What is killing my chickens?!


In the Brooder
Apr 13, 2016
This is my first experience with predators. The past two nights I have lost a chicken a night.

The first one, a young rooster, tried to fly into the run wall where there is a small hole (cut into the wire by us to allow easy access to the chicken door) to get away from whatever it was and got his leg stuck and was hanging upside down on the outside of the run. His head, leg, and insides were eaten. There was no obvious point of entry. In the struggle the door to the run was nudged slightly open, but not big enough for the chickens to get out. We locked the run door and tightened up anywhere we thought it might have gotten in.

This morning i woke up to another dead chicken. This one was up against the back on the run, the head was probably pulled through the wire, but it was missing. It doesn't look like the insides are eaten. There is no point of entry. The entire coop is locked up tight. Feathers are everywhere though and the inside of the coop is a mess.

I don't understand how this predator is killing my chickens if it can't get into the coop. Or what this predator is since both kills were very different. The rooster that was hanging, I think more was eaten because more of his body was accessible since he was on the outside. But my hen was grabbed and pulled up to the wire of the coop.

This is a picture of my coop.

This is my access to the coop and the best boxes. The boxes have a latch and the side door is secured shut with wire.

Can anyone help me? I don't know what to do!
Where are you located? Many predators are location specific.
Raccoons are good at pulling parts of a bird through the wire if they can reach them.
A mink or weasel can squeeze through wire that size but it isn't one of those because they kill every animal in the building without eating anything.

What do you have for ventilation in the coop? I don't see any windows.
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What does bottom of coop look like? Possibly a pallet? Are all birds going into coop at night? It appears to be one that will go dark very fast. If birds not going in at night then several predator types can grab birds through your run perimeter. Consider putting some hotwire directly on the run to keep predator away even when chickens are not where they are supposed to be.
Right off the bat, I see a big gap in the run fence where it attaches to the corner post. You'd be surprised how small a gap predators can get through. The mesh on that fence seems really big, too. What size is that mesh? Also, you said you have a hole in the fence so you can reach in to open the door. If your hand can go though the hole, a predator can easily fit through.

How is the roof ventilated (or for that matter, how is the whole coop ventilated)? If you have open soffits that aren't covered with hardware cloth, that's another entry point. What kind of latch is on that big side panel in the bottom picture? I can't tell from the picture if there is even a latch on it. Hook and eye, slide bolts, and hasp latches are easy-peasy for a raccoon to open.
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"What kind of latch is on that big side panel in the bottom picture? I can't tell from the picture if there is even a latch on it. Hook and eye, slide bolts, and hasp latches are easy-peasy for a raccoon to open."
In addition to that dubious looking latch on the big side panel, what is preventing raccoon from prying open the plyboard from the corners? If you can pull on those corners to create an opening so can a raccoon.
Good points.
I had a raccoon pry the siding off of a coop.
I've also had raccoons chew a hole through a pop door to kill and eat a bird, then mink came in and slaughtered the rest.
Question for the OP......do your birds go in the coop at night or do they roost outside? Maybe on the ground? If they were inside, and predator was outside the run, why would they be flying around trying to flee? If outside and on the ground, it would be easy for a raccoon to reach through what appears to be 2" x 4" wire to nab one, which would then raise enough ruckus the rest would try to flee, get a head partially out of the wire to be nabbed. It could also be happening at dusk or dawn as the birds stick their heads out to peck at the green stuff on the outside, where the head is then grabbed. I suspect a hungry chicken would be dumb enough to do that with a coon standing right there. He just has to wait long enough and one probably would.

First order of business in either case is to do the tighten up. New wire for the run.......since you already have a problem, I might skip past the 1" x 2" stuff and go straight to the 1/2" x 1" 14 gauge welded wire fence. Note this is heavier than the 17 gauge 1/2" hardware cloth. It is what I have on mine and I have coons around all the time and none have harmed any birds. You could re-purpose the stuff you have now by making an apron from it. Fold it into an L shape, with the upright leg attached to the run and all around the perimeter. The bottom part laid flat on the ground out at least 2 feet or more....... with those rocks and such piled above it. That will prevent any diggers from going under the edges of the run. Can't reach in, can't dig under, can't go over.....can't get in.

Second order of business would be to address the issue of light and ventilation for the coop. Birds won't use it (or won't want to) unless it works for them. Dark and damp is no good. Light, bright and dry are. With a bomb proof tight run, you could expand the pop door to make it almost that entire end wall and it would be in improvement. Depending on climate, you might even replace some of the plywood sides with the same 1/2" x 1" wire to increase both light and ventilation. Perhaps that entire triangle of plywood under the gable and above the run?

These are seemingly very small changes, but will make all the difference in the world.
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