Whats eating my NJ hens

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by paprikash, Oct 3, 2014.

  1. paprikash

    paprikash Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 28, 2014
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    Im located in Landisville, NJ, the Southwest side of Atlantic county, NJ. I have never had any issues in the past. Neighbors just cleaned out a fair size debris pile between our yards (mine is fenced with wood picket) and last night I lost 2 birds. Whatever ate them dug under the 2x6 border at the bottom of the chicken yard and killed a naked neck and a baby (just under bantam size) carmel. The carmel was stuck under the dug out area and its insides were cleaned out through a hole in the belly area.
    I just caught a mama rat last week in a snap trap. I was on my way out so I left it to grab later. When I went back next morning the trap was under fence and the rat gone. I know I have cats in the neighborhood. We have smelled skunks. I am sure we have opossum and racoons. I am in a residential neighborhood surrounded by vegetable farms on 3 sides.
    Tonight we will be closing the coop door in hopes that we dont loose more.

    What is the likely culprit???
    I am planning on setting snap traps and live traps tonight baited with peanut butter.Any better ideas?
     
  2. CityFarmer202

    CityFarmer202 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    raccoon...they are super craft and good at digging. they also love chickens. Sorry for your loss :(
     
  3. paprikash

    paprikash Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 28, 2014
    Deep South New Jersey
    I am not thinking racoon because the hole wasnt large enough for a very small hen (thinking cornish game hen size) to fit.
     
  4. Steemroo

    Steemroo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Without knowing more, it could have been a number of things. Because of the evidence you present, I'd rule out a hawk or owl. A weasel is possible (they can be quite small and yet kill chickens). Doesn't sound like a skunk or possum to me - certainly not a possum (I haven't known skunks to be that industrious, but it's possible). Raccoons can go over some fences (but will dig under - depends on the fence). Coyotes and foxes dig under. Could be a fox - gray foxes are not all that big. If it's a gray fox, they're very smart. They are often fed by people, which makes them fearless of humans - and dependent on us for food. As cute as they are, if it is a fox, your birds are in peril until it's dealt with (I've discussed fox problems in BYC before - one lady had a fox so bold that it not only killed her chickens (one named Snow White), it came on her FRONT PORCH (neighbors had been feeding it, of course).

    Do you coop your chickens at night? If not, you'll need to get them in a predator proof coop from sundown to sunset. Of course, no coop is entirely predator proof - just as long as your construction delays or frustrates them long enough to give up (sometimes you have to kill a varmint that doesn't give up). (it would help to tell us how the predator is getting them (i.e. where do they roost at night) and what your nighttime security is).

    Chicken wire will not stop most predators. You need heavier hardware cloth at the very least, or a combination of that and what is often called "hog wire." And wood, like 2 by 4's for structure and plywood for siding and maybe roofing. Since you have a digger, you'll need to make sure the creature can't dig into your coop. BYC has many good coop advice places - consider searching them.

    You can rent live traps from most hardware stores (or just buy one, they're not that expensive). Bait with various things - chicken neck - some canned tuna - see what you catch. If it's your neighbor's housecat, you can let it go (cats don't dig under fences - it's not a cat doing this). If you catch a weasel or fox, then ... well, then you have a problem if you're background is not rural. It's hard for some urban people to put down a trapped predator, and the temptation is to drive far away and release it - where it becomes someone else's problem (or is attacked by territory-guarding predators like it). It's also illegal to live trap and release in many states. As long as you have your birds in a strong enough coop at night, you might be able to discourage the predator - and if it's in you to trap, you may want to try trapping it (don't use traps that maim or kill - they're often illegal to use w/out a license, because they can maim or kill pets or non-threat animals). If you have a county pest trapper (some counties do), consider giving them a call. It's their job to take care of problems like this.

    If you're rich, you can buy a game camera and get a photo of the thing (well, such devices aren't that expensive, but they aren't cheap). I've heard of people using motion sensors in these situations. Some turn on a light on the coop. Others have the motion sensor turn on a light in their bedroom, signaling them and not the varmint - so they have a chance at sneaking out and going after it. A trip wire or string at the hole could also be set up to knock over a pile of old cans or something. Good luck.
     
  5. paprikash

    paprikash Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 28, 2014
    Deep South New Jersey
    Some great advice. But to my knowledge we don't have weasels or any similar animal in snj. We have many red fox but do to hole size I think its unlikely. My coop is an she'd with plywood floor that elevated. The yard is chicken wire stretched on a 2x6 frame with a tin roof. No holes in fence. Cant rule out coons or opposum yet. Sure its not a dig or raptor or cat. The 2 chickens were taken out of the coop. We have been leaving the ramp/door open at night due to the hot weather. It's closed tonight.
    After looking around a little more I am leaning toward rats. We definately have them. I set out 3 snap traps tonight baited with pb and with cheese. I am confident that I will get at least one rat tonight. Just not sure that's what got chickens. I have a game cam that I will set up tomorrow night. I left it at my shop tonight by accident.
     
  6. Steemroo

    Steemroo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sounds like your coop is in good shape, and I understand about leaving the door open. We're in So Cal and do so often - and I always worry about it.

    Rats - it's possible. In rare cases they will attack adult birds, according to accounts I've read.

