What killed my chicken?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Lelilamom, Jan 23, 2016.

  1. Lelilamom

    Lelilamom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Last night 1.5 hours after dark we found one of our RSLs dead out in the middle of the fenced chicken yard. Feathers scattered, head and neck partially eaten and crop torn open but still attached. She wasn't stiff yet. We figure we interrupted whatever got her.

    We checked the coop, which was still open and everyone else was safe. We closed it up and did a perimeter check. The 5ft. fence was intact- no holes dug underneath and no fence torn down except one spot about 20 feet from the dead chicken was leaning over a bit - either pulled or pushed. It could have been like that for weeks or months or just happened. No tracks near the dead bird but plenty of prints around the coop - mostly rabbit. So many infact, overlapping, it's hard to tell if any could be another animal.

    This morning I went out to check on everyone and spooked a very large hawk who was sitting on the ground a few feet from the kill spot. I've seen the hawk before flying over the fenced yard. Once of our Amber Rocks ended up with her comb torn nearly off and I had her up to the house for a night because the bleeding was so bad. I suspected the hawk. Could a hawk kill a chicken and then eat right there at the kill spot?

    Right now everyone is locked up in the fully enclosed run. We're not taking chances.
     
  2. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    An hour after dark, in an uncovered yard, could have been anything. Coon, hawk, owl, fox, coyote, bobcat, cat. A five foot fence won't keep any of those predators out.
     
  3. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    With no prints around, my vote goes to owl. Hawks generally are day hunters, except for a specific few. Owls are night hunters.

    If you are seeing it in the day, it probably isn't the one at night.

    Yes, hawks and owls will kill and eat in situ.

    So will coons, but if you've got soft ground you'd see prints...which back to those prints...take a good look and see if you can see coon and not rabbit. If you see coon prints, then my vote goes to coon.

    But I agree with Junebuggena...there's a lot of critters who can do the job at night.

    LofMc
     
  4. Lelilamom

    Lelilamom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm very familiar with coon prints. Fisher and Opossum too. We've had them in the past and gotten rid of them. Neither print has been around the coop in years and wasn't the other day. We had a fox this fall that we took care of and haven't seen another one since. Only rabbit prints and what was either the front paws of a rabbit or squirrel - like I mentioned, the prints overlapped so much it's hard to tell. The rabbits live under the coop and the squirrels live in the trees in around and in the chicken yard.

    We're thinking airborne predation as well. My husband thinks that if whatever it was got interrupted would have panicked and would have run around the chicken yard looking for an escape route - and he would have seen it as he was standing right there at the coop with his truck headlight shining into the chicken yard and his headlamp and flash light as well. If the predator did eventually jump the fence, bending it over a bit, it would have been 10 feet in front of my husband's face. Seems unlikely he's have missed a panicked animal scrambling up a 5ft fence and through thick brush and weeds.
     
  5. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    Eating at the scene of the crime is the only way that any chicken hawk species has of consuming its kill. All full size adult chickens are too heavy or else have too much air resistance once dead to allow ANY chicken hawk species to fly away with its prize.
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. BBQJOE

    BBQJOE Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Void where prohibited.
    I once had a a chicken spontaneously combust for no apparent reason.

    But I'm thinking you have a preditor of some kind.
     
  7. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    I'm pretty sure Great Horned Owls are large enough to carry away a full size chicken (the one's in my neighborhood look big enough), while it is correct that most hawks are not large enough to carry away an adult so that they eat at site...and hawks typically hunt during the day, while owls at night.

    This is a really good article for Predators and determining what might have gotten your chicken:

    http://articles.extension.org/pages/71204/predator-management-for-small-and-backyard-poultry-flocks

    LofMc
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2016
  8. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Overrun With Chickens

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    Looked it up...

    Great horned owls are the weight lifters of the raptors, and can fly while carrying prey equal to 1.4 times their own weight.

    As Great Horned Owls generally weight between 2 and 4 pounds (females heaviest), that means they could carry a 5 lb chicken...what many of our hens weigh.

    And their flight is silent....I witnessed that myself as I startled a GHO sitting by my back coop late one night...I saw motion but heard absolutely nothing, and I was about 10 feet away from it. I have a lovely feather as a keep sake of its visit (that I found the next morning at the spot it was at).

    LofMc

    Really good Great Horned Owl article:
    http://www.adirondackwildlife.org/GreatHornedOwls.html
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2016
  9. attimus

    attimus Chillin' With My Peeps

    Any feathers between the coop and kill site or all directly around it? From the description and time its most likely an owl. I remember seeing the aftermath of an interupted hawk attack, looked like a burst of feathers with my poor girl in the middle, roughly the same wounds as well, however it was the middle of the day. I think your fence maybe coincidental not to say that some upgrades to security are in order. Best of luck figuring it out.
    Attimus
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. Lelilamom

    Lelilamom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    All feathers were around the dead chicken. It looks like the chicken molted all at once in one spot. Just a pile of feathers. At first we thought the chicken died of natural causes and the other chickens ate her since all the feathers were right there and there didn't appear to be a struggle. But we've had other chickens die of natural causes or even egg bound, etc. The other girls never bothered them where they lay.
     

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