varmint eating my chickens!

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by backwoods, Oct 18, 2004.

  1. backwoods

    backwoods Well-Known Member

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    So far we've lost 6 chickens in the last 4 days. One of them yesterday was during the day, the rest were lost during the nights. This varmint is attacking the head, then eating the entrails and then leaving the eggs inside the hens and not eating them. We've got them locked in their house but something is climbing over the top evidently. Any suggestions? Do you know what does this "type" of killing? We don't have any "qualms" about killing this sucker, but maybe it'd help to know what we're dealing with. We've got 29 new chicks that need to go out soon, but don't dare put them out there now!
    Thanks,
    Jamie
     
  2. Ana Bluebird

    Ana Bluebird Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I do believe a possum or raccoon eats that way at night. Just walks right up to them while they are sleeping---they don't fly away---they just sit there while he takes his time. The others don't have sense enough to leave cause they keep sleeping usually, so he just moves onto the next one. I'd say you probably have more than one though. Your easiest solution, I'd think, would be to enclose the top in some way. The one that went missing during the day---if there was nothing left (no feathers or body parts), I'd guess a chicken hawk (all hawks are chicken hawks around here). They just swoop down and take the whole bird. Or a fox does that too, but sometimes the chicken will leave a few feathers with a fox, but not usually, he's very quick! I"m no expert that would be my guess.
     

  3. ratherbefishin

    ratherbefishin Well-Known Member

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    If you want chickens , you have to completely enclose them in a secure coop-run.That means using a foundation[so they can't dig under it] 2'' fencing mesh under regular 1'' chicken wire[ or coons will justbite through it]and a roof over the run.You have to plug every hole bigger that 1 '' of mink will get in and kill the lot of them.I also leave a baited rattrap up on a top sill, to keep the rats in check.Even then you'll still attract preditors, so you'll need a lantern and a .22 to keep them in check.After you've lost a few chickens[ or thewhole flock in one night] you'll realise this is the only way to go if you want to keep hens safe
     
  4. twstanley

    twstanley Well-Known Member

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    Also consider electrifying the perimeter of the coop and run with a fence charger. There are electric mesh fences you can put up around the run and you could figure out some method of also putting some over your coop and run if needed.
     
  5. ratherbefishin

    ratherbefishin Well-Known Member

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    one advantage to roofing over the chickenrun is it stays dry, and that means less smell.I throw in wood sawdust, and lawn clippings .I also ran a downspout off the gutter to keep the water bucket full- saves watering them
     
  6. Little Quacker in OR

    Little Quacker in OR Well-Known Member

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    :) You will definitely have to protect your birds. If you knock off whatever is getting them now..another predator will just show up. Why put yourself to all of that trouble and aggravation when it's so easy to build a good pen?

    I make my own so I know it's not hard. I use two kinds of wire...depends on what I can get at the time. LOL Either 1' X 1/2" welded wire, or hardward cloth and I put it on 2X2" frames and attach the pen to a good house. I like roofs that keep out the rain, the ducks don't care but I do! LOL

    If you lay down wire on the ground all around and put the pens right on it you won't have anything digging in.

    This also gives you more control over when and where the eggs are lain. I keep my birds in until about 9AM and they lay in the house/pen.

    good luck with the problem....LQ
     
  7. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    You need an appropriate dog to protect livestock.IMHO from what I read here.
    BooBoo
     
  8. GeorgeK

    GeorgeK Well-Known Member

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    possum and raccons like eggs and meat, sounds like a feral housecat
     
  9. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

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    possums and coons will take the whole bird with them, leaving no trace.

    Have you smelled any skunk?

    Might be a mink.

    You've got two options.

    A. Predator proof pen, which can be nigh on impossible, with coon, possum, skunk, snakes, or mink... If you can stick your hand in a crack, they can get through, eat what they want, and leave.

    B. Remove the predators. If they've eaten once, they'll return till there's nothing left on the menu. Rig up a .22 rifle with a taped on flashlight/portable spotlight. Scopes are handy. As long as your domestic cats and dogs are put up...anything you catch in the chicken coop is fair game.

    You might try an early warning system...the wedding car rattle...tie tin cans together, stack them on your chicken pen coop posts, tie fishing string around the upper or lower perimeters, tying also to the cans.....the idea is if something crawls under or over your fence (or near the doors, etc.) it'll brush against the strings and finely balanced cans, making some racket. That's your cue to rush outside and get medieval.

    or, you can try the predator flooding option...raise so many dang chickens, that the chickens outbreed the critters that are feeding on them... I've got a couple hundred free range chickens, grazing several woodland acres. Natural selection is favoring the camouflaged birds. White one's don't pass along their genes as often.
     
  10. Ole Man Legrand

    Ole Man Legrand Well-Known Member

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    I heard about a wild life camera that snaps pictures when there is motion in front of it. It has a flash. That way you would know what you are dealiing with. My neighbor got one for $50. It attaches to a tree. I thiink he got it at SAMS Club.
     
  11. bgak47

    bgak47 Well-Known Member

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    Owls killed my gunieas this way.Be carefull about killing Owls. Some of them are protected by State or Fed law. Gunieas arn't protected.
     
  12. JAS

    JAS Well-Known Member

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    I'm dealing with a mink right now. They will kill and kill and kill, usually the first night eating a few heads. They pull the bodies into any holes or cracks. One of my neighbors had 40 guineas and lost all but 7 in one night to one mink.

    I had a weasel last year that was apparently eating mice until I put a few young ducks out. It then killed them by attacking them over and over, usually the head. The ones that lived had wounds on their heads and bodys. It didn't bother the full size chickens. I had another weasel later that got caught in a live mice trap--it was going for the mice.

