What killed Lil' Bit - UPDATE: it's a hawk!!

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by gritsar, Oct 23, 2010.

  1. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    My precious Lil'Bit was killed yesterday in the "woods" behind the coop. I call them the woods, but it's actually a
    large unused couple acres of mostly very tall pines, persimmons trees and heavy underbrush; the underbrush having pretty much died back due to the dry weather and winter coming on.
    By the amount of her feathers in a small clearing it's obvious she was killed in the clearing and then carried or dropped in a large pile of blackberry briars (now bare). The other chickens made it safely to one of their favorite safe zones - a corner of their yard, covered by a large evergreen bush.
    Lil'Bit's neck was broken. The only part of her eaten (torn away?) was her neck. The flesh was completely gone, so that her cervical (neck) verterbrae were clearly visible. My DH was out there with the dogs ten minutes before I was realized she was missing, so it happened quickly.
    We have the usual cast of predators around here - coyotes, coons, bobcats, hawks, eagles (nest on the back of the property, about 1/4 mile away), possums, skunks, owls and others I've forgotten. We never see or hear the coyotes except on the far end of the farm. We never see the coons and skunks except at night.
    The only (maybe) predator we've seen hanging around is very large turkey vultures, like this one:


    It is my understanding that these birds only hunted (vs. eating carrion) when very hungry and right now the roadkills are still plentiful.

    Any ideas?
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2010
  2. boykin2010

    boykin2010 Songster

    Sep 26, 2010
    South Georgia
    i wouldnt think a vulture would attack a healthy hen. Maybe if she was wounded and had a broken leg or something he may swoop down to get her. I think it is very possible the vulture ate part of your chicken but i think that something else killed it then the vulture came to eat it. With the throat meat missing that sounds like a bobcat or coyote because when they go for prey they attack the neck and sometimes breaks it to kill it. Like watching lions attack zebras on the discovery channel.
    I am very sorry for your loss i couldnt imagine that happening to one of chickens.
    can you please give me more info on your chicken when the last time you saw her was any weird activity and her health... i may be able to help narrow down her attacker.

    oh and if she was dropped in a bush after the killing it especially makes me think it was a bobcat because when they kill they carry their prey to a more confined area to eat so no one will steal it.
    again like watching a jaguar kill a gazelle and putting it in a tree to eat it so lions wont steal it.
  3. HorseFeatherz NV

    HorseFeatherz NV Eggink Chickens

    Sounds like a raptor - the "explosion of feathers" is a tell tale sign. They also break the neck or back of their target.

    Raptors (also Ravens - the blimmy buggers) strip the carcass clean, generally starting with the crop area. With Ravens, I do not get an explosion of feathers, just the piles they pluck as they strip the body. Ravens (nasty snots) - at least here - chase and poke at the bird, killing it while on the ground with the victim. This year the Ravens have killed 6 of my Bantams (they seem to favor MF Cochins [​IMG] )

    I have never seen the vultures hunt to kill - they DO land and walk around the property and look very silly bending to look under the sage, then take a huge step/flap to the next grouping. I *think* they are looking for dead stuff then - course I am not 100% sure.

    We do have lots of Raptors here, and *knock on wood* so far my birds are not on their dinner menu (ok, except for the GH Owl who has a craving for Call Duck [​IMG] ) . We even have a Coopers that hangs around and will walk amongst the chickens (need to get a pict of that next time I see him/her). But Coop (as I call him) so far only hunts the small English sparrows, diamond doves and pigeons.

    ETA - oops forgot, when Coop started hanging around last summer, I put up CDs hanging around the chicken yard. It did seem to stop him from hanging out there - course now the CDs are gone, the wind has whirled them away, and Coop now walks thru their yard hunting the sparrows.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2010
  4. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    Quote:Lil'Bit was very healthy, except for being smaller than my other LF brahmas; she was the runt. She was partially blind. She learned at a very early age to stick close to my rooster. In fact in my avatar you can see Lil'Bit right on the heels of my roo and he is a pretty imposing figure, being 13 lbs. and all. He's also very protective. He may have tried to defend Lil'Bit. His feathers looked a bit ruffled, but it's hard to tell since the flock is molting. Lil'Bit had pretty much completed her molt. She was healthy enough that she, along with one other hen, continued to lay right through her molt.

    I let them out in the morning. My DH was out several times with the dogs very close to the chickens, but seperated by a fence. Perhaps 40 ft. away from where I found her body. I heard the chickens "fussing" so I went out to check. I checked on my juvenile flock first, since I thought the ruckus was coming from them. When they seemed okay, I walked out back to the adult coop to do a head count. I found them all in their safety zone, all growling. That's when I noticed Lil'Bit was gone.

    Thank you for your input. You too, Horsefeatherz.
  5. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    Kat, I'm betting raptor. Again, so sorry for your Lil Bit. We euthanized our only Speckled Sussex today and am losing a Delaware girl, too. Nothing contagious, just crap we can't fix.
  6. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas
    Quote:Sorry you are going through that Cyn. [​IMG] I'm really enjoying the antics of the two SS pullets I got this year.

    So you think raptor? but not raptor as in the turkey vultures? The eagles may have hatched a clutch this year, although we haven't been up where their nest is in a long time to see if it's still being used. To me, a young inexperienced eagle would make sense. They are golden eagles.
  7. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    Not the vultures. A young eagle, yes, or hawk, either one.
  8. desertdarlene

    desertdarlene Crowing

    Aug 4, 2010
    San Diego
    Sorry for your loss of your cute Lil' Bit.

    I think the vulture is a scapegoat for another predator. I've never seen a vulture actively hunt anything, though they will steal young and weak chicks and weakling animals/birds.

    In my area, the vultures constantly keep an eye on the other predators and will show up within a few minutes after sensing a kill has been made.
  9. redhen

    redhen Kiss My Grits...

    May 19, 2008
    Western MA
    I'm betting raptor too.. [​IMG]
  10. Debbi

    Debbi Crowing

    May 2, 2010
    Sorry for you loss! [​IMG] I'd bet it was either a Cooper's or Red Tailed hawk that made the kill and got spooked off. The Turkey Vulture was just there to clean up after the fact. Even though my chooks are kept in a covered run, they still duck for cover when a hawk or eagle flies over, but when a vulture flies over, they look, then go about their business. Funny how they seem to know the difference. Keep in mind, it is hawk migration season right now, and they are looking for easy meals to fatten up for their journey!

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