What got into the chicken pen and killed 2 hens?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Steve777, Jan 13, 2015.

  1. Steve777

    Steve777 Out Of The Brooder

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    We've had this inherited flock for a bit over a year and a half, and this is the first predator loss. There is a small hen house (4x8') which sits in a old dog (30x80') run which has 6' tall chain link fence around it. We lock the door to the hen house each night. Up until today it has been fairly predator proof.

    Things were fine this AM when I opened the door and refreshed their feed. When I went to lock the house door this evening, no one was in the coop, and there were a bunch of feathers in the coop and outside too. It was about 25F and lightly snowing, so the hens should have been inside. I did some searching and found two live hens huddled in a corner of the run. I picked one up and put it back in the coop and the other followed, they were obviously shaken up and one seemed to have lost some feathers, no blood or injuries that I could see but I did not subject them to a thorough inspection. Still 3 hens missing, but the two live ones were safe in the coop with the door locked.

    I searched the pen and outside. I found two dead hens, in opposite corners of the pen. Both were whole, and appear to have broken necks. No blood on the ground or signs anyone had started eating them. I searched but could not find any trace of the 3rd missing hen. Also inspected the perimeter fence of the pen, and there were no signs of a hole dug underneath. Nothing that would allow a skunk or fox through, and certainly nothing big enough to fit the missing hen through.There is some snow on the ground still although it is fairly hard, but I have been seeing occasional canine paw prints around the pen, probably a fox as one has been seen around.

    My first question is, what critter did the killing here? There are bobcats and mountain lions in the area, certainly one of those could have climbed the chain link fence in and out, but does their killing pattern match what was found. A fox maybe, I have heard that they can climb fences. Lots of neighbor dogs, but none that could have gotten into the locked fence (unless a neighbor let it in and then back out, very unlikely). House cat? There are a few around but they don't travel much due to coyote pressure. And what would have killed 3 hens but only taken away one?

    Thoughts ideas?

    And of course, how to prevent this in the future?
     
  2. Steve777

    Steve777 Out Of The Brooder

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    Opps, title should have read "...killed 3 hens"
     
  3. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    Fox and coyote both will go over your 6' fence with no problem at all. Along with any other predator that decides it want's a chicken dinner. Whatever it was, It will be back for more.
     
  4. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    x2. Now that you've had this occur, keep the survivors in their predator proof (I hope!) coop until you beef up security in your run, and eliminate the current predator. Buy or rent a large live trap or two, bait them with dead bird or cat food or whatever, and shoot the culprit if you catch him. And fix your run. Mary
     
  5. Steve777

    Steve777 Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks. I'd planned on keeping the coop door closed for a while, should be pretty good protection (may add a second latch just to be sure).

    Live trap sounds like the way to go, I just don't know what size I need, not knowing if it's a coyote/fox/bobcat. Perhaps I can eliminate coyote, since the feathers inside the coop point (I think) to someone getting in there, and the only opening is an 11"x 11" door for the birds. A fox could go thru that, but I don't think a coyote or a bobcat can. That make sense?

    Steve
     
  6. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    Yes they could, although a smaller predator is more likely because you did find bodies. I have medium and large traps, but not the huge dog sized one. They can be rented though. Be prepared to shoot if needed. mary
     
  7. HotDesertChick

    HotDesertChick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Buy a game camera, to watch over your remaining chickens. Infrared game cams can be bought at a fair price, and will allow you to recognize what you are up against. An important point. There is no point in buying a live trap, if you don't know what is likely to be your "catch".

    Foxes require large/long double-end-opening traps. Like Jackrabbits, they are hesitant to enter something that they can not see through. My "Jack/fox trap" readily captures much smaller animals such as cottontails, if smaller "offenders" enter the trap. If you are dealing with a coyote, or dog, then try to find a rental trap, or contact an agency such as Fish & Game, etc.

    The killer WILL be back, as he/she had a bang-up good time, followed by a yummy meal. I.D.'ing the offending varmint is the first step? Merely setting out a live trap, and perhaps accidentally capturing the neighbor's cat may not point to the animal that attacked your chickens.
     
  8. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

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    My Coop
    If I am reading this correctly your enclosure is only of chain link? Do you you have any wire with smaller openings re-enforcing any part of the enclosure (ie hardware cloth around the lowest 2-3 feet)? With chain link fencing you have to consider not only those that can go over - chain link provides a near perfect "ladder" for climbing - the fence but the many common predators who can pass right through it with no problem at all. The openings in chain link are such that they can squeeze right through and the spaces most commonly found at joints/corners, etc are easily used to gain access to the interior. I also notice that you don't mention overhead cover - so if the top is open you also need to consider aerial predators.
    I second the suggestion of a game cam - folks are often shocked at what wanders through their formerly thought of as "predator free" yards at night when they put up a game cam. Knowing your enemy is half the battle.
    In addition to that, if you were to post photos of your setup we can help you identify areas that are not as secure as you think they are and suggest ways to better protect your flock because, as said, once a predator finds an easy meal they will return for another trip through the buffet.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2015
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  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    All reads like a canid that may easily be stopped by electrifying the perimeter. Simple hot-wire properly placed or poultry netting should stop most.
     
  10. blucoondawg

    blucoondawg Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My chain link run works fine, makes for a good strong run, ya things might climb it but I do have netting on mine to keep owls out. I'd be concerned with bobcat or fox as far as climbing. Coyote aren't as good a climbers and if it is a coyote they're not very willing to enter a box trap, you would be better off with leg hold traps providing you know how to use them, coyotes are very smart when it comes to trapping. Keep an eye out for tracks if you have snow, the animals in question will all have very distinctive tracks, should be easy to tell what it is.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2015
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