What's Killing my Chickens

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Naich, Dec 14, 2015.

  1. Naich

    Naich New Egg

    Dec 14, 2015
    Hello, I've had 5 chickens attacked in their coop. They have holes bitten out of them between their wings. This holes are about 3 inches by 3 inches. So far 3 have died. I thought it was rats so I put poison down. Once the poison stopped being taken I assumed the rats were gone.
    I put my birds back into their large coop again but two days later it's happened again?
    Does anyone have any idea what it could be??
  2. OrganicFarmWife

    OrganicFarmWife Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 21, 2015
    No where Nebraska
    Still could be rats, you just didn't get them all. Could you try a live trap?
  3. Cacique500

    Cacique500 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 2, 2013
    Atlanta, Georgia
    Sorry for your loses...

    You may want to consider beefing up the coop/run rather than trying to get the predator...if there's a way in, there will always be something trying to get at your birds. Can you post a picture of your setup?
    1 person likes this.
  4. Naich

    Naich New Egg

    Dec 14, 2015
    I only have a small coop with a run round the front. The ladies have the run of the garden during the day. The rats were chewing their way into the coop so the whole thing is covered with wire mesh. It seems now they have dug in under the paving slabs to get in. We are going to make a concrete slab for the coop now. Currently my girls are squashed into my small coop sat on my patio.
    I've also got the council coming out tomorrow to check the rat situation.
    Plus I've setup a live trap with a lamb chop in it, I'm starting to suspect mink.
    I will keep you posted, fingers crossed I can resolve the issue I only keep a small number of birds, can't take these sort of losses[​IMG]
  5. hayley3

    hayley3 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 16, 2007
    Southern Indiana
    Sorry about your chickens. [​IMG]
    Were they attacked at night? Daytime?
    1 person likes this.
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I’ve been trying to think what predators might do that. I assume it is happening at night when they are locked in the coop. Predators don’t always act the way their species is supposed to. Many will normally go for the head and kill but may on occasion go for another body part. The wounds you are describing sounds strange to me, both where it is and that it would be that consistent. A wound that size is huge too. Are you sure something is not wounding them and the other chickens then peck that area?

    Is there any way to set up a game camera to see what is happening? It really helps a lot to know for sure what you are dealing with.

    Are you seeing any rat droppings or droppings of any other kind? Droppings can be valuable in identifying the critter. With larger predators outside you can sometimes see footprints which can help but inside a coop and with smaller things like rats that’s usually not real easy.

    Rats are certainly a possibility, especially since rat poison disappeared. But other animals will eat rat poison too. And one bite doesn’t kill rats or mice either for that matter. They normally have to eat it for a few days to get a lethal dose. Did you ever see or smell any corpses?

    Since they breed so fast, it’s difficult to eradicate rats or especially mice with poison once they are established. You can get a lot of them but it seems you always miss a few. Then they come roaring back. Traps are less effective at eradicating them. I have traps set right now for mice. I know I will never totally eradicate them with traps but it does help keep the numbers under control.

    So what can you do? I don’t know what your coop looks like but rats can get through some pretty small holes. They can chew or dig their way in too if they really want in. If you can identify where they are getting in maybe block that access with hardware cloth or something else.

    They are probably attracted to the feed. Store feed in containers where they can’t get to it and remove and safely store any feed at night. Don’t leave it out where rats can get to it. Rats and mice will feed during the day and chickens usually spill enough feed in the bedding to still attract them, but don’t make it easy for them to find plenty to eat.

    A large cat or a dog, especially a terrier, can be pretty effective in keeping the numbers down or keeping them away. Not everybody is set up to keep a dog or cat at their coop. I’m not.

    One thing that can help a lot is to eliminate their hiding places. Don’t let grass or weeds grow up around the coop. Keep trash and debris cleaned up. That’s a lot easier said than done. Rats are really good at finding a place to nest. Often that nest in in the coop walls if they are enclosed or if you coop has a floor, right under the floor.

    I like the idea of traps, either live traps or snap traps. Be careful with snap traps or you might kill something you don’t want to, maybe a wild bird or a chicken. It may not totally eliminate them but it does help keep the numbers down. Plus if you are catching them, it tells you that you have more around.

    My problem is mice not rats, but when the numbers get out of hand even with traps set, I will use poison. There is obviously a lot of risk with poison. You have to take great care that things you don’t want eating it can’t get to it. If you go that route use a lot. Spread it out and don’t let it run out. They have to consistently eat it for a few days for it to get to a lethal dose.

    Good luck. Sounds like you are taking the right steps.
    1 person likes this.
  7. Naich

    Naich New Egg

    Dec 14, 2015
    They are attacked at night. I think it's been building for a while because the girls suddenly started laying eggs around the garden. I suspected an egg thief, but had no evidence of that?
  8. showinbirds

    showinbirds Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 1, 2011
    May be an owl.
    1 person likes this.
  9. Naich

    Naich New Egg

    Dec 14, 2015
    They are being attacked in the coop at night. It has to be something small. They have dug up under the paving slabs a squeezed through the gaps. Gong to make a concrete slab up over Christmas to block that up.
  10. Zoomie

    Zoomie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 6, 2015
    Mora, NM USA
    I read... on this very forum... [​IMG] what I consider to be an excellent idea in identifying predators and that is to scatter some fine sand or something so that whatever-it-is has to step on the sand (or whatever you use) so you can see the foot prints. Even if it is rats, they will leave foot prints. Then at least you will know.

    With rat/mouse eradication, my experience is there will always be some, no matter what you do. I leave out live traps that can catch multiple animals. For mice it's a small steel box that they walk through and end up in the holding area instead of being able to go through. I just saw a nifty live rat trap in the Stromberg's catalog that is made of cage wire, they can get in but not out. For me it's just all part of having a barn that I have to check my traps every other day or so. No matter how many mice I kill, more will come.

    The cement slab is a fantastic idea and one that I'll be using in my new coop. In the past though I've wired up welded wire mesh all across the bottom of the coop.

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