What predator do we have? Hawk? Can I free range safely? Guard cat?

FromChictoChick

Chirping
7 Years
Apr 13, 2012
196
3
91
MA
My Coop
My Coop
I had no problems for the longest time, now, I've lost two pullets and a young hen in a month!

What is killing my lighter bodied birds?? Today it was an Americauna, sweetest little hen, body left, only head and neck and spine area gone/damaged.

Can I safely free range my hens or do I have to pen them? I don't clip their wings. I can't keep a Roo due to town ordinance. We live in suburban MA. Grassy backyard with a 5' chainlink fence surrounding we also keep four small dogs, though they aren't left unattended in the backyard. I've seen a fisher cat in the area and also maybe a hawk. Would an outdoor cat help, but how could I get it to leave the hens alone?

Is this a seasonal problem? Doesn't seem to be bothering my bigger hens- PBR, Orps, and Black Star.
 

centrarchid

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Sep 19, 2009
26,451
18,021
876
Holts Summit, Missouri
Hens only and small bird flocks most heavily harvested by raptors give results similar to described. Owl could also be operating. Since you do no indicate knowing for certainty whether losses occured during day or night, make no assumptions. Tighten up roosting facilties. You can provide more cover but in my experience hawks will pursue chickens that do not fight back into cover. With your limitations I would restrict free-ranging to times when you can be present to deal with threat. Hawk may attack while you are present but you can drive it off by simply walking up on it and being a little animated as you look at it. You could also use a chicken tractor that provides some of same benefits provided by free-ranging.
 

afoshawk119

Chirping
7 Years
Nov 10, 2012
8
0
52
After a few of our hens disappeared we now only let them roam about an hour or two before dusk. And we are always home when they are out. We have had red tail hawks go after them.
 

centrarchid

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Sep 19, 2009
26,451
18,021
876
Holts Summit, Missouri
After a few of our hens disappeared we now only let them roam about an hour or two before dusk. And we are always home when they are out. We have had red tail hawks go after them.
In past I have done same and works well when yard work is to be done pretty much daily. Really helps to have flock trained to roost back in coop.
 

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