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Chicken Predators

10965 Views 14 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Gravlore
Have had my girls for almost a year now. This morning found one dead, head gone, innerds pulled out and eaten, pretty clean job besides the feathers laying about.

My coop is inside a fenced orchard (6 ft fencing). The birds have the walk of the orchard in the day. The fence perimeter was untouched, there is a foot of hard snow on the ground. A light dusting of snow covered the ground, obviously post event. No tracks.

I bought a live trap, I baited it with the carcass and some cat food. Whatever is in it in the morning, won't be alive shortly after my arrival.

I closed the hens inside the coop for the night.

I figure a racoon got her, only assuming because of the clean kill. There are eagles here, but don't see them in the winter.

Only other animals about are domestic dogs and cats and coyotes, but again, the kill site was very precise and no dogs could pentrate the fence unknown.

Any ideas? I will keep you posted on the results.
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Predator Update #1

Nothing in the trap tonight. I will take out the frozen bait and rebait it just before dark tonight.

Spokane has had a miserable winter. 7 feet of snow in a 3 week period, compacted and still on the ground. Temps to -20. Very unsusual. I can see predators being more desperate. In 9 years I have only seen one other **** here. It would eat the cat food on the porch while the cats would watch from their heated igloo. That was a few years ago. I chased it off for good, but that is another story.

As far as the hens go, I have (had) 4 Buff Orphingtons. The henhouse is not heated, but I do have a heating pad under the nestbox to keep the eggs from freezing. They are protected from any wind. They have done fabulously and continue with 2-3 eggs per day, even with a broody (the broody was the one eaten so the predator must have gone into the henhouse, up the stairs and pulled her out, she would not have been wandering about, that's a mystery)

I was saving the broody to mother a few chicks I was going to pick up from the farm store next week. but I guess they already got orphaned.

I will post an update when there is news.

I like the idea of a cat call to keep predators away, but there are horses on the other side of the fence from the chickens, (other neighbor), will they freak out?

What discourages large predatory birds (Hawks, Eagles?)
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2nd day, nothing trapped.

This morning at 11am saw a large bird (Hawk?) sitting on top of one of the 8 ft fence posts. Standing it is about 18 inches tall plus, not trying to exagerrate, just a guess.

Chased it off. The coop is about 300 ft from my house.

At 4pm I noticed it again, same post. Not in a hurry to fly off, casually flew away.

At this point I lose. I was hoping for an all out war against a four legged fiend, legal to kill. Now I have to be kind so I don't go to jail for killing it (I won't-kill it that is). So I will just have to put up mirrors and shinies and maybe move a big plastic owl around the posts, make the area look busy.

An owl won't work against a Hawk, but it may confuse it for awhile. I will find one that hoots intermittently.

I am sure the carcass in the live trap just looked like a dinner plate so that wil be moved out today and emptied.

The chickens have an enclosed 4x8 ft coop. But on the coop are 2 small doors, one on either end. When the garden is growing, I keep that door closed and keep the orchard end door open, they can run on the fenced orchard (40x80) all day long and they find their own way home. After the garden is done in the fall, the garden door is opened and the girls roam the fenced garden, 40x40. Both areas are too big to put overhead netting. And I am determined to continue to allow the girls to run free, but a daytime determined predator just messes that up. I have a Great Dane, but she is afraid of her own spots. The 2 Yorkies are bird bait, so no more room for dogs.

I really like the cat caller CVORNurse recommended and I wil get one, but it is not for the Birds, so to speak.

I will also plant some shrubbery near the coop so the hens have some cover while running to the coop, but that also helps the four legged devils get in closer.

I might get some netting to extend a ways from the coop so they can walk about a bit even with two beady eyes watching them.

All my Orchard trees are new, in last spring so they are too small for the hawk to roost, I just realized, that the 40ea 8 foot posts just make it easy for any bird to sit and watch the girls. I will have to devise some sort of cone to place on top of each one to remove the temptation to rest on them, waiting. Or maybe a springy rod or wire with a silvery tassle to blow in the wind.

Crap, thought I had a good system in place, now I have to go back to the drawing board!
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Final Update?

So taking the live trap out of the run with the carcass in it stopped the Hawk from perching on the fence. Was probably like chum to a shark. Had to be terrifying to the chickens in the run next door, my apologies to them. Stupid idea on my part.

Next, 2-3 days with no eggs. PTSD for hens?

I put the trap back next to the coop by a small spot that looked like some lose dirt, no burrow. I put an egg in the trap. Remember the girl taken was my broodie who would have been sitting on all the eggs at the time of the first event.

This morning I find the neighbors cat in the live trap. No evidence of an egg, not even residue. It ate the egg clean. It was also very PO'd for being in the trap ovenight.

1/ did not know cats ate eggs whole (shells too.)
2/ did not know cats would kill and eat a chicken so cleanly.
3/ did not think a cat could get into a coop so steathily. (the coop stays in place. Instead of running some wire on the ground in toward the coop I had the bright idea of digging a trench under the coop and filing it in with cantelope sized rocks, to keep Coyotes and ***** from burrowing in. This cat just slicked thru a very small gap)

Being kind and gentle, I left the cat in the cage for 24 hours then released it. I will hope the cat has learned a lesson. In a week or so, unless eggs come up missing sooner, I will rebait the trap with some canned friskies and see if anyone else shows up. I think that is the most humane way of teaching the cats NO!.

I have small grandkids so an electric wire is not an option.

The dog is in at night so the cats have the run. I have an outside cat too, so I have to reasonably accept a little trouble from time to time. Setting a live trap out occaisionaly seems like a humane way to educate the local cats without harm.

Hopefuly, chapter closed, lesson learned, blueprints opened. :eek:
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the neighors cat

I did report the offending cat and the neighors were geniunely sympathetic and apolgetic. They were willing to take the cat up to another property of theirs and let it barn around up there, but I suggested we just see what happens. I hope to learn more from cat proofing and retesting the coop than hauling off domestic offenders and over time testing neighborly patience. They let me have chickens, I let them have cats. If I were way out in the country my options and response to a domestic marauder might be different and more options would be legal. Keeping it low key to start. Secure chicken coops make for better neighborly relations. Still working on it.
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