Worst day ever.

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by sarahsc0tt, Jun 30, 2011.

  1. sarahsc0tt

    sarahsc0tt Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 13, 2011
    Central Valley
    Here in CA we had an insane freezing rain storm last night--all night--that was bad enough to drag out the winter bedding again. The wind was howling and rain pounded down all night long and well into the morning. It was loud enough and cold enough to set a gnawing worry in my stomach. I was worried about my little flock of 7 Ameraucana's since it was their first rain and not predicted in the weather report, but I knew they were sheltered and had settled down for the night into the old dresser drawers full of hay that they sleep in, just like every night. I still worried all night long and slept poorly.

    I woke up this morning, ready to feed and water them, but did not hear their usual clamor for crumble and ran down to their shelter to see what was wrong and how they had fared the storm ... only 4 of 7 were there and they were dead. I later found another ripped apart in the creek. I have NO idea how this happened. There is no evidence of any predator digging holes or breaking into the pen in any way. Most of my chickens were just dead; untouched by tooth, talon or claw. I have been crying all day long. I recently enlarged their area and they were doing so well, growing big and loving being spoiled. They were only 3 months old but I raised them from chicks and cannot help but feel that I am to blame for this. I have taken every precaution and still, I failed. It would have been bad enough to lose some of them, but all at once was too much. Knowing they died alone, in terror and pain, does not help. I don't even know what sort of predator would have been out in that horrific storm.

    I'm devastated. My husband wants to try again with new chicks because he knows how upset I am and insists that I did nothing wrong to make this happen. I know our favorite feed store is selling Barred Rock chicks at the moment but I'm afraid to start again. I put so much into raising my last flock, now gone. I can't go through this again. To make matters worse, I have 2 Buff Silkie's that were given to me about 5 weeks back and they'll be ready to move outside very soon. I was planning on next Saturday, but now I'm terrified! The 2 Silkie's--a cockerel and a pullet--are all I have left. Obviously they are certainly not enough to feed eggs to myself and my husband but I love them and have had them since chick-hood. They needed a home and I felt that I could provide them with a good one at the time. Now, I feel like the worst home possible for any chicken.

    I don't know what to do. I still don't know what got my chickens or HOW! Their pen is protected from all sides. I would have shot it if I had known what was going on last night. The worst part is not knowing ... there is literally NO clue as to how this happened. I'm confused, scared, and very worried.

    Does anyone have any advice? Thank you.

    - SS
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2011
  2. krissteff

    krissteff Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 2, 2011
    oh no, i am so sorry [​IMG]
    i can't imagine how devasting it was for you. I'm just so sorry.

    Do you have any pictures of their enclosure? Maybe some of these kind people can help figure out this horrible mystery.

  3. Animalian

    Animalian Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 18, 2011
    Since they were still littlish maybe it was a venomous snake? Some species go into a 'den' and bite everything they can, the bites would be very hard to find. Then it will eat its fill and leave. They also regurgitate if they are threatened. So maybe it was near the creek and confronted by another animal which threatened it somehow and some scavenging/the threatening animal found the regurgitated birds, ate two and tore the last up???

    A snake could have got through the wire if the holes in the wire are large enough.

    This is my best guess other than some cruel person thinking it was a good idea to kill your birds, three might have escaped and became easy pickings for the local predators...

    Maybe post some pictures of your coop, some more eyes looking at it might help find a 'weak point' you may have overlooked?
  4. Abirdbrain

    Abirdbrain Chillin' With My Peeps

    I have no knowledge of your areas predators, but a night raid implies a night prowler. Possum, coon, coyote. Neighbor dog. Killed and left behind implies dog type. Crushed not chewed. Removed implies food.

    The area is obviously open somewhere. possum and coons climb and come in over a roof, through rafters, and out again with windows and doors secured

    Sorry for your loss. My Eagle faced Americanas, are very vocal and flighty. That movement alone may have spelled doom.

    I am fighting a fox that has already gotten several Brahmas, and a family of Racoons, that raid at night.
  5. HHandbasket

    HHandbasket The Chickeneer

    [​IMG] That's such a sad story... I am so sorry to hear that!

    I hope you do not give up! You should get more chicks. I have some that I'd just give you if you were closer (they are mixed breeds, all half mottled java & half something else--our rooster is a mottled java & we have a variety of hens he covers).

