Lost Entire Flock except 1 in Broad Daylight

newbiegardner(Z10 S. Florida)April 23, 2010

Until the recent tragedy, I had 10 chickens. I have built as close to a predator-proof coop as I can and my flock has been fine for over 2 years. We let them out during the day and they all return at night.

We have raccoons in our area and they have tried to get into the coop but NEVER succeeded.

7 days ago, only 6 of the 10 chickens returned to the coop. We never found out what happened. No bones, feathers, nothing. We have a wooded area near our house and maybe a pack of raccoons got to them and ATE them in the wooded area and that is why we didn't find any remains. Also, although we've never had hawks...I heard maybe it was hawks.

Raccoons are NOT SUPPOSED to come during the day and we've never had raccoons come out in over 2 years during the day so I thought maybe it was a hawk.

Yesterday, of the remaining 4 chickens, only 1 returned to the coop at night. From 10 down to 1 in 2 weeks. I feel like crying.

Our neighbor said she heard squaking in broad daylight and she saw a raccoon eating one of the hens in broad daylight....it left the carcass and ran when it saw her.

That solves the mystery...it was raccoons.

If raccoons do come out in BROAD DAYLIGHT, I don't think I can get any more chickens as I can't just keep them COOPED UP in the chicken coop all day.

A fence would be worthless as the raccoons will just climb over the fence.

I suppose I could do a "covered coop" but it would have to be big for 10 chickens plus the grass would die in the coop and be ugly, no? With free-ranging them (I have 2 acres), they never really KILL any area of the lawn....they just go about the entire property.

My kids are devastated as these hens were PETS. The sole survivor is a teacup rooster and he is lonely and has not crowed since the killings. We are NOT LETTING HIM OUT and keeping him cooped up 24/7 until we figure out a better solution.

Any advice/suggestions?

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Raccoons who are nursing mothers will hunt during the day. This usually happens only in the spring. Fox and coyote will be out in daylight, as will weasels and bobcats.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 2:58PM
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You can construct a fenced yard for your chickens that is relatively coon proof. You need 10' poles sunk 24" in the ground and set in concrete. Then string a chicken wire fence to the very top of the 8' pole. At the top of that run another course of chicken wire so that it curls outward from the chicken yard. What happens is that the racoon climbs the fence, gets to the top, hangs upside down on the course that angles away from the yard and drops off.

Then of course there's always the electified fence. You'd have to talk to someone at the feed store on how to construct one of them, cause I don't do anything with electricity. But supposedly, it doesn't kill them, just gives them enough shock to keep them out of your pen.

The worst thing you can do to your chickens is let them 'free range.' Chickens are near the bottom of the food chain and so many other animals prey on them that you might as well kill them yourself and lay the carcass out on the grass with a sign that says "Come and Get it." Cheryl

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 4:57PM
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littledog(z7 OK)

Except for two months out of the year that they're in a breeding pen, all of our (MOL 100) birds are 100% free ranged. We are over a half mile from the nearest neighbor, and there is a 10,000 acre wildlife refuge to our south, 320 acres of heavy woods to our north and west, and another 1,000+ acres of mixed woods and fields to the east. There are plenty of critters out there, including Weasel, Raccoon, Skunk, Opossum, Bobcat and Coyote, (plus owls,and hawks) but we haven't lost a bird to predator in years. The secret is to get a big 'ol dog to stay with your birds. We have dairy goats and poultry scattered out in four areas, so we currently have four LGDs; a Komondok, two Anatolians and a young Fila/Anatolian cross in training. (On two acres, one dog should be plenty)

You won't need an extravagant, predator proof fence, just one that will hold the dog. True, a decent started dog will run you a couple hundred at the absolute minimum, *BUT* that's considerably less expensive than trying to fence two acres to keep chickens in or raccoons and coyotes out. Try not to get a puppy unless it's at least three months old and was raised with poultry. Great Pyrenees and Anatolian are great breeds, but for the hot and humid area you're from, I'd recommend an Anatolian. Papers and pedigree aren't as important as whether they are from actual working parents and have been exposed to livestock and/or poultry. Check at the local feed store bulletin boards for ads, or ask who is raising sheep or goats in your area, as they're usually the ones with LGDs.

Also, do not let anyone talk you into some Labrador/Pyrenees cross or anything crossed with Border collie; while I have no doubt that someone, somewhere has such an animal and it's just the most wonderful beast since sliced bread, the fact is both breeds are woefully unsuited to guard dog duty and without your (almost constant) supervision, will end up being more destructive to your than the local wildlife.

Oh, and a good LGD will not kill your house pets, (cat or dog), and while it won't be a lap dog (it's not supposed to be), it *will* bond with your children. Afterall, from the dog's POV they're on the property, therefore, they should also be "looked after".

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 6:29PM
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So sorry about your birds! I experienced a heavy loss last summer and I know at least some of them were due to hawks. When I'm here and going to be around, I used to let my birds free-range and loved having them around. Neighbor dogs have become predators to my cats and chickens as well. While they are generally well behaved, the birds would get close to the property line and it is too much for the dog to pass up. I think my cats go over there as well and the dog chases them here. So, I'm not sure I will dare to free range my chickens again :( I've heard that racoons are sick if they come out during the day but it makes sense that a nursing mother may hunt then as someone suggests. Lori

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 11:35PM
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No, if they're hungry enough a coon will come out in the day, especially young ones who are trying to establish their territory. I had such a coon who got inside my chicken shed through an un-noticed hole in the wire in the exercise yard. He killed three hens and my prize tiny bantam roo, who I kept as a pet.

BTW, my chicken exercise yard is completely fenced, sides and overhead with a full-sized door to get in and out from the outside......including burying the fence a good foot, and then lining the perimeter of it with cinder block, because a predator WILL dig under normal fencing. Your flock is very small and it shouldn't be that much effort to fence in completely an exercise yard for them.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 7:34PM
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bigshoes213(7 Sardis, Ms)

My mother in law has 1 great pyrenees, a great pyrenees/ lab mix and a great pyrenees/antolian shepard mix. They make excellent guard dogs. All three of them walk the perimeter of the fields at night and they keep all predators away from the livestock. Now my german shepard/border collie mix is a whole different story. (not a good protector of livestock) luckily he has his own yard without livestock. I also have an untrained great pyrenees/lab mix who in the last couple of weeks has been introduced to my 2 pygmy goats and chickens and he is doing great with them.

I hope you are able to figure out something for your chickens. I have a few who are a couple months old and I am really enjoying taking care of them.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 10:24PM
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goldenpond((Vero.Beach FL 9b))

W\I live in Florida and we have many predators here/ Bobcats until recently,I am hoping they stay away but have lost two ducks in broad daylight to them. One day a coon was actually swimming out to my ducks but we screamed,got the gun and he left. We tried to trap the bobcats but all we got were coons and possums.Fish and Wildlife said to kill them because there are so many and it is ILLEGAL to transport wildlife without a license.
I have found that larger darker colored ducks last longer then white pekins so I imagine the same for hens. So far no hawks but now that I hvae ducklings I must keep an eye on them as crows and bluejays want them,bad enough they steal the eggs!
We put all our ducks in a predator proof coop/house at dusk when the owls come out

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 1:22PM
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