What is killing my flock?!?!??!

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by CDennis, Dec 18, 2013.

  1. CDennis

    CDennis Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 1, 2009
    I have caught several skunks and foxes in the past but I thought both animals only hunted at night. Within the last 24 hours I have had two large roosters end up dead (missing heads in my pasture), and 3 ducks are gone without a trace. The animals are all cooped at night and the ducks are even locked inside a dog kennel in the coop so it's occuring after they are let out in the morning. My husband let them out at 0800 got home at 1030 and another duck was missing! We live in rural Idaho. I know we have coyotes around but I have never witnessed one on my property. I don't think foxes hunt in packs....we have had a Great Horned Owl around but I'm not sure it would take something as large as a full grown duck. Any ideas what might be killing my flock. I have always allowed them to free range during the day and then locked them down at night. I'm not sure what I can do now to protect them!!!! :(
  2. CasadasHens

    CasadasHens Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 4, 2013
    My neighbours and I in Portugal have both lost chickens during the daytime to foxes..........
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    All five of those were killed this morning between 8:00 and 10:30? Or was it six? Or were some of those killed over the past several days? I feel like I don’t understand your timeline.

    Practically any animal will hunt during the day, even though they may mostly hunt at night. Right around dusk and dawn seems to be really high risk areas but I’ve seen plenty of foxes, skunks, bobcats, and coyotes hunting during the middle of the day.

    Wirth just the head missing, I immediately think of owl, hawk, bobcat, mink, or other members of the weasel family. Raccoons are also a possibility. Where you are an eagle may be possible. An owl, hawk, or bobcat is not likely to kill more than one at a time, two at the most. They often eat some at the spot but can certainly carry a body away, especially if they have young to feed back at the nest or den. Bobcats normally bury the remains to save for a later meal. If those roosters' bodies had stuff scratched over them like something was trying to bury it, suspect a bobcat.

    My experience with a fox is that it takes one chicken from ambush and carries it off, leaving only a few feathers, though some people on here have had a flock practically wiped out in one fox attack. Predators don’t always do what they are supposed to. That’s part of what makes it hard sometimes to be sure what is causing the problem.

    Coyotes don’t feel right for what you describe, but maybe. Just taking the heads doesn’t sound right.

    I don’t think it was a skunk. They are not likely to get a free ranging bird, certainly not several at once. They normally maul the carcass pretty badly.

    Did you see any poop around that might help identify the predator? If you can find poop, there are charts online you can use to help narrow it down a lot.

    Did you examine the carcasses left for punctures or claw marks? If you can find scratches from the claws or punctures form talons of a bird of prey, you can narrow it down a bunch.

    Sometimes when several birds are gone at one time, it’s not a normal predator but instead a mother teaching her cubs to hunt. I’m not sure what that might be this time of year in Idaho. Maybe a bobcat?

    Obviously I don’t know what that was. With just the heads missing on some and others with the entire body gone, and it n=being several at one time, nothing really sounds just right.
  4. jjackson-7

    jjackson-7 Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 17, 2013
    Horsefly, BC, Canada
    We've had a few predator attacks over the years and I found this site helpful.


    A note from experience though, the skunks do not always smell. This fall we had a skunk in the coop. The building has three seperate wire coops/rooms aside from the main enterance area we use for storage of feed and supplies. I was in the entrance grabbing empty food bags and swinging bales of shaving around for a few minutes befor I suddenly saw a glimpse of white in the americauna pen, where there shouldn't be any white chickens. There was the skunk eating a dead chicken under the hanging feeder. I probably looked like Wile E. Coyote with my feet flying fast than I was actually moving. Slammed the door shut and got the shotgun. There was no smell at all, that is until he was shot.

    Another piece of advice. If you shoot a skunk, throw a blanket/bag on it right away and get it out and you might get away without the smell in your coop. After it was immediately shot it didn't smell, but after I returned two minutes later with a shovel to move it, the smell had leaked out and wow........ I think it could have been avoided if I had removed it immediately before it relased, or leaked or whatever happened

    Hope you find whatever is getting yours.
  5. CDennis

    CDennis Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 1, 2009
    Thanks for the replies, it's not currently skunk's but we had quite a few this summer and they did kill a bunch of my young birds and chicks. I think from reading this post Ridgerunner's suggestion to examine the carcass as well as looking in the snow for prints I have narrowed it down to a fox and I think her young. That was the confusing part for me and what made me think coyote because of the number of kills and that some were gone and some half eaten. All of the ducks are gone, without a trace, not even a feather left on my property or in my fence line. I did notice some drag marks across the snow that appeared fresh that went to the back of our pasture where the dead chickens were all located. Most of the chickens were just piles of feathers and maybe an organ or two, but one rooster was whole with the exception of his head and chest. I have been hit twice this winter and both times I have lost animals both at dusk and then daylight hours. Then it seems to subside for awhile...I guess that part also had me confused but if it's a fox teaching her young and they take back most of the kills then I guess they could sustain for another few weeks?
  6. finnfur

    finnfur Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 5, 2012
    South Central VA
    Unless its a migrating Hawk , which I doubt , they will be back. When they find out where the buffet is open they will return till no more food.
    based on your info I would say Fox and they do sometime hunt in pairs.
  7. CDennis

    CDennis Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 1, 2009
    We have some hawk's but all are pretty small and I have never witnessed one take a bird, now the Great Horned Owl is another story, I had several hens who refused to go in the coop and roosted in my trees a few weeks back. I caught a Great Horned Owl one night when I heard a chicken scream, by morning no more chickens roosting in the trees all were gone... :( Would it seem reasonable for a fox or a pair of foxes to take breaks? It really seems like I had no issue for several weeks and then got hit hard again...
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Fox will bury a carcass also.
  9. sandovaljose214

    sandovaljose214 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 26, 2013
    so sorrry [​IMG]
  10. BrendaJ

    BrendaJ Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 1, 2012
    So sorry for your loss. Have you thought about getting a large breed flock guardian dog?

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