Chicken predators and rabbuts

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Missy's Mom

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Last night, I heard a ruckus out back around 11pm... found a flashlight and went running out to find that my chicken coop had suffered an attack. All was quiet when I got out there, then I heard a ""thud" in the woods, followed by my girl making a lot of noise back there. So I grabbed a shovel for protection and wandered back there and found her. Her head was bloodied, and she was a tad disoriented, but I got her back to the coop and secured it with the higher level of protection (clips on gates that are a pain to secure but more predator resistant) that I don't always use (haven't had predators around...) Around 1 am, I heard another squawk and thought the thing had come back, but it appears it couldn't get in this time, but gave my girl a scare that made her cry out...
Anyway... not sure what the predator was... I think the "Thud" I heard from the woods meant that whatever it was had her up a tree... not sure though. Years ago had an oppossum attacking girls, we have coons, skunks, fox in the area... thinking maybe a coon, could have pulled her up a tree? not sure though...
Me thnking my growout pen for my buns would have been an easier target than the coop for a hungry animal... do same chicken predators go after buns? I've moved pen inside garden fence, but that would be easier for whatever this predator was to breach than the chicken pen it broke into... only benefit, is that it might cause predator to travel a wider circle away from my grow out buns and not find them... thoughts?
 

BuffBrahmaBantam

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Can you provide a predator proof coop for your chickens. That must have been a terrifying experience for them. I’d guess that yes, there would be a lot of predators of chickens that would eat rabbits too. Most common predators are quite generalist and eat anything they can catch. I would seriously invest in a predator proof coop. I would hate to be one of your chickens. 1/2 inch hardware cloth and secure latch (we use a padlock) with a solid wood frame.
 

judymac

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SORRY, but this may be a little verbally graphic to help identify the predator. So sorry to hear of the attack. It is heartbreaking to have your beloved animals as prey. Sad to say, once the predator(s) finds easy food, they are likely to return. And yes, they do attack rabbits. Over the last 45 years, we've had to deal with this nasty issue. Raccoon are more likely to kill on the spot, they are one of the few wild animals that kill for sport, and can leave a pile of destruction in their wake. We had one raccoon attack a mama duck with a dozen ducklings while we were there, killing the baby ducks one at a time and moving on to the next, but not eating any of them. Only the mama was left by the time we were able to get to her, as she was a long run through a pasture and several gates away, and chase it off. We've had this happen with rabbits as well.

Feral dogs are also an issue, we've had mass attacks on the sheep herd in the past, with abandoned dogs finding great joy in playing 'chase and catch.' One neighbor lost their entire new herd of 4-H sheep that way, they never raised livestock again after waking up to that carnage.

We've had owls and hawks fly off with poultry, but they aren't likely to open gates to a closed coop. If they could get into the coop (and owls are amazingly capable of this), an owl is a definite possibility. I was on the phone one morning, looked out the window, and saw a hawk fly off with one of the free-ranging chickens. The hawks tend to fly into the top of a tall tree to finish off their snack. I once saw one hawk swoop down to catch a long black snake, fly to the top of the tree, drop the snake, and then fly back down to pick up the dazed reptile and return to the top of the tree for lunch. Owls will sometimes kill the chicken, and only take the head. Survivors of hawk/owl attacks often have nasty claw marks on their backs. And yes, we've had survivors that healed and lived long lives.

Fox and coyote are more likely to get into pens, grab a bird, and leave with it. Their classic trademark is finding the remains several hundred feet away from the barn/coop, or you may find only a pile of feathers in the coop if the fox eats it on the spot. However, they can also go on a killing spree.

Opossum here are more likely to go for smaller birds or setting hens, easy targets; eaten eggs often have crushed eggshells and the nestbox is a slimy mess; eaten birds often have their underbelly slashed and the innards gone. Skunks are usually after the eggs. If you find eggs with only one end opened and the contents licked clean, it's probably a skunk. 'Possum are more likely to crush the egg.

Rodents can kill small birds and steal eggs, but they're not going to drag off a bird into the woods. Rats can get through a hole as small as a quarter. They tell me weasels (which usually bite the neck of the chicken, it will look intact otherwise) can fit through 3/4-1" holes, 'possum through 2" holes, fox through 3-4" holes, and raccoon through 4" holes. That's pretty small. Garden fence is generally 2 x 4", and I've watched a variety of wild animals run right through it. So, you need to have your coop set up so that there are no holes. Many recommend 1/2" hardware cloth instead of chicken wire, and I've started putting 1/4" hardware cloth around the rabbit pens with baby bunnies.

Depending on the type of predator, some add electric fence around the perimeter of the coop and chicken run.
 

Missy's Mom

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Thank you for your thoughtful response. Still at a loss for what predator would have dragged my girl 40 feet into the woods and then up a tree. The predator got into a covered run (that had been weakened in one spot where a neighbor felled a tree -- the top of which reached 30 feet into my yard and hit the corner of my formerly predator proof run), and then pried the door to the coop up. It exited the coop by lifting the heavy hinged-top of the coop up. I don't think a coyote would have been able to fit into the coop door the way it was secured, so thinking maybe a grey fox, as the other possible culprits would have been unlikely to drag prey up a tree.
 
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what kind of tree was it? Varmints like coon's, possums, like black oak trees because they are usually hollow inside. They make their nests in them. You would be surprised how many different types of critters like to eat rabbits. bobcats, crows, weasels, owls, hawks, racoons, possums all like to make nests in trees. Those that would take a live chicken or rabbit home with them is rare though. I would go with owl, bobcat, or coon. weasels normally just suck the blood. possums will stay where their food is. hawks normally hunt in the daytime. Crows seem to hunt mainly in the day and go for the eggs, and babies, not so much a larger animal. Crows also like to peck their eyes out first thing. I would set up traps with chicken entrails and see what you catch. Living in a wooded area I have trapped numerous possums and coons. When I lived in New York I had a mother coon kill every one of my nesting baby rabbits. They ripped the plywood off the top of the cage. (coons are really strong.) Moms were ok but they had an exceptionally large cage to get away from the coon. good luck.
 

Missy's Mom

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Definitely not a flying predator... needed to pry door. This was a heavy, full grown chicken...don't think a coon would have dragged her. I found a trail of feathers along the back of my garden fence, so carried along ground first, then up a tree.
 

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