What got my best EE hen

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by StephanieC, Jan 31, 2015.

  1. StephanieC

    StephanieC Out Of The Brooder

    May 8, 2014

    Yesterday, sometime in the afternoon or early evening, something got my Spot, my beautiful black and white EE hen. I did not get home until half an hour after dark, and when I went to close the coop Spot was missing from the roost. The coop is in a large yard surrounded by a 4' field fence. I ran the fence line looking for her in case she had flown over and couldn't get back, but sadly all I found was a large clump of her feathers right at the bottom of a fence post, jammed up against the outside of the fence and the pole. There seemed not to be a carcass, just the clump of feathers. There were a couple of feathers three feet up the pole, and a couple glued to the fence wire, stuck there because of some blood at the feathers' base, but otherwise no blood.

    By the time I took the photo in the morning, the feather clump was dispersed and thinner so the photo doesn't look like what I found last night but it does show the location.

    Three months ago I lost another hen to predation, but that time she simply vanished without a trace.

    What is likely to have gotten Spot? I cried all night. She had so much personality, was so fun, and laid beautiful 62gram eggs.
  2. Rocky64

    Rocky64 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 25, 2015
    Hi, sorry about your loss. Considering there are feathers strewn about, Spot must have put up a fight. It might be a fox, any bird I've lost to a fox was taken and a pile of feathers remained, but a hawk is possible as they pounce birds, scattering feathers. If it was a fox you could maybe find and follow a trail of feathers that lead you to the killers den. I have done that before and that fox is no longer around.
  3. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    The crime scene is consistent with a K9 attach. I would suspect that your hen attempted to flee to safety but fences used to protect chickens become death traps if a predator can pin or fix a hen against the wire.
  4. chixmaidservice

    chixmaidservice Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 13, 2013
    Sorry for your loss... predators seem to have a sixth sense as to which are the most "valuable" hens, and they seem to get the favorites every time. As you say your coop is inside the fence you have pictured, I am not thinking dog or fox as your fence seems tight to the ground. I vote hawk/ owl. Outside chance of a raccoon climbing over but unlikely that he could climb out w/ the carcass. I believe there is a small diameter tree hiding caty -corner to the fence post, check branches to see if there is blood or feathers as I suspect whatever raptor took her may have landed there or on top of post since you say there was bloody feathers up on the fence wire above the pile of feathers. Very hard to defend against sky predators, I lost one of my 2 copper maran hens to a raptor last month.
  5. StephanieC

    StephanieC Out Of The Brooder

    May 8, 2014
    Thanks to all who responded.

    Let me clarify, the feathers were not scattered. They were quite tightly bunched in a spot about 18" in diameter, directly below the fence post and against the outside of the fence.

    There was no sign of any track or disturbance at ground level at all. There is no way any kind of fight could have taken place without disturbing the ground there. There was just the pile of feathers, which looked as if large bunches had been torn out of her skin all at once. Like if someone grabbed a handul of your hair and ripped It out, then did that all over your head, and dumped it right on the ground in one spot.

    There were feathers three feet above the ground, with blood on their ends, that had stuck to the fence post and the fence wire. To all appearances, whatever caught her looked to have stood on the fence post and ripped her feathers out.

    Our fence is very secure to the ground, but having said that, Spot flies over the fence quite regularly so it is possible she was outside the fence when taken...but again, there was no sign of any disturbance on the ground surrounding where the feather pile was. I should emphasize that there are fallen leaves about six inches deep in that area for at least ten feet in all directions so it is hard for anything to move through there without it showing. Especially if it was anything like a struggle or fight.

    There are no foxes around here that we know of, and if a dog had come through our property, my own dogs would have gone ballistic and surely run it off long before it got near the chickens. So I am pretty skeptical that a dog or fox could have been involved. The only 4-legged predators we have are bobcats, raccoons (rare) and possums. None of which could get into my yard during the day without my dogs raising hell. The dogs are indoors, but they have dog doors directly into the chicken yard all day and they hear anything that moves outside and quickly respond.

