Monday, January 21, 2013

Missing Hen :( Predator-Proofing our Coop



We had a hen go missing recently :(  We came home one night and there were only 6 hens in the coop with Reggie. When she didn't appear the following night, and the chickens were acting particularly strange by not leaving their coop/pen to forage and frolic in the woods, we knew something was wrong.

A day or two later my husband went walking around the woods when it was light and found a couple of clumps of feathers--not a good sign. He found another little clump over by our neighbors yard. It seems that some sort of predator caught our hen and then carried her off somewhere, because we never found her body.


Why is it always the sweetest ones that get taken?


There is no guaranteed way to totally prevent predators from getting to your chickens, especially if you allow them to free range, but there are some things that you can do to make the casualties a little fewer. We know in the back of our minds we will probably lose one or two a year to predators, and that is because we would rather them be allowed out to free range getting healthy greens and bugs, rather than be relegated to the pen and coop all day. They live far happier lives and to me that is worth it.

So far, to secure our pen and coop and deter predators we have:

1) added a carabiner latch/hook to the back door (so raccoon hands can't undo the latches!),



2) surrounded the pen with a solar-powered electric fence,



3) topped the pen with netting,

4) placed an owl on top of a little stand to ward of hawks in our backyard,



5) raise Dominiques partly because of their feather patterning that blends in more with the landscape, making them less visible to predators,



6) Keep the chicken feed in a separate spot from where the chickens are

Additionally, you can:

7) Consider burying underground piping at the edges of the coop or pen to discourage predators from digging underneath in order to get inside. You can also bury hardware cloth several inches under the ground.

8) Build strong, sturdy walls of the coop and pen (use hardware cloth) and make sure the supports and strong as well so that they can't be torn apart by larger predators. 

9) Invest in a wildlife camera. These are not very expensive, and you can spot from the footage what comes around at night so that you will know how best to deal with the problem. Remember, everybody wants a chicken dinner! 

It is so important to take steps to keep your flock safe from predators as much as you can, and it is important that the chickens know and understand where their "safe spot" is. For ours, it is underneath their coop in their pen.

Honestly, as much as I have enjoyed raising our last batch of chicks by hand and love how they are so friendly with us, we can tell a strong difference in safety instincts between them and the ones that were raised by their mama hen. The ones raised by their mama hen around grown-up chickens are faster to run from predators and much more skittish with us, and I think can detect overhead predators as well as ground threats a little better. They are better foragers and have more "street sense" if you will.

the hen with the hurt foot/leg...notice that it is curled under. She is also molting :(

In other chicken news, we have a hen with a hurt leg/foot. I noticed her limping pretty badly over the weekend, so we isolated her into the brooder coop and pen. We aren't sure if anything is broken, but it doesn't feel like it. Perhaps she just sprained something and we are hoping in a week or two she will feel better. I put some crushed baby aspirin in her water and I'm going to give her vitamins and electrolytes. She also happens to be molting, poor baby :(





12 comments:

  1. So sorry. The wind always gets knocked out of me when I discover a missing/dead chicken. I watched one get carried away by a hawk once and it was terrible. On a positive front, I scared a full sized bear away once...that story keeps resurfacing, it's my most triumphant moment! Hope whatever got it stays faaar away from the rest of your peeps.

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    1. Wow! You are a brave woman to scare off a bear! Anything for our chickies, right? ;)

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  2. Great tips! Our chickens are spoiled. My children have named them, carry them around like babies so when one goes missing there are tears!!! at our house. Maybe I'll post some pics of them on my blog...you have inspired me. Have a great day!

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  3. Oh no! I'm so sorry! We haven't lost any this year due to predators, and it might be because of the very large dog next door scaring everything away. But, we had friends that got chicks last spring, the same time as us, and they lost 8 to a hawk (and only have 4 left). Very sad, especially for the kids.

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  4. Great post, sorry for your loss. I feel similarly about allowing my flock to free-range.
    Just a thought about your limping hen...did you check the bottom of her feet for bumblefoot? It's the most common cause of limping in chickens. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/07/bumblefoot-causes-treatment-warning.html

    Thanks for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick
    http://www-The-Chicken-Chick.com

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    1. Hi Kathy, I will check for bumblefoot. She didn't have a big build up or much of a scab on the bottom of her foot but I will check again. Thank you :)

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  5. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!



    Cheers,
    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick

    http://www.The-Chicken-Chick.com

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  6. Oh no! I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm sure it's even harder when you don't really know what happened. Luckily I haven't lost any of my chickens to predators (knock on wood), just from illness.

    And your poor molting girl with the hurt leg...when it rains, it pours! A long time ago, my rooster was limping really bad and basically just hopping on one leg. I was so worried about him, but nothing was broken or visibly injured, so I just let him be. After about 2-3 weeks he was good as new! I think he hurt it jumping off the roost, so after that we lowered their roosts quite a bit.

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    1. Yes I am hoping she recovers on her own. She is looking a tad better and getting around ok, but still limping and if she has to move fast she hops. Glad your rooster recovered!

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  7. I'm sorry you lost a chicken, particularly a sweet one! I just wanted to add that for those burying hardware cloth several inches under the ground, you should try bending the pointy ends out away from the pen. Foxes (or other wildlife) that may try digging under will find it uncomfortable to come up against the pointy ends and will probably be more likely to give up. It's something we did when I was working with piping plovers (an endangered shorebird) and we put predator exclosures around some of their nests. It sounds pretty mean, but I imagine they give up before they get really hurt.

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    1. Rosalyn, that is a great idea. Definitely something we need to consider doing. We don't have our hardware cloth buried much because of the electric fence, but an extra layer of protection can't hurt.

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  8. Hi Megan! New follower here, nice blog. Great post, good info and lovely chickens! I hadn't thought of the color of chickens being a factor in keeping them safe, good point! I am really new to chickens (less than a year in), and I've got Red Stars, only two. I'm sorry about your limping hen, hope she gets better soon.

    I would love for you to share this post on tomorrow's Farm Girl Blog Fest #17 at my blog, Let This Mind Be in You. Here's the link to the blog, it should be up in the morning! Feel free to share two more as well, old ones are fine as long as they fit into the criteria!
    http://thismindbeinyou.blogspot.com/

    Hope to see you there!
    ~Kristi@Let This Mind Be in You

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