How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

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AJMD429
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How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by AJMD429 »

I've had friends and other farmers tell me all sorts of things about what kills their chickens or ducks, and yet most of it either conflicts with what others tell me (and they all tell it as if it is hard-established gospel fact), or just doesn't make sense.

We get birds with just the neck and head missing. Poultry netting up to two feet, 2x4" mesh up to 5 feet, topped by hot-wire.

I'm thinking raptors (usually at night, so probably owls), or weasels (could slip through the fence), but not raccoons or possums or foxes or coyotes, as none of them could get in that area.

An entire ducks head and neck seems a bit much for a weasel to haul off, yet it seems an owl would take the whole bird.

Thoughts...???
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by Beaker »

Have you tried putting up one of those game cameras out and see if it will take a picture of something?
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by Griff »

Low-Tech method. Sweep (as in with a broom), the area just outside the fencing... check for tracks. If none, and chickens are missing... you guessed correctly, avian thieves are getting your yardbirds.
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by ollogger »

Are the birds roosting in a coop? if so it sounds like a weasel or Mink ??


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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by 44shooter »

I've heard but do not know for sure that, some owls stealthily approach roosting gamefowl and attach the neck. Then they feed on the rapidly flowing blood. They do not take the bird because the carcass may be as big or bigger than the owl ( i.e. Turkeys). I could see an owl flying off with an easily detached head if this is true.
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by Ray »

as others have mentioned....o w l.....the smaller ones can flit like a moth into a coop through a very small opening and light right next to their victim without even waking the flock on the roost.....cat, fox, possum, coon, weasels always seem to cause a ruckus and leave spoor/sign.....eastern screech would be my first suspect if the coop opening is small.....open topped.....could be a big one like the barn one.....
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by magyars4 »

We recently lost 2 hens on 2 consecutive nights. Both had head wounds.
I set up my live trap and caught a good sized coon. No problems since.
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by Rusty »

I was finding headless birds in my flock till they were almost depleted. When I had 3 left I heard something one night and went out with the shotgun. It turned out to be a coon.
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by gcs »

When I had headless chickens, it was usually possums. Check that there are no crawl unders anywhere, make sure your hot wire is working, but normal hot wire only works if the critter also has ground contact, that may be the problem, as they just climb over it.
I don't believe a screech owl could do it, other owls, maybe, but I've never had that problem, or know anyone that has. Weasels and mink usually kill and drink the blood, it would take them awhile to chew a head off.

Like was said, clean a path, or make one to check for tracks. My bet, a coon or possum going over and not getting shocked.

Just remembered, if a coon can crab a chicken through the wire, it will pull what it can through it.
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by Sixgun »

Doc,
I've had chickens in the past and I remember they would sometimes stick their head through the chicken wire to get grass...whatever......and after the heads of your chickens got ripped off they would start flapping around to another area of the coup........most likely a coon got them. (4 legged)-------6
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by mikld »

Chupacabra. Or muslim slinking rats just beheading innocent chickens.

Sorry for the worthless post, but I grew up in the city, know very little about poultry, and the only threat to chickens in the ghetto were neighbors...
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by AJMD429 »

mikld wrote:Chupacabra. Or muslim slinking rats just beheading innocent chickens.

Sorry for the worthless post, but I grew up in the city, know very little about poultry, and the only threat to chickens in the ghetto were neighbors...
:lol:

The other answers were all helpful, but yours was the only one that made me smile; I needed a good laugh this Monday; thanks...!
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by superchicken »

If your mesh is small enough that a weasel can't get through and your set up is open topped with two feet of wire mesh, then something is either jumping the fence or is flying over. Owls generally rip the heads off and then pluck the breast. Mesocarnivores will generally just start eating and swallow a lot of the feathers. If they do pluck, the feathers will be wetted and chewed up more than with an owl or raptor. Did you look for tracks in an around the coop? Try raking around the outside to see if something comes back. No matter what it is, it sounds like you need a roof or wire over the top.
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by pdentrem »

Co worker says weasel would do this in his area. Coyote or any canine would grab and run off with only one. Coon will kill all. Minks are not as likely but could do as a weasel does. Cats, large or small, like coyote. No opossum experience as of yet. Eagle or large hawk would also grab only one and fly away.
Anyways that was his response. His chicken are free range and the dogs are there to protect them first and eat them second!
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by mack »

Weasel or fisher in these parts will clean the whole house in many cases, just for the fun of it. A barred owl will take on something as large as a chicken or house cat, some times won't carry it off, but will piece it out. I've heard stories that an owl will "knock the head off" another bird. Think you need to sit up all night or try a game camera set to really find out. A feral cat or fox can cause all kinds of grief, but never heard of them just taking a head. My FIL kept chickens, 40-60k of them and his biggest problem was fishers or an occasional mink, don't think a 'coon ever gave him much trouble, and around here 'yotes only seem to bother the "free range" flocks.
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by J35 »

If it is a owl you will find talon tracks on the bird.

Just skin the bird and your answer will be right in front of your eyes.

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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by 6pt-sika »

Sixgun wrote:........most likely a coon got them. (4 legged)-------6
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by 92&94 »

In my limited experience, coyotes and cats take the whole bird. Raptors kill and eat what they can, leaving the carcass behind. No direct experience with skunks, coons, or foxes, though we do have all those where I live. Most we've lost have been to coyotes and cats (bobcats that is - house cats slink away with an offended expression after being pecked a few times :mrgreen: )
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by AJMD429 »

No way to detect tracks, as outside the pen is all coarse sod, and inside is coarse mulch, but I set a live-catch trap today... :twisted:
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by sureshot »

Hope it's not a Skunk! :o
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by Rusty »

I resorted to leg hold traps and snares when trying to end the thieves in my back yard. Tt didn't seem to work as good as a 12 ga in the end.
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by AJMD429 »

sureshot wrote:Hope it's not a Skunk! :o
I got one of them in a live-trap once, but I foresaw the possibility, and had tied a 75 foot rope to the trap first, so I slowly pulled the trap a few hundred yards farther from the house, and did the deed there. It never sprayed, even with the dragging of the trap...!
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by 92&94 »

AJMD429 wrote:
sureshot wrote:Hope it's not a Skunk! :o
I got one of them in a live-trap once, but I foresaw the possibility, and had tied a 75 foot rope to the trap first, so I slowly pulled the trap a few hundred yards farther from the house, and did the deed there. It never sprayed, even with the dragging of the trap...!
I've covered the trap with a piece of tarp or an old paper feed bag with good results several times. They don't seem to spray in the small space, perhaps because they can't see the threat. If you are then dispatching the critter, no problem, but if releasing somewhere they don't want to leave the trap that is now a safe, dark hole. So if thats the plan its good to make the cover in such a way that you can pull it off easily.
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by piller »

Skunks will kill like a weasel and drink the blood, then carry the head away to eat later.

Hope you get the culprit soon.
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Re: How can you tell what REALLY kills your chickens...?

Post by BAGTIC »

I lost a lot of baby Muscovy ducks. It was a coon that would snatch their heads as they were poked through wire. Bodies were untouched as were several other ducklings in same cage whose heads were too large to fit through mesh.
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