Dead hen

johanna_h(Z5 SW MI)December 18, 2009

When I came home this evening, I discovered a dead hen carcass in my barn. Pretty much emptied.

Do you think the other hens could have done this, or was it likely something else that got into the barn?

I have photos on my blog, which I will link below.


Here is a link that might be useful: Cannibalized chicken?

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Johanna,when I had hens kill a hen the head was bloodied but they did not eat the hen.Sounds to me like you have a varmint or a dog.Probably a coon or possum.They will eat part of the chicken.Posy_Pet

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 8:30PM
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An honest opinion of this situation will be impossible to give without being able to see the whole thing firsthand, but I can say it is unusal but not unheard of for chickens to kill a flock mate. More than likely the other chickens probably ate on her, but she either died or was killed by something else. Keeping a notebook with written observations, collected through varios times aday will help you to see if there is something amiss. Several times aday take a walk around your pen, get close to the ground look for tracks, look for pinch points around the barn , holes under fences, look for hair, (take pics and post them and I can tell you what animals it came from, also scat) Watch your flock, are they getting enough animal protein, you may be vegetarian but your chickens are not, if they are not getting enough animal protein , it will cause feather loss and agression, free ranging in warm weather they will take care of this themselves.
well I hope Ive helped
josh crissen
csi wildlife control

    Bookmark   December 18, 2009 at 10:29PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Good advice so far...

I'd also ask, any gnaw or tooth marks on the carcass? How about the coop--look for blood spatters on the ground and walls, bloody head feathers/beaks on your other birds, scatterings of bloody feathers/bits of bird. I looked at the enlarged pics but didn't get much info from them to help you, sorry...

I'd bet it was some kind of animal that came in and hollowed her out, possibly after she had died of natural causes--if you can safely exclude larger animals, maybe a rat (they can get their bodies through any opening they can fit their heads through!) even, then the other chickens may have picked at the carcass after.

So yeah, look for any openings in your coop, even under loose doors (my old coop door had latches at the top AND bottom). If you can pull on your closed coop door and either the top or bottom moves, it's an entry point. Also look around at the OUTSIDE of the coop--look for hair & blood especially. Maybe a trail leading away from the coop.

Good luck with the investigation into the episode, hopefully it's just a weird occurrence and won't happen again. Poor chicky and poor you, finding that must have been awful. :(

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   December 19, 2009 at 10:54AM
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Naomi Miller

I have to agree with posey pet , the hens would bloody the head but not cannibalize the body. I am so sorry for what you had to see and the worry that comes with something like this; I have been there and trust me, you have to become a CSI of sorts. All of the above advise is good and here is a website that makes ID of the predator easier ( it has never steered me wrong.

Within days of finding evidence of a predator, I usually have the ID'd offender in trap. Predators are opportunistic and will return to what they feel is an easy slaughter.

Good luck on capturing and destroying this predator.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2009 at 10:35PM
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johanna_h(Z5 SW MI)


Interesting link. Sounds like it might have been opossum or raccoon from that, though the traits aren't exact matches. I still wonder, having seen the other hens take a peck at the carcass, if she had some other weakness and died.

I didn't mention before, but my chickens have been enjoying the final pumpkins and cabbages from the garden, one at a time tossed into their outside run. It's like the hen was just another big, edible object for them.

Now that we have snow on the ground, none of them wants to go outside, anyway, so they're safely holed up in their barn. And I got them a new radio so they can dance again!


Here is a link that might be useful: Busy Solitude Farm

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 7:44AM
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Naomi Miller


We too have been slammed with snow and the chickens are cooped up. They look forward to their daily warm meal of oats, barley, yogurt and boiled eggs... lol.... we have about 75 chickens and have only been at it for two years now.

I have done a lot of research and lost a few hens but have never seen any cannibalism... I have never even seen them pick at an already dead hen... so perhaps you are right, the death was by some other means and the hens mistook it for another 'treat'...scary to think about .... I hope that is the last time you have to find such a loss and Merry Christmas to you and yours

    Bookmark   December 21, 2009 at 7:58PM
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I have seen my chickens pick at a dead one, who had been flayed by the hawk I talked about in another thread. I didn't think they killed her at the time. I would guess that something else got your hen then the others picked on her like mine did. I wouldn't say a possum, I think they will go for the eggs but not kill a full grown chicken. A raccoon, maybe? Or if she died of natural causes maybe a rat was eating on her before the chickens started pecking? At any rate, I"m sorry you lost a hen. Lori

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 3:15AM
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