    Where in the valley are you? We're not too far from you (we're in the mountains, up in El Dorado County about half-way between Sacramento and Tahoe).

    I think it's a good idea what Krissteff said about posting pics of the enclosure, so perhaps we can help you determine how the predator got in, what kind of predator it was, and hopefully help you prevent this from happening again when you get more chicks.

    C'mon, go get more chicks. You know you wanna. [​IMG]

    Nothing helps heal the broken heartedness of losing chooks to a predator like a little batch of new fuzzybutts! Nothing can ever replace the birds you lost, but new chicks goes a long way toward moving forward.
  6. sarahsc0tt

    sarahsc0tt Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 13, 2011
    Central Valley
    Thank you, everyone, for your replies! I feel a little bit better today. I spent some quality time with my Silkies before bed and they cheered me up. They're so cute, how could they not?

    I woke up this morning to find my husband already out of bed and down at the chicken enclosure--well, what was the chicken enclosure--dismantling it. I thought he was tearing it down and was upset at first but it turned out that he was reinforcing it so I can get new chicks ASAP. I'm a lucky girl! I would love to post pictures but he really went to town on it and it's getting a new roof and a stronger door to be on the safe side. We think it's most likely that a skunk killed our chickens.

    I live an hour outside of Fresno, about 2 hours from Yosemite and we have Western screech owls and a ton of red-tailed hawks that are within range but a raptor would have smacked face-first into corrugated sheet metal and 2X4 fencing wire. There are no dogs on the 50 acres. We have lots of barn cats but it wasn't a barn cat; I don't think a cat would take on 7 chickens. There are coyotes and bobcats, galore, but we have security lighting setup and I've never seen any so close. Occasionally a mountain lion comes down this low, but that's extremely rare and we have deer in our back yard that would be much more interesting than small chickens. All of these big predators would have torn the enclosure up. We had racoons causing havoc when we first moved to this property a year ago but we relocated them a week after we came here. That doesn't mean there aren't more. I imagine there are possums around though I've never seen one on this specific property. There are vandal teenagers in my local area that are constantly climbing our fence to party at our pond, leaving liquor bottles, beer cans, and garbage behind. We've also had trespassers shooting wild Canadian geese at the pond. They got reported to Fish and Game. So, it could have been people.

    However, my husband tells me that there was a 2-inch slit, about 6 inches long, under the sheet metal roof where the fencing wire met it. It had a few strands of nasty black fur snagged on the jagged wire edges. This was about three feet under the cover of the metal roof, where the quarter-dome of fencing wire meets the corrugated metal. This was done to prevent birds of prey or any other animals that could climb, while still allowing some ventilation at night since it gets extremely hot here. It was the only weakness. I wish I could take pictures so it's less confusing-sounding! It would have taken an extremely acrobatic and determined creature--able to squeeze through a tiny opening upside down--to get in. Even still, we think it must have had to shove hard to do so. We spent weeks refurbishing that chicken enclosure. A few days ago, we were doing some work, and we smelled skunk way out on the property. It's the first skunk we've had and I didn't know that a skunk (or skunks) could kill 7 chickens, let alone get into such a small space that I didn't even know existed, under the roof. So, we don't know for certain, but it's a pretty logical assumption; especially considering the fur found on the wire. There is no skunk smell down at the chicken enclosure but that doesn't mean anything.

    We've been rural dwellers and food-growers for many years but this was our first chance to get chickens. My husband keeps reminding me that we are learning still and are bound to have some bumps. We are taking the lesson from this and are changing our approach to "ventilation." I will never forget my first chickens but I have to remember that giving up is not in my nature and that I still have 2 little chickens to care for! That's soon to be + ... some!

    Maybe it's a local thing, but sympathetic neighbors keep recommending Dorking's to me. The people on my road swear that I'll love them and never want any other chicken again. I don't know about that. I thought they were rare and hard to come by but maybe not around here? I'll have to talk to the people at the feed store that I know are trust-worthy (not that my neighbors aren't!) about it, I guess. Knowing me, I'll want whatever chicks she has at the time ... lol. Most frequently these are Ameraucana, Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, Laced Wyandotte, and Leghorn (not my personal favorite) so there will be fuzzy little guys of some sort soon!

    Thank you, once again, for all your help and I'll take pictures of the new-and-improved chicken enclosure as soon as it's done!

    - SS
  7. Lyssa

    Lyssa Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 19, 2011
    Albuquerque, NM

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