My young rooster was killed.

annpat(5-Maine)November 30, 2008

I wrote about the beer soaked cockerel an acquaintance stuck me with on Halloween. Roland. I took my time integrating him with my hens after a few scuffles early on. I made him sleep in a different building and I made him range free around their pen for about 10 days during the day. I finally put him in with them one night and went out early in the morning to find everybody behaving civilly. That night, though, when all the hens left the pen through the chicken door headed for bed, Roland remained out in the pen. I found him there in the dark and took him in and put him in the house. I think I had to do that on 3 evenings. After that he went in with the old hens at night on his own and all has been fine for at least two weeks. I have not seen any recent acts of aggression.

I thought it would be nice to let the birds free range on Thanksgiving. We weren't going to be out late and I left the hen house open so the birds could go home to roost if it got dark before I got home. I did get home late, well 6:30, and went into the henhouse and started patting birds in the dark to count them. I couldn't feel Roland and I knew I was only feeling 13 birds, not 15, so I went across the street, got a flashlight and went back where I found Roland lying on the henhouse floor with his throat slit. He was untouched otherwise. My favorite little red hen was missing, too, so I imagined that a fox took her and Roland ran up, wing dragging, to defend her and was killed. That scenario made sense. I felt horrible about it all the next day.

Yesterday, the little red hen showed up, so I could not imagine what would have killed Roland, and only Roland, and then not taken his body.

When the red hen showed up yesterday morning, 36 hours missing, I had to eliminate fox. What else could it be that would leave him in the house with only his throat slit? A dog whom he attacked first? (Mine was locked in the house or I'd have suspected her. She HATED Roland.)

I thought weasel, but I thought it was too early in the day.

And I thought that a weasel would kill more than one bird. I've read that they'll sometimes neatly line up their victims. There was nothing, as far as I know, to disturb a slaughter if the predator was so inclined. My dog was in the house.

My brain unfolds veeerrry slooowly when there's a disaster, and I am totally without logic. And I don't see the whole picture (or even a sixteenth of the picture) Sitting here right now, I'm amazed that I actually didn't and can't examine him too closely. I know his throat was badly damaged. There was very little blood. I think the rest of him was untouched. There were not very many feathers on the ground, if any. I ran my eyes over each chicken that night to see if they had been bloodied and they all seemed all right.

Then a friend asked something that made my blood run kinda cool. He said, "Could it be a hen?"

I really, really would hate to think so. After about ten days living alone and sleeping alone, but ranging with them finally outdoors fairly civilly, often having sex with a 2x4 or a leaf whenever one of them hunkered down near him, I finally integrated them and there seemed to be no problems for the last 18 days. I have not in all this time allowed him outside (free ranging) ( I haven't allowed all of the hens out at the same time, either, though.) So Thanksgiving Day, for a treat, I let them all out. I gave them a squash and some apples and everyone seemed very happy together. We drove off and could see all the birds standing in the road looking after the car.

I don't think that there was enough blood or feathers for a chicken fight, but I'm not sure that a rooster would defend itself against a hen. My two experiences with young roosters is that they're pretty gentlemenly. I've only owned chickens three or four years, though. A friend's hens killed two roosters once. But that was the very first night they all met. My birds had been living in harmony for more than two weeks. They should have been used to each other. I wasn't supposed, per the book on rooster taming, to let Roland have sex in front of me (with a hen), but I suspect that by the end, he had finally figured it out.

I did look the chickens over that night, but superficially. I think I might have noticed blood on their beaks.

Ellen, my dog, smelled the ground very enthusiastically where I had originally surmised the fox had traveled---back when I thought it was a fox. But Ellen is not a dog whose judgment can be trusted.

The one bad thing I'm thinking is: Maybe that night, when it became roosting time, which would have been the first time that Roland had gone home with the hens through the main door into the house, one of them said, "Oh, no you don't."

I wonder, though, at the notable lack of blood anywhere.

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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Hens would peck him first before doing damage like that, there beaks just aren't strong and sharp enough. He could have done so accidentally and managed to run to the relative safety of the hen house before bleeding out, or he could have had it done to him before running there, people do strange and nasty things some times, do you have a neighbor who really dislikes roosters?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 10:47AM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

I'm sorry you lost Roland. :(

I'm with Brendan on this, it's suspicious. Convenient that it happened on the one night you were out a bit late...and if his throat was cleanly cut, rather than pecked or torn out, I'd suspect an extremely unusual accident or a nasty human. When a chicken is fighting for it's life against another animal, there are going to be feathers torn out most of the time. The lack of blood is also strange. Raccoons will kill for sport and not eat any or little of the carcass, and those tiny hands can tear--but they tend to eat the backs out of birds. Any weasels in your area? Any bloody tracks in the hen house? Based on your description I'm leaning strongly towards 'nasty human'.

