Yesterday evening my husband went outside to close up the coop for the night and noticed there were only two chickens inside. He started looking around in the yard for our third girl and found her dead amidst a large mess of feathers. We are both devastated. He quickly inspected the body and found a very centralized and deep wound.
The next morning I went outside to see if I could see any tracks to help determine what attacked and killed out chicken. The first thing I noticed were large bird like footprints near the feathers in the snow. At the moment, I assumed they were from the chickens, but now that I think about it, there are no other chicken prints in the yard. I am wondering if it was from a hawk. My husband thinks the wound could have been made by a hawk; a fox would have taken more of a bite and not a deep stab wound. Also, because it is winter and our trees are bare, a hawk could have easily spotted our dark chickens walking around in the white snow. According to the links below, a hawk usually defecates near the body, so I’ll need to look a little closer for clues.
I also found some paw prints around our yard, but this gets tricky because we have a dog. When Milo is walking slowly around the snow, his prints are shallow, small, and delicate, but when he runs, his prints become deep and wide. After getting Milo to produce a wide variety of prints in the yard for us, I believe that the bigger paw prints we found were just some he made when he was running in the yard.
It’s frustrating not having any solid answers, and now we’re hesitant to let our girls free-range. Until we feel comfortable again, they’re going to need to stay in their coop and run. Because I feel bad about this, I bought them forage cakes and upgraded their bathing station.
I found a few links online that I wanted to share for anyone else trying to determine what happened to their chickens.