This is a timely topic for me this week because we lost one of our new laying hens. Oh, my goodness there’s nothing worse then going to the chicken yard and seeing one of your beloved hens laying there dead in a very unsightly way I might add. After the initial fury and then sadness dissipates the best thing to do is go into “warrior detective mode” if that’s a thing? So what steps should you take to protect the rest of your flock because believe me that joker will BE BACK for more!
What time did it happen? It matters…
Determine when this happened. Was it at night or during the daytime hours? Some predators are notorious for coming out at night to feed and some are brave enough to wreak havoc during the day. A hawk will swoop in during the daytime for a kill but a raccoon or Fox will hunt in the evening or real early morning hours. Your neighbors dog Rover will generally try to “play” with the chickens during the day and don’t have any worries about being seen doing this. A dog is quite a serious predator because there are so many of them around and they are very familiar with their territory and how to get around obstacles. They usually just enjoy the chase and play with the chickens but end up killing them because they play to rough with them. Determining what possible predator it was will go a long way in helping you solve this problem
Where did it happen?….
After you’ve determined the time of day you should investigate where the kill took place. It’s possible the bird could have been moved by the predator so look for telltale signs like feathers and blood. The reason I say to determine the “where” is because that was a big factor in our situation. We have purchased an automatic door and I must say that it has been quite difficult getting this door to open and close when we want it to. I think that probably a degree in rocket science is a good start at working this crazy timer that came with it. But….we think it’s possible that the door shut to early and the hen was just simply left outside overnight so that means she was very unprotected to the predators. There was no signs that anything was disturbed in the coop so I think it’s safe to say that the coop is very safe once the door situation is rectified. Knowing “when” and “where” will help you determine what to ramp up to keep him out next time.
Trap it or not?….
I was ready to set traps out all over the place last night and bag that bugger! But you have to consider something before doing that: baiting traps and setting them all over the place will also DRAW predators that maybe hadn’t even found your hens yet! That strong smelling can of sardines will draw every predator with a nose within a mile! I did set one trap with the hen that was killed just over night and caught nothing so I didn’t do it tonight. I would work on shoring up the place that you believe the predator got to your chickens first of all whether it be your structure or the yard before baiting traps.
If you do that and it still doesn’t work…
After tweaking that crazy door and making sure it shuts and all the girls are inside and doing some further work on the fence outside to reinforce it I am going to see what happens. We are actually going to run an electric wire across the top of the pen and around the bottom to shock anything that tries to go under or over. If that doesn’t work and we lose more hens I am going to lock my hens up for a few days and clean house! There will be baited traps around to catch anything that is frequenting the area and also if I am having a hawk problem, by keeping the hens locked up for a few days many times they will leave the area to find more fertile hunting grounds. Also I will let my hens out a bit later in the morning when I do let them out again in case it is a predator coming around during the early morning hours. I am sure they will get a little persnickety with me if I have to do this but better to have grumpy hens for a few days then dead ones!
This can all get complicated but I try to tell myself, I AM smarter then a <insert predator name here> and I should be able to solve this problem eventually! By shoring up the structures your hens are in using good galvanized fencing and no chicken wire, securing them well at night and making sure the exits and entrances are well secured it should greatly cut down on your risk of losing your hens. Oh and check on those automatic doors…..frequently. I’m not sure I trust them at this point.