If it WAS the girls, there would be more evidence of a beating on his head--chickens peck each other on the top of the head, mostly the comb area. Did he have numerous wounds there? Any blood on the girls' beaks, faces, wing feathers or claws (if they attacked him via flogging him)?

Also, look for blood spatter on the henhouse walls, it can help you determine the direction the blood flew from and so kind of help you figure out more about what happened--was he up on the roost when it happened, or on the ground, etc.. Also check for the same thing in the yard where Ellen was showing interest. Gruesome, but it might help you feel better not wondering so much. :(

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 12:14PM
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I'm sorry you lost Roland :(

I had been following the thread on Roland and could not wait to read more about him.

I'm with Brendan and Velvet - it does sound suspicious.

If you find out if it was a nasty human - can you bring charges against them? At the very least trespassing - I would definately investigate as Velvet suggested - If they (if it was a nasty human)would trespass and do that to a rooster - what next? and more importantly why!(kids maybe?)

Not trying to make you feel uneasy - I'm just saying please be cautious - do you know your neighbors well?

I think I would report it to the locals - just so there is a record of the incident. If I remember correctly Seramas on another thread started videoing and picture taking to make his point regarding his neighbors dogs.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 11:08PM
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mxbarbie(pnw BC 5)

Oh that's terrible. I'm sorry for your loss.

I'd be inclined to believe it was humans also.

I once walked into my backyard to find 2 boys jumping on my trampoline throwing my hens up in the air.
Can you imagine? It took me a couple of weeks but I found out who they were and I knew their parents..(8mo prego, couldn't chase them!) They were 10 years old! They were also really far from home. They've never been back thankfully.

My previous neighbours kids also used to invade my coop, let the hens out, chase them around and steal the eggs on a regular basis. They were little girls 5 & 6 years old. Parents had no idea and denied it to the end, but mysteriously a combination lock eliminated the problem (combination was printed on the back of the lock, anyone over 8 yrs old should have been able to open it!) Thank goodness they moved! I lost 3 hens to those little girls and lord knows how many eggs.

Seems like every year kids have less respect for what is not theirs, and no care at all for living things.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 2:19AM
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I've misled everyone, I think. My mother said to me yesterday, "Will you quit saying that his throat was slit? It makes it sound like a person killed him!"

It's pretty unlikely that a person killed him, we think. I live on a dead-end camp road where all the traffic is from lifelong neighbor-friends. Right now there are less than 10 winter residents on the road. The only person who threatened Roland's life was my cousin, Mark, who hates roosters, but loves me. Plus, being a summer resident, he was having Thanksgiving at his home 35 miles away. He did threaten Roland the very day the bird showed up dead, and I intend to make him feel bad about it the next time we talk. But he wouldn't really kill him.

Here's how the bird's wounds are better described (I was really horrified to see him and his eyes were open, so I didn't examine him the way a mature person would have.):

(You might not want to read this.)

He was on his back and his throat was ripped open. The reason it looked slit to me was that in the middle of the throat was a white divider--a bone or cartilage that ran from his beak down the middle of the wound. It looked like two separate lengthwise injuries down each side of oh! could it be his windpipe? They weren't really slits, though, his entire throat was damaged.

I live on a lake, and a few years ago, I saw what looked like a horrible, furry, snake weaving its creepy body in and throughout the rocks on the shore. When the loud screeching stopped, I realized that what I might have seen was a mink. I've never seen another weasel or mink my whole life, but I did see a dead mink on the road once about 4 miles from here.

My birds generally spend their days in a pen connected to their house. It is a dog kennel with the sides reinforced with chicken wire. I am fairly confident that it is hawk, dog, raccoon and fox-proof. There are a few breaches in the system that a skinny thing like a mink or weasel could---maybe---get through. My birds get locked in their house every night after they roost, but I'm often lax about what hour I close their little hen door. Nothing has ever bothered them, so the idea of it being a weasel is surprising to me. But not impossible to imagine.

