What's my predator?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by graceupongrace, Jun 6, 2017.

  1. graceupongrace

    graceupongrace Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 23, 2017
    Central Washingtom
    Ugh, I'm so sad. I lost a pullet today. So here's the story. We let the chicks out today into their run for the first time. They are 7 weeks old. I was right beside them in the garden all morning. I was in the house in the afternoon for several hours and went back out this evening (6pm) and one was dead. Its head was eaten off but the neck bone was still in tact. What would eat just one and not eat the entire thing? I'm totally new to this and so sad!!
    Options that I can think of are... Our cat? We have hawks around but I figured they would pick it up and haul it off. We have coyotes but there was no hole under the fence and would it just eat one? Surely not snake? We have these little things called dessert sage rats that rage from the size of a house mouse to 2 or 3x that size but still pretty small. Also my DH said he has seen weasels in our pasture so that's my guess?
    Our run is enclosed with hardware cloth that is about 5' tall with no top.
  2. Loudawg11

    Loudawg11 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 29, 2017
    Andover MA
    My Coop
    Huh you've got me stumped! But is your run covered? Because even though a hawk was not the predator this time it could be next time. So unless you will be out there with them the whole time, own an active aggressive dog, or have a cover for your run, I would avoid letting them out alone again until there 6-13 months (whenever your breed reaches full size or large enough that a hawk can't pick it up). My best guess for the predator is some kind of small ground animal due to the manner of the attack. Sorry for your loss!
  3. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    Any time that a predator strips the flesh off the body and leaves the bones or skeleton articulated you can be 95% + sure that a hawk is to blame. There are many reasons that a hawk is unable or unwilling to tote off the evidence.

    Even the mighty red tail hawk (a mature female) at it's biggest only reaches about 3.5 to 4 pounds West of the Mississippi River. The limiting factor is not the relative size of the hawk or of it's victim but rather the wind resistance that a dead chicken's useless wings, tail, and other parts that are left to dangle in the slipstream.

    Hawks are animals and like all animals, including the human animal, hawks are lazy and slovenly birds who don't want to work any more than is necessary.

    BTW, a Western Red Tail male can weigh as little as 1.5 pounds. While the other two flavors of chicken hawks are much smaller than a red tail. Besides, unless the chicken that the hawk captures is very, very lucky, the hawk will begin feeding on it's prize while the chicken is still alive. Call it death by feeding.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2017
  4. brucifer

    brucifer Chillin' With My Peeps

    A weasel will usually kill all the chicks if it gets into a pen or run, not just one chick. Based at the age of the chicks, your run construction, the time of day, and the manner in which the chick was killed, I suspect a cat. At seven weeks, chicks still need close supervision either by a mature flock or by a responsible person. Sorry that you lost one.
    BYC910 likes this.
  5. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Chicken Obsessed

    Mar 19, 2011
    NW Oregon
    I second Hawk or Kestrel.

    I watched a Kestrel swoop down in the middle of the afternoon, pick up a 4 week old chick and try to make it over the fence, which it couldn't. It dropped the chick, but had already made the mortal wound.

    My husband was standing by as a Red Tailed hawk killed mid-day one of our large hens.

    I've stood and watched a Sharp Shinned sit on my grow out pen post eyeing the tasty chicken nuggets mid morning.

    Hawks usually eat the head and neck down to the chest but leave the neck bone and the rest of the bird.

    Coons can hunt during the day as well (I've caught them in the act too). They however kill and eat most of the stomach and chest leaving a pile of feathers. They also tend to kill more than one, or at least maim a bunch at a time. They'll pull heads out of cages and eat them off.

    Could have been a neighborhood cat, but honestly, with as many cats as I have around, I've never ever had any of them ever go after my birds. The whole flock thing tends to simply scare them off.

    But Hawks and Kestrels...they'll definitely kill....and at all hours.

    The only true night time hunter I've caught in the act was an owl.

    ...and I am so sorry for your loss. I know how very frustrating and sad it is.

    I recommend keeping the smaller birds in grow out pens covered with hawk netting until they are bigger.

  6. Ren2014

    Ren2014 Blessed Beyond Hope

    Jan 27, 2014
    Check out this link. If is works in the new forum.

    Ok, well never mind the link. It's not the same as the article I had copied and pasted from the link. Here's an excerpt from the article:

    Parts Missing
    A dead bird found inside a fenced enclosure or pen with its head missing is likely the victim of a raccoon that reached in, grabbed the bird, and pulled its head through the wire. Or a bird of prey could have frightened your birds into fluttering against the wire, and those that poked their heads through the wire lost their heads.

    When you find a bird dead inside an enclosure with its head and crop missing, your visitor was a raccoon. If the head and back of the neck are missing, suspect a weasel or mink. If the head and neck are missing, and feathers are scattered near a fence post, the likely perp is a great horned owl.

    Just as a raccoon will reach into a pen and pull off a chicken's head, so will it also pull off a leg, if that's what it gets hold of first. Dogs, too, may prowl underneath a raised pen, bite at protruding feet, and pull off legs.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2017
  7. BYC910

    BYC910 Flock Master Premium Member

    Sorry for your loss .I would guess the cat too . They will often eat the head and leave the body . If the neck was striped then a hawk . You should cover your run with poultry wire to prevent future attacks . All my pens are covered with something I've lost birds to possoms coons dogs and cats never a hawk . They lite on branch's over looking my pens but can't get in . If whatever it was knows its an easy place to get a quick meal it will return .
    CTKen likes this.
  8. Doc Schoepp

    Doc Schoepp Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 18, 2017
    Colorado Springs
    I also agree with some kind of hawk or other raptor. Last winter as I was going out to check on our flock after a snowstorm, I watched a large hawk dive on a squirrel between me and the run. It took the head clean off and left the body similar to what you are describing. Our hens were huddled up under the coop staring in either fear or awe.
  9. graceupongrace

    graceupongrace Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 23, 2017
    Central Washingtom
    Thanks everyone for your comments! I hadn't thought a hawk would leave the body; I expected it to haul the whole thing off. Sounds like either our cat or a hawk is the most likely predator.
    I don't know what all of you think but when I purchased my chicks, the guy at the farm store said his uncle lived somewhat close to where I do and he had so much trouble with hawks. So then he got all black chickens and didn't have a problem anymore because the hawks thought they were crows and left them alone. Make sense? It was a black Australorps that died today. Maybe that would theory is bogus, or maybe the hawk saw all the other chicks and that's the one it ended up getting. I have 6 different breeds.
    I really doubt a coon as someone mentioned. I have never seen one or heard of one around here. We live in central/eastern WA. Not saying there aren't any or it wasn't one but I just somehow doubt it.
    I also kinda doubt our cat. I don't think it'd go in there with 12 chicks. But I'll have to watch it.
    I'm planning to leave the chicks in their coop for a little while longer. Hopefully my DH can help me get some hawk netting put up.
  10. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Chicken Obsessed

    Mar 19, 2011
    NW Oregon
    I have not seen black be a deterrent to hawks.

    I do see having camo colored feathers seems to help...since my birds are on bark/dirt, those that are dark brown with some mottling seem to fair better.

    White birds can be problematic with birds of prey.

    graceupongrace likes this.

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