Can anyone explain this?

lindakimyOctober 8, 2009

We have Rhode Island Reds - just a few. We had nine and a rooster until last night. Yesterday my dh let the chickens out to forage and romp as he usually does. Later he rounded them up in the pen and counted them to make sure all were home. They were.

This morning he went out and found two chickens out of the pen. One was standing by the gate...casually waiting to get to the feed trough. The other was over in the back yard. She was plucked completely - not one feather anywhere but no bite disfigurement of any kind. There was a line of feathers across the yard to where she was and there she was...dead, naked but unmarked.

We have two dogs - an Australian Shepherd who herds the chickens gently when they are out and an Australian Cattle Dog who ignores them completely. The chickens are out often in the yard and the dogs don't chase them or pay much attention at all. Our Aussie will very quietly nudge them out of the flower beds - she knows from flower beds. But neither dog has ever been agressive toward the chickens.

The Cattle Dog has caught and eaten rabbits out in the woods. He did NOT skin them first. He was not neat about it. He takes care of all the moles and voles around the garden. But he isn't polite about eating them. Blood, gore, hair, hide and all. He leaves the bits on the lawn to roll on. It's his thing. Would he have plucked this chicken neatly and then left it uneaten? I don't think so.

What animal would do that? I didn't see the chicken - had to go to work early - but dh said it was cleanly plucked without a feather anywhere. Not even on its head or wings. It was completely naked but unmarked.

If it wasn't our dogs then why did they not alert? They are out there guarding the property. They bark when anything or anyone comes too near but I heard nothing - and I was awake a lot last night because it was cold, the window was open (just above where the chicken was found) and I couldn't get comfortable in my bed. Why didn't I hear anything? What in the world happened here?

Help. I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone.

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nhsuzanne(z5 SW-NH)

Wow, that is really strange! I have no idea but I understand why you feel like you are in the twilight zone!

How did the two chickens get out of the pen?

I hope someone can shed the some light on this.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2009 at 8:54AM
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sounds like a 2-legged animal to me.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2009 at 2:21PM
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Sylvia, we are fenced and have a locked gate. A two legged chicken plucker would have had to come over the fence - that would have alerted the dogs. They are o.k. when someone comes through the gate and we are there to say, "It's o.k." But they would have had a hissy fit if somebody had shown up unexpected in the middle of the night.

We do have friends who know the dogs so that they wouldn't alert but I cannot imagine any of them coming over in the dark and plucking one of our chickens. It just doesn't make sense.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2009 at 9:56PM
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I don't see how anyone could pluck a chicken that clean with out leaving marks on it like tearing skin.It's like something scared it to death and all it's feathers just dropped off. Ok I know that wasn't it but it's still very weird.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2009 at 10:10PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

Very weird indeed. Could the feathers have fallen out for some reason and the chicken die from cold? Odd indeed.

Here is a link that might be useful: My Farm Blog

    Bookmark   October 11, 2009 at 5:56PM
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Chickens can fright molt. The feathers don't just fall out, but if caught by a predator, they set off a response where they're easily plucked out. But I don't think it's a whole body response, mostly rump and wing feathers. I have seen chickens pluck other chicken's feathers out, but I've never seen a hen totally plucked clean. Mites can cause a total feather shed, but not overnight.

I have no clue.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 12:42AM
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pris(8B TX)

As long as we're tossing out off the wall scenarios, how's this one?

I don't know of any animal that would cleanly pluck a chicken like grandma would for the pot. There are some that could pluck it but it would be a messy job of it. Not cleanly plucked and ready to stew.

I would look to family or friends that the dogs are familiar with to be playing a practical joke.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2009 at 5:34PM
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greetings, I finally registered so I could suggest my theory, I've been lurking for years. Could this be a very clever theft interrupted? Grab two healthy chickens, leave two dead plucked store-bought chickens in the yard as a diversion? I'm loyal to my dog too but I've wondered if she couldn't be distracted by a charming thief with a cheeseburger.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 7:30AM
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Hi, Pinkcollar. I'm glad you are out of lurkdom but between the cost for a decoy store-bought chicken and a cheeseburger for the dog that would set a pretty high price on my birds. Not to mention that my husband is known to keep a gun (or several) within reach 24/7 and I'm known as a good shot myself.

And only one of my chickens was dead...the other was standing by the gate to the pen as if nothing had happened. Someone suggested that she may have been the murderess. Or that she might have plucked the other chicken in a vain attempt to drag her back to the safety of the pen. (Some of us should be writing novels, I think.)

We still have no clue what happened. I'm watching our cattle dog more closely around the birds. I think he would have eaten the chicken or, at least, made more of a mess of it but until more evidence comes in he has to be my top suspect.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 4:55PM
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As said, I lock mine down at night, but once in a blue moon, one gets loose and thinks it wants to roost nearby. If I don't get it back in the flock in a day or two it's always a goner. We had some city people move into the house across the road, and It touched my heart when he came over to inform me he thought his big retriever killed one of my chickens. He found a dead one on his property.

