators, they should be necropsied for illness. If you check with your State Vet, many times there are places, like the one we have located at a local University, that will perform free necropsies. Unless i know for sure what killed one of my birds, i take them there. It is so helpful to know if you have something communicable in your flock, or to put your mind at ease that it was something you could not prevent, like cancer or some congenital issue. It's too late i'm sure to necropsy those dead birds. Maybe you can take a fecal sample in to a vet from your flock. That will tell you if you have worms or coccidiosis or something else going on that can be treated.

    i've been pondering the missing chicken(s) and wondering if you may have a two-legged predator in the neighborhood. It sounds like your coop is plenty secure from other predators. Do you have a lock on the pen door? You may want to consider that. i've read plenty of stories here about people losing chickens to hungry adults or mischievous kids.

    In any case, i am so sorry for you and your neighbor's loss. Hope you get to the bottom of it.
     

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