Who killed my hens?? - graphic

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by sdeneen2001, Jun 7, 2007.

  1. sdeneen2001

    sdeneen2001 Songster

    Feb 26, 2007
    Bellevue, WA
    It's my fault, I have a cold and I'm kind of out-of-it and forgot to close up the coop last night after the girls were freeranging. This morning, my daughter came in yelling that the coop was open and 2 chickens were dead.

    Zilpah was outside the coop, surrounded by feathers.



    Deborah - my favorite escape artist who likes to greet me outside the coop every morning - was inside the pen.



    I need to know what I'm protecting them from, so I know the proper measures to take.

    The crime scene: there weren't many feathers other than at the bodies, there were a lot of feathers right around the bodies. Both heads were intact, but their necks were both chewed to the bone. One hen had been eaten from the rear end into the entrails, there was a broken egg next to her, but the yolk wasn't eaten. The other hen hadn't been eaten other than the neck but there were huge gouges in her back.

    They were found at 7:30 am and were stiff and cool, but warmer than air temp (sun up here is about 5-5:30). The two that were killed usually roost on the bottom rung, so something could have gotten them in the coop, but Sarah - a mostly blind hen and the bottom of 'the order' - also roosts there and would have been a much easier target.

    The suspects are:

    Coyotes - we have several of them, but I would think that they usually like their chicken "to go" as in grab the chicken and leave nothing but some scattered feathers

    Dogs - when my dog got into my coop, she just killed them, she didn't eat them. There are a lot of dogs that run in our area, but I've never seen any in my back yard or had them chase chickens (the neighbors used to have freerange ducks without dog problems)

    Bobcat - they have been spotted in the yard next door and are the top of my suspect list, but I don't know their M.O.

    Racoons - I've never seen one in the neighborhood, but with all the woods around, there is a good chance that there are some in the area, but they stay clear due to the afor-mentioned dogs

    Opposoms - they are in the area, but I doubt they could bring down 2 hens
  2. Sugar Sand Farm

    Sugar Sand Farm Songster

    Apr 24, 2007
    North Florida
    Don't discount opossums thats what got our chickens. They had theirs heads chewed off. When it happened to us our rooster was injured. He had several teeth marks on his neck. G
    For months he could barely hold up his head but luckily he servived. Only last month a opossum got one of our goslings who was 1 1/2 months old. All we found of her head was the beak. They can and will take down a grown hen. Micki
  3. Motherhenandflock

    Motherhenandflock Songster

    May 17, 2007
    Southeast Idaho
  4. sdeneen2001

    sdeneen2001 Songster

    Feb 26, 2007
    Bellevue, WA
    Yes, I still have 15 hens (no rooster). I will shut them in their coop tonight and let them into the pen during the day. I read through the predators on the list and am pretty much in the same place. Coons like the head and breast - the heads and breasts of both were intact. An opposom might have grabbed one off the roost, but I can't picture them grabbing another one once they were all panicking. I've seen a cat w/ a bird and they pulled off the feathers like I saw, so the bobcat is still suspect #1.

    I have a "have-a-heart" trap that is racoon sized and I may set it tonight with the more intact body and see if I catch the culprit, although it may be too small for a full grown bobcat. If it is just a coon or an opposom and I catch them, I can just drown them in the pond (sorry if this offends, but they are vicious little killers), but I would probably turn a bobcat over to authorities.

    Although I'm sad about the chickens, I'm most sad that it was my 10 year old daughter that found them.

    CHICKYDEB In the Brooder

    May 29, 2007
    Phelps, NY
    I am very sorry for your loss :aww. I know it makes it much harder when you don't know what you are protecting against. My attack left one dead rooster in tact, no blood, two missing hens a lot of feathers and another rooster with no tail feathers! It was broad daylight and no sounds except for the squawking chickens! My heart goes out to you.
  6. BeckyLa

    BeckyLa Songster

    Jan 11, 2007
    N. Louisiana
    I lost two hens last year that were eaten in exactly the same way. The first one I know was a red-tailed hawk as it was still dining when I came home. The second I know was still the hawk because I found a big hole in the netting I had put up that morning along with some hawk feathers. But the hole was in the corner and hard to find. Since your birds were found after the sun was up, it's possible it could have been a or a pair of preditory birds. If you have netting over your run, look to see if it has any holes. I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost a whole flock one time to fox because I got off second shift too tired to walk out into the field and lock the door. [​IMG]
  7. Arklady

    Arklady Songster

    Jan 30, 2007
    Possums... travel in families. So if there is more than one bird there is more than one possum and one possum can eat a whole chicken they do like to eat them where they kill them. So... good luck..

  8. sdeneen2001

    sdeneen2001 Songster

    Feb 26, 2007
    Bellevue, WA
    Hmm, I hadn't thought of a hawk. We do have those (red tails, eagles, etc). The coop is enclosed when the door is shut, but the pen is open. There is a large tarp garage cover over it and 6' chain link fence with 1.5' of garden fence around the top (in yet another vain attempt to keep miss Deborah in), but it is open above that and, as mentioned, the gate was open, but that makes it quite a crowded area for a hawk.

    It could have been light at the time of the attack, in which case, Deborah and Zilpah may have been out in the yard and a hawk could have followed her into the pen. If that is the case, then I would need to put some netting between the top of the fence and the bottom of the cover.

    We do have small rats in the coop (we used to have mice until Leah developed a taste for them...) but they seem satisfied with sharing the chicken food.
  9. MTchick

    MTchick Songster

    Feb 2, 2007
    Western Montana
    The hawk theory, in my mind, is less likely than the raccoon or opposum. The fact that the heads were attached and that they were left in the run is not really a hawk or owl "look"- it is more of a mammal attack scene in my mind. Especially the chewing aspect- birds can't 'chew'- they only can rip.

    Here is a weird little fact for you- hawks and owls pull the feathers out by the shaft, while mammals will cut/tear/bite through the shaft. I can't see in the photos, and you might have buried them by now, but if you can find a bunch of large detached feathers and see if they were cleanly pulled out or crunched on, that is a really solid clue. It is harder to tell with body-down but still possible.

    Sorry about your hens.

  10. fowlweatherfriends

    fowlweatherfriends Songster

    Mar 14, 2007
    The Sunny South
    I am so sorry for your loss. Did your daughter handle it well? I recently lost 7 to a dog-caught in the act.
    A bit off topic-but I think the biblical names for your hens are lovely [​IMG].

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