    Possum - I guess they could dig in. I've just never known them to be that industrious, but I suppose they could dig. Racoons are very stubborn and industrious and can squeeze through very small openings, as can many other predators. Skunks are still a possibility. For what it's worth, I found the below:

    http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/live/g1688/build/#target2

    "While raccoons and opossums will climb or squeeze under or through a fence, they usually will avoid digging extensively to gain access. If structures are involved, carefully check for openings. Opossums need an opening that is at least 3 inches wide, while raccoons need at least 4. "

    Gray foxes and weasels, according to generic range maps, are potentially in all of NJ. They're very hard to see, whereas red foxes, because of size, color and possibly bolder habits, are more common to see. Even red foxes can get through small holes (they're furry, so their actual body isn't as big as they appear to us). And a juvenile could get through an even smaller hole.

    Sites like this one say you definitely have long-tailed weasels in NJ, but I don't know about your specific area:
    http://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-...0/new_jersey_wildlife_long-tailed_weasel.html

    I've been thinking about making a screen to fit over our door that would let air in but would stop or at least stall predators. Your coop seems very well made. I'm sorry about your loss - and taking out such a bold predator would help, if you can catch it - but like us, keeping our coop door shut is probably now our best first line of defense. Cool weather is coming.

    I'd be curious to know what it is, if you happen to catch it or can set up a camera trap. If you have friends or family who hunt, they might let you borrow a camera trap for a while, so you don't have to buy one. Security cameras might work for this, too. Good luck.
     
  7. paprikash

    paprikash Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 28, 2014
    Deep South New Jersey
    Interesting read on the weasels. I have spent a lot of time in the woods and outdoors and never seen one. But after looking at the pictures it may be difficult to make a positive ID. To me they look a bit like a squirrel with a mangy tail. The holes under the sides of the chicken yard could have been made by a weasel or at least used by one. They were about the size of a silver dollar in diameter.A weasel will be a formidable foe to get rid of. I am going to put out a game cam tonight and see whats in there.

    On the up side we have 3 more confirmed kills of rats. Also put out a couple of poison stations. We have a neighbor who does not keep their yard or garage tidy (major understatement) and this is giving the rats the perfect place to live and breed. Our fowl are giving them the ideal food source.

    We have not had any more hens killed so far.
     
  8. 10prettychicks

    10prettychicks New Egg

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    did you think abut elimitating the rats? I don't hunt nor do I like guns, just int my thing but I had a problem with bears and I am sick of something trying my patiences 24/7.i went out and bought a bad boy rifle 30-6 I could kill a buffalo with this gun! I would be afraid my chickens would eat the poison...
     
  9. paprikash

    paprikash Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 28, 2014
    Deep South New Jersey
    I have several 30-06. Nice choice, it will drop anything in N America. If you r not a gun person, make sure you get some practice in before attempting bear shots. Its a lot of gun for a novice.
    Unfortunately 1.) I am in NJ, 2.) I have neighbors within 75' and behind me. So shooting rats is not a option, unless I want to be handcuffed.
    Poison is in cases and outside of the chicken pen, I am setting traps every day and night. I dont think you can ever get rid of rats just control them.
     
  10. Steemroo

    Steemroo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yeah, with rats, you just push back on them - and traps and poison can be set in boxes that only let rat sized things in, virtually eliminating the risk that a child, a wild bird, a pet or a chicken gets into danger. By cases I get the sense that paprikash means something like that (and has it under control). You can put a rat trap in a shoe box, for example, and cut a small hole for rodents to get in.

    I agree with paprikash about getting practice in on the 30-06. Traps, poison, guns - these are all unpleasant things for a lot of us - or the death and risk involved with their use is unpleasant, so I understand your feelings. Sometimes it's necessary, however, to take strong measures to solve bad situations. Knowledge and practice will help you feel more confident whenever you have to take such measures (and will help you get good outcomes). That was a bold step, getting a rifle like that - and as long as you can use it with practiced confidence, it puts you in charge of situations that may arise where you would otherwise be helpless. You have my respect.

    Modern urban Americans are conditioned, I fear, to feel afraid to do anything outside of certain boundaries - we're conditioned to be dependent (and in some cases, helpless). Our pioneer ancestors would laugh at such a mindset. They had no county trapper to come by. They had no game warden or wildlife management agency to come eliminate a nuisance bear. They had no grocery store or food stamp program, and if some critter was destroying and/or stealing their food, they were facing starvation - so they took matters into their own hands (and cooked the problem they shot for supper!). They may have lived in dirt floored cabins, they may have only had fourth grade educations (some were quite literate, however) - but in many ways our pioneer ancestors were far more competent than modern urbanites. I understand being wary about things like poison and guns - that's proper. They are dangerous and deserve tons of respect. But if you ever need to use such things, learn to do so properly and feel good that you're taking care of your own problems - and that you're not helpless. Our great country was built by people who were fearless and who took bold steps - and who were fiercely independent.

    Growing our own eggs (and in some cases, meat) is a wonderful first step for recovering that independence (which is part of why I love having chickens and this site, BYC!).

    Paprikash I'm glad you haven't lost any more chickens. Right, weasels would be consistent with the strange attacks and/or markings on the carcass - I would think it would also be consistent with rats (but rat attacks on big chickens are rare, from my understanding of things). Remote possibility - one critter killed the bird - then another came along and ate part of the carcass. Would be interested to know if you get any pictures of it. How many inches wide was the hole? Really small?

    (edit, I agree in that weasels are very hard to see and could be mistaken for a rodent, if you do see one. I've spent lots of time in country places where weasels range, and I've never once seen a weasel in the wild - they are very sneaky - ALSO - the rats in your neighbor's yard may have attracted the weasel, who then noticed your chikens)
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2014

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