I told him if it had, then it was my fault and not his because I don't leave mine to free range as much as I would like to.........because of the predators. I also noticed the bird was fully feathered and stiff as a board. Had the dog been carrying it to his property, he likely found it already dead and rigor mortis had set in. IOW, he'd found a toy as far as he knew.

I've never had a predator kill any of my fowl without leaving some sort of bloody mess and feathers everywhere. Even the weasel who got into the coop one night and killed for the pleasure of it messed up the birds he got to.

This is the wierdest thing I've ever heard of, and off all the suspects, the most logical one would have been the other hen pecking the feathers off. I've seen that behaviour in the coop when I've had an old gal who was close to death from age. If I hadn't penned the poor thing up, they'd have had her plucked nekkid.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2009 at 8:15PM
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Well, yesterday hubby got busy and "forgot" that he had left the chickens out foraging when he drove over to a friend's place to pick up some things needed to build the fence around the new coop he just finished building. The dogs were out, too, and he was concerned when he remembered, expecting more casualties. But when he got home all was well - chickens unharmed and dogs uninterested.

That makes me feel a bit better. That new coop will be home to 20 or so Buff Orpingtons as soon as the fence is finished. I'd hate to bring 'em in here if the dogs really do forget themselves at times. If it's aliens there is just nothing I can do.

Since I didn't actually see it, I asked my husband again about that nekkid chicken - really NO feathers? He said it was plucked clean all over - not even pin feathers left - but no wounds that he could find.

I don't think I could have done that my own self...surely not in the dark!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 9:08AM
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and this plucked chicken - it still had its head and feet? hmmm.
i bet it's your husband.....

    Bookmark   October 19, 2009 at 10:06AM
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I think it was a hot flash. Of course, I think everything is due to hot flashes.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 2:27PM
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I'm an avid listener of "This American Life". This time of year, they often broadcast "Poultry Slam" - stories related to, you guessed it. Last year I remember an expose about chickens reported being plucked clean during tornadoes (though in these reports the birds were walking around post twister - featherless, but alive). No one has yet to explain the phenonmenon. The link to listen to the episode is below. Quite funny, the 10 minute report is entitled Twistery Mystery. Not sure it provides any answers, but atleast your not alone.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 8:47PM
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LOL If only it HAD been a "dark and stormy" night. It was actually just dark and colder than usual.

A hot flash might have been welcome!

Considering that in the meantime our rooster is beginning to look ragged and shabby due to feather pulling by a hen or hens (among whom is the survivor of "mystery night"), I'm leaning toward her for a suspect. I can't imagine why a chicken would turn "plucker" like that but...well...there are quite a few things about chickens I just haven't figured out.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2009 at 2:32PM
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gcmastiffs(z10 Florida)

Okay, I have chickens, dogs and a husband. I learned the hard way that hubby has "man-eyes" that do not work very well on items he is uninterested in. Walking out to lock up the coop after dark is boring, and I doubt my husband even glances at the birds, on the rare occasions that he shuts the gates. I usually do it.

My husband could not tell you how many chickens we have, and even gets flustered when asked if all the dogs are inside or not. We have been married 22 years, and he still says "Oh, I forgot" when I ask him about a routine task he was supposed to do. BTW, he is very sharp, has a difficult job that he excels at, but tends to zone out at home. He has even admitted that if a task/subject does not directly affect/interest him, he "forgets" about it.

My wonderful, sweet, trained dogs have on occasion, teased, chased, plucked and even killed a few of my birds over the years. I have 10 dogs and 35 chickens, all exploring the acreage every day. The poultry are locked up at night, and the dogs are in the house.

Mostly they live in perfect harmony, but chickens left outside, at night, are unusual to our dogs, and may be caught, carried, plucked or eaten.

I think your two birds did not go in the coop that night, your husband miscounted (if he checked at all) and the dog/s "played" with the one chicken until it stopped moving and died from being stressed or held too tightly.

It should not happen again if you lock up the birds at night. It sounds like your dogs are not killers, they were just curious and playing with an oddity that should not have been there after dark.

My dogs would do the same.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 9:10PM
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These are just a few facts...have NO idea what actually happened. Like the above poster said, it could have been the dogs playing with something different at night.
Chickens are by nature cannabilistic (sp?). There are meds to slow/stop it & there are old remedies for it.
If a dog becomes a chicken killer or an egg theif...I have never known one to be broken of it.
I have seen with my own eyes at a very early age one of those live chickens that was plucked clean by a tornado. I grew up in central Ill.
I have seen some birds that have lost nearly all their feathers due to different skin diseases over the years, but I don't remember it happening overnight.

Give your county extension office a call & see what they have to say about it. There might be some kind of varmit loose in your area that would do it or there could be something else going around. If not...they might like to be informed anyway.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2009 at 1:27PM
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Owl, check the bird realy close , a small owl like a screach owl will leave pen prick holes small but there. The most likely scenario was this owl flew into chicken yard grabbed said chicken scared the others who went flying flapping (early moening) owl took said chicken landed in back yard to pluck chicken , They skin there prey except for small mice which they swallow whole, after it plucked the bird before it could eat it dogs came to investigate, and dogs will seldom bark at birds especially dogs used to living with birds.
Im a trapper who has specialised in livestock depredation

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 9:55PM
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