    Spot was not taken out of the coop, whatever happened took place in daylight or at dusk.
  6. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    I'm voting a 'snatch and grab' predator - fox, coyote, bobcat. You may not see them, but it is very likely that there are fox and even coyote where you live. If they can survive in major cities, they can survive/thrive anywhere.
  7. bawkbawkbawk

    bawkbawkbawk Chillin' With My Peeps

    Very sorry for your loss.

    I recently lost a beloved young hen to a predator in broad daylight. It happened really fast and there was no warning from the rest of the flock. My (beautiful but useless) Golden Retriever was outside at the time and she never moved a muscle so she was completely unaware of whatever it was that came under or over the fence. We have coyotes in our neighborhood although I think the small opening under our fence (since repaired, the skunks had loosened it) would have been too small for a coyote and I haven't seen them come over the top of the fence, although I suppose anything is possible. I am beginning to think it might have been a bobcat, as there have been some recent sightings in our area.

    I think the big cluster of feathers tends to be from the bird's "fright molt" as they are grabbed. We found a huge pile of feathers at the site where our hen was taken, and then a trail of feathers that led through the yard to the area under our solar panels for our pool where the animal evidently took and consumed her.

    I have come outside in the very early a.m.'s lately to a musky animal smell that is quite different from the usual skunk odor in our yard. And something tipped over our stone birdbath bowl the other night - so whatever is lurking is big enough to do that. I know some people install night cameras although I don't think we are allowed to go vigilante on predators here anyway, so probably doesn't really matter which type of predator it is.

    So now I only let my girls out to free-range if I am outside with them. Easy enough for me since I don't work, but not a realistic long-term solution. The hens love having me out there with them, but the perks of being a "chicken shepherd" are few and far between...
  8. StephanieC

    StephanieC Out Of The Brooder

    May 8, 2014
    Thank you for writing, bawk bawk bawk. I have come to realize that these things can happen very fast, and that it really doesn't matter what it was because, short of keeping the chickens locked up all the time, there is little to be done about it. My neighbors have had ten chickens for a whole year and lost none to predators, and theirs free range completely, all day, with no fence at all. Yet I have lost two in 9 months.

    I have been watching for any sign of whatever got Spot, but all has been quiet, unlike your situation. There is no sign of anything out of the ordinary.

    I warned my now-7-year-old granddaughter not to get attached to the chickens when we got them as day old chicks last Easter. She didn't, and has taken each loss in stride. I cannot say the same. The first one I lost was genetically defective and never matured, never laid, and had chronic diarrhea, so although I loved her, the loss was easier to take. Spot was loaded with personality, was exceptionally beautiful, laid exceptional eggs and I will never forget her flying up to stand on the peak of the A-frame coop like the queen of the world, something none of the other chickens did. I miss her!

    I won't give up free ranging. better a short full life than a long trapped one.
  9. Cluckies

    Cluckies Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    Jul 3, 2014
    My Coop
    For their penned in area, I would recommend hardware cloth attached to the field wire fence, and I would probably put at least bird netting over the top so they can't fly over the fence and only let them free range when you are out there with them. So sorry for your loss. she sounds wonderful. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2015
  10. StephanieC

    StephanieC Out Of The Brooder

    May 8, 2014

    She was.... That penned in area is large, I think about 100' square, so bird netting would be hard. To do anything other than free range would mean a new coop and run, but I have considered it. However, I do not think my present flock would tolerate confinement, as they have never known it. They fuss like prisoners to be let out at dawn, and yell at me if I am late.

    So much to think about...

    I have learned almost the hard way that raptors are not intimidated by human or dog presence. When my chicks were very small, I brought them out to my front yard and put them in a dog X-pen (temporary low fence with no top). I was sitting right next to them in a beach chair when a small hawk dove on them and very nearly got one of them. I was stunned that my presence there had been almost useless. By the time I was jumped up and screaming, the hawk was a foot from the targeted chick. Had I been farther away, or not looking for even half a second, the chick would have been gone.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2015

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