    Opposum, too. They were taking the young chicks one year. We caught one just sitting in a nest box that the chicks and hen where using. It ate the heads of a few chicks but ate most of the body of the others. This was a young opposum.

    I haven't caught the mink yet but am using an old baby monitor to listen to the birds. The second night I caught him in the act twice. The bird that is being attack will squack and the rest of the birds will make nervious noises but they don't move--easy meals for any preditor.
     
  13. sullen

    sullen Question Answerer

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    Man, am I glad I don't live where you guys do. I have yet to lose a chick to a predator, besides my neighbors bird mutt. Counting my blessings, let me tell ya. My corgis chase away everything, but they come in at night.
     
  14. Little Quacker in OR

    Little Quacker in OR Well-Known Member

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    :) Sorry Texican..I don't think that you really know what you are talking about. And it's views like this that get people into trouble where they just lose more birds or wind up getting crazy about the whole thing and give up. ...Or try and kill everything they can without realizing that there are always more predators that will move in to fill the void. Not to mention that the animals who are getting killed off are the very ones that keep down the population of rodents and other things which really are our enemies! And we wonder why we need poisons to protect our food supply!

    It is dead easy to make a secure pen/house for poultry/waterfowl. It is not the "impossible dream" that some make it out to be. You don't need a fort. You just need to do a little planning, and know how critters think.

    I rehab many predator species and knowing how to keep them IN, shows me how to keep them OUT. I live on a little river, surrounded by forest and wildlife. I think we have just about every "usual suspect" that there is in this country, right here. I enjoy predators and study them as a hobby.

    Predators are creatures of opportunity. If they meet up with resistance and it is not an easy thing to make their way into where your birds are, they will go somewhere else.

    All of my pens were built by me, and I am a retired grandma and not all that good at carpentry( I should say the neighbor helped with the roofs.). I use frames of 2"X 2"s(the larger 2X4's are too heavy for me to handle). I make panels from these, staple on either welded 1' X1/2" wire or hardware cloth and take the panels out and put the pen together on the site with quarter inch bolts.

    I set the pens right on wire layed on the ground all around the perimeter and sticking out at least 24". . Then the roof goes on and they are of wafer board, rolled felt and then metal sheets, because I don't like working in wet pens..ny ducks don't mind the rain..but I do! LOL

    My pens have been in place for 12 years with never a bird lost to a predator.

    The secret is tight doors and windows(if you have them) and absolutely no space between the side panels and the roof. When a hungry critter gets to the pens, they look it over and if they try and dig in they always go right to the bottom of the pen and encounter wire. They don't have the smarts to back up for 20 or 30" and dig.

    I do think that many people get into trouble when they try to keep their birds enclosed in an existing barn or stable that was never built to keep birds safe. Instead it was constructed to keep large stock in. Sometimes it seems that when there is a barn or stable, people can't get past using it for their poultry, even though they know predators can get in. I don't know why. :no: All they have to do is to consider the problem and erect tight pens for their birds..forget the barn and stable unless they are tight enough to keep the usual suspects out. :p ...or put up tight pens within the barn etc.

    I have helped others convert an existing stall to a safe haven for their birds, sort of a pen within. Maybe we just need to take another look at this predator thing and how we are approaching it and see where the flaws are in our thinking.I know all of you out there are way smarter than the average raccoon! :p

    LQ
     
  15. desnri

    desnri Well-Known Member

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    DH and I feel for you Backwoods. We lost 6 or 7 chickens to racoon earlier this year and another 12 or so to a bobcat. The bobcat was really surprising for us. We've heard of them being around here (we're in East Texas) but have never seen any. DH caught her staring at our ducks at about 10 pm when he went to check on the birds and the 20 ga. took care of her. He has heard of possum tearing the heads of of their prey. The only thing we have found to work in keeping out varmints is diligence. Make sure holes are promptly repaired and cracks sealed. For mice, you can use steel wool in any holes. 1" wire is the best to use for chicken pens. The larger wire is easier to break. Texican, we are with you on protecting the chickens. There have many times we've had to use our buddy Remington on snakes, raccoons and now a bobcat. Just don't give up on your chickens. They'll love you for it.
     
  16. superduperchickenman

    superduperchickenman Well-Known Member

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  17. backwoods

    backwoods Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all your suggestions, everyone! Whatever the critter was it hasn't struck anymore. We have a pretty secure chicken house with a small wood door (chicken sized) within the larger door. Whatever it was, it opened the little door to get in, because we found it opened. I suspect it may have been a coon, but could have been a martin (weasel) as well. We are locking the chickens up inside a wire cage, inside the chicken house now and nailed the little door shut, so it can't get in that way anymore. So far, so good. What you all said about another predator coming along, is something we've dealt with too.
    I gave up on raising ducks several years ago around here because the owls and hawks kept getting them. I saw a hawk dive down and rip the back off a couple of my ducks, and if it wasn't hawks or owls, it was the neighborhood fox. I've seen it twice crossing the road near my driveway lately in the afternoons. We just kind of tolerate him though. I really don't want to shoot it. It hasn't been getting our chickens while they are running loose foraging, so unless I find out for sure he's the culprit now, I'd like to let him be. Our golden retriever barks and does a pretty good job at keeping most varmints run off. A couple years ago we locked him inside the chicken yard, but outside the hen house, after we'd had a problem and he got in an awful ruckus with something that night and it never came back. We never did find out what "it" was. We will do that again if whatever it is comes back. I just hate to lock him in there though, because he HATES it and acts like, "what'd I do???"
    Thanks again!