What killed my chickens?? Only feathers left...


In the Brooder
May 22, 2017
I have been letting my 29 chickens/roosters free range during the day for about the last week. They are about 4 months old, so close to full size. Everything has been going great. My 3 dogs are good with them and I also have 5 cats that will lay among them while they're free ranging like they are just one of them.

But yesterday around 1:45 in the afternoon, I noticed a little pile of white feathers out the window and went to investigate. All my chickens ran out to me from under a shed (they normally run to me when I come out there) but this time I was missing 7 of them! I kept looking around and close by found another pile of brown chicken feathers, then a pile of white again, and some scattered feathers going down the path towards the horse pasture. Outside the gate in the horse pasture (where the chickens never go), I found two more piles of feathers, and way on the backside of the pasture by the wood line, I found another pile of gold feathers. I didn't find any blood or remains, but ants were already starting to crawl on the piles of feathers getting meat off the quills. I could tell by following a light path of a few random white feathers that my chickens had been taken away in at least 2 different directions. My chickens were around a shady area when they were attacked.

This is my first year having chickens, but based on my knowledge, I was thinking this was a hawk or hawks. I didn't find any tracks or disturbance other than the feathers. I have heard from others that birds of prey may sometimes drop their prey as they carry them away leaving a spot of feathers behind where they fell.

So my question is what do you think would take 7 chickens in just a few hours without myself or my dogs apparently noticing anything, and leave only feathers behind? Let me know if any other info I can provide may be helpful in figuring this out. Thanks!
Both fox and coyote will clean you out pretty quick. Best to keep them locked up now or supervise them when they are out. Both fox and coyote will keep coming back until you have no more chickens. Both will come out in daylight with coyote being extra cunning and bold.
I agree, and I did lock them back up immediately. The fact that 7 were gone so quickly started making me think it was a four legged predator. I also put out a wildlife camera on my coop later that day and checked it today, but got nothing. I did have a coyote come up one night a couple of years ago when I was keeping 4 chickens for my sister, but my German Shepherd barked up a storm by the coop and kept the coyote away until we got out there. Just curious though, if my chickens ever were attacked by a hawk, would it leave any feathers or traces of any kind behind?
Very sorry to hear about your loss. A hawk will leave a pile of feathers where it eats the chicken. However, based on your description, sounds like a fox or coyote got your birds. Do you still have your German Shepard? If so, I'm surprised he didn't scare away the predator(s).

Foxes have kits to feed this time of year, so you really have to keep an eye out for them. This past Saturday my son heard a ruckus and spotted a fox chasing one of our flocks, and my son yelled, "Fox!" I popped my head out the back door in time to see the fox running across our property toward one of my other flocks. I went out after it, but it ran into the woods. Fortunately, all birds were accounted for, but I know the fox will be back, so we're being extra cautious. We also have Cooper's hawks nesting in the woods adjacent to our property, but fortunately we haven't lost a bird to them yet.
Thanks so much for the feedback! I do still have the German Shepherd, but from our back porch where the dogs like to hang out a lot, you can't see the coop area. I'll definitely be keeping a sharp eye out! Thanks again!

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