What killed my chicken ?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by goldencomets6, Aug 27, 2013.

  1. goldencomets6

    goldencomets6 Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 25, 2012
    I'm so sad. I came home today to find one of my chickens dead. I free range them and no other birds were touched. The chicken who was killed has its entire head and neck eaten. There are also feathers everywhere! Poor thing :( I do see hawks occasionally but wouldn't they carry her off? She is my tiniest chicken .. a silkie. Any ideas as to what did this so I can trap it?
  2. Teery

    Teery Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 16, 2013
    Inland Empire So. Cal
    If it is a bird of prey, you can't touch it legally (federal law)...Coons, Coyote, etc..check your state and local laws in trapping / killing nuisance predators...
  3. goldencomets6

    goldencomets6 Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 25, 2012
    Yeah I'm aware of the laws.
  4. Reurra

    Reurra Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 11, 2012
    Nova Scotia
    weasles, ferrets, cats, dogs, fishers, coons, coyotes, foxes, crows, birds of prey, bears, wolves, snakes, rats, bobcats....

    Everything is after a chicken...they are the bottom of the vertibrate food chain.

    I would keep the girls penned up.

    My guess, since it was the smalles bird, it might have been a small predator. A rat, weasel or ferret. They classically eat the heads.

    Then again, some chickens will kill and eat the weaker members, or if someone gets a bleeding wound, they will peck them to death. But if the skull and neck are gone, its likely the former.
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    It’s hard to know exactly what did that. Many different predators have typical ways they eat a chicken, but not all read the same book. They don’t all act the way they are supposed to. For example, a possum normally starts eating a chicken from the vent area, not the head, but occasionally one will start at the head.

    Some of your best signs to identify them are if they left footprints or droppings. Occasionally you can identify tooth or bite marks, but usually not. It’s often not easy.

    What you are looking for is something that attacks during the day, eats the head area, and eats it at the spot instead of carrying it away.

    A bird of prey will do that. They might carry it off to eat it, especially if they have babies to feed, but they also might eat it on the spot, especially if the bird of prey is fairly small. They normally start on the head or breast area. If it is a bird of prey, there should be stab marks from its talons where it killed the chicken. Since it was daytime and not carried off, I’d guess hawk and not owl or eagle.

    A raccoon will do that and yes, they do hunt during the day. They normally start at the head or breast area. Raccoons often carry the bird to a safer spot to eat it but they usually don’t go far. So raccoon is on my possible list, but probably not real high.

    A skunk is also on my list. They’ll do all that but they usually go after the eggs instead of the chickens. But if one saw an opportunity it might take advantage of it. Less likely than a raccoon though in my opinion.

    Members of the weasel family kill by biting the head and usually eat the head. They are notorious for getting into a coop at night and killing just for the fun of killing. They can wipe out a flock. But I could see one taking advantage of an opportunity for an easy meal.

    Maybe it is a bobcat. They hunt during the day and they often eat the head first, all signs that match what you saw. But bobcats normally do not leave the body. They normally carry it off and hide it so they can finish it later.

    I don’t think it’s a member of the canine family. Dogs will usually kill many at a time just playing. A fox or coyote would not just eat the head and would almost certainly carry it off.

    It’s not a snake. They’d swallow the body and leave no sign.

    It’s also possible the chicken died for some other reason and something just scavenged the body, eating the head. It’s real hard to be certain without some other sign.

    My first guess is probably a hawk but I sure can’t tell you for sure. It’s probably too late to look for the talon piercings. Sometimes hawks are just migrating through if it is out of nesting season, but sometimes they hunt a specific territory.

    I wish you luck! These things are often hard. Earlier this year I set a trap for what I thought was a raccoon but it turned out to be a possum.
  6. goldencomets6

    goldencomets6 Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 25, 2012
    Thank you.. I know there are many possibilities. I know it's a risk I take free ranging but they're just so much happier that way. It's still sad to see one ripped apart. I have a live trap set to see if I catch anything. I'm just crossing my fingers that it doesn't happen again.
  7. cafarmgirl

    cafarmgirl Overrun With Chickens

    Unfortunately it will happen again. It is the price paid for free ranging. The other difficulty is that if/when a predator like a fox or coyote discovers the roaming birds they will return until the food source is depleted or until you manage to kill the predator. I had to quit free ranging many years ago because that is exactly what happened to me. We lived in a wooded area so it was easy for them to slip in unseen, grab and run. These days my birds are housed next to my goats and have access to the pasture which is securely fenced, complete with hot wire. It's not entirely predator proof of course but it helps a lot and keeps the birds close to the barn. It keeps roaming dogs out and the daytime activity in that area discourages other predators. I also have a couple of good ranch dogs that help a lot.

    I don't know what your setup is like but maybe you could fence in area for your birds to give them room to forage but keep them close at the same time, maybe electric poultry netting? It doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive or even permanent. Good luck, hope you find a solution that works for you.
  8. Mommaw

    Mommaw Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 17, 2011
    I found feathers everywhere, lots of feather her ther and everywhere. No body. Do you think a dog would do this. What animal leave all the feathers in piles every where? Last year a neighbors dog came from back of my farm. I always lock them up but must have missed a few last night. I am so angry.
  9. Mommaw

    Mommaw Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 17, 2011
    Also the dog behind me comes thru the woods last fall. What would leave feathers and o body? Feathers in groups over 70 feet rea.
  10. subhanalah

    subhanalah Overrun With Chickens

    Is there a certain type of predator that plucks 'em as they carry them off?

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