It's the total lack of blood on the bird and under him that has me so puzzled. (I did find part of his comb---a tiny tip torn off---the only damage to it. I found that in the house.) I haven't seen any sign of a struggle outside of the house, and the idea that he might have walked home that damaged upsets me, so I stopped looking around yesterday.

In the last 24 hours, I've eliminated the hens. They have no blood on them. I feel good about that.

The human theory is not impossible, but it would take an especially angry person to toss the bird back into my henhouse. It would have had to be a stranger to my road and it would have had to have happened between 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving. Thank you for thinking it through with me. And thank you for your sympathy. I was going to write again about Roland because I'd given him such a bad rap before. Once he figured out having sex with animate objects, he seemed to settle down. I had become very fond of my little charge (pun intended) in the 28 days I knew him.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 10:28AM
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We don't think you misled us - you were very upset by such a grusome sight - on thanksgiving of all days. any day would be bad. This just goes without saying that we were all concerned about you and your remaining flock including you and your family.

When you make the choice to eliminate your flock in whatever manner you choose is one thing - to have it done by someone or something is a totally different matter all together.

I am still sorry for your loss - as a said I was looking forward to reading more stories about Roland - I was rooting for him to become a good boy! I'm always for the underdog or (underrooster)! :)

Once you get over the grusome experience - you should still check fencing and coop for any holes or openings so that does not happen again. Maybe a live trap by the lake to see what you get-a Mink as you said - maybe relocate far away from your flock.

Keep your chin up!


    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 11:50AM
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Thank you, Nelda.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 3:55PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Ah, probably a mink or other weasel of some kind, then. I'd guess one that hunts after dark, when chickens are most vulnerable and don't see well. As Nelda said, it's difficult to try and diagnose what happened when it's such an upsetting event. In our area at night we have rats, mice, possum, skunks and housecats--not to mention the hawks during the day.

Try not to beat yourself up about it, I've done the exact same thing--got home one night a bit after dark with the coop door left open (yes, I knew better)--and lost one of my favorite birds because of it. That night when we got home, we went out right away to do the beak count and close them up--to our horror we found chickens scattered all over the yard, calmly perched up high on various objects. So whatever happened, we missed it and the birds had had time to calm down again. My Head Roo was right up against our back door, he had obviously run for the house to alert us, and we weren't there. :( We found a dead hen in the coop, with her sister injured and bloody. After we rounded up all of the chickens, we came up 5 short. It took us two hours to find 4 of them, the last hen, Boots, our partridge Cochin, we never found.

I spent a sleepless, guilty night because of it, straining to hear her sqwauking, but never did. We'd turned that yard upside down, but she was gone. We assume she'd been carried off.

Lo and behold, the next morning at dawn, my husband found Boots wandering the yard! Apparently she'd stuffed herself up inside the lawnmower and was not harmed at all--it was the one thing we hadn't upended. I further confused her by crying and hugging her as hard as I could, poor thing. :)

It's hard to admit things like that, but they DO happen to everyone, eventually. You have to take it as a learning experience--we always make a point to be here at dusk to close them up now, and my husband built a bigger run for them on days when we will be away all day that they can roam in safely. In our case I think it was a possum that got my girls, and I feel we got off lightly only losing one. We found a possum family in the yard the next night (he returned and brought friends!), and we safely trapped them with a live trap and released them miles away in the hills.

Focus on your good memories of Roland (I love the sex with inanimate objects story!) and sooner or later, if you want to, get another fella for the girls. I'll bet Roland died defending the girls, and probably ran off the predator and saved the flock. But yeah--seal up those holes, because now you have a predator that knows where and how to get at the chickens, and it will likely come back. :(

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 5:13PM
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Thank you for that post, Velvet. I have lost two other birds---one to an over zealous vet, and one to a fox this spring, and I have gotten very upset each time. I was horribly haunted by the whole thing Thurs. night and could not sleep, choosing instead to torment myself with the way he looked when I found him, and how young he was to have to defend a whole harem of hens against whatever it was he faced. The reason he kept having sex with inappropriate 'partners' was because he was simply not ready. I have a bunch of young birds who have just started laying and I think Roland was younger than they are.

I don't know what got Roland, but I am thankful for his defense of the house. Thank you also, Brendan, barbie for convincing me that the girls weren't involved. That was a HUGE relief.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 11:36PM
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