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Lost a chicken

 
pollinator
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Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
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We had 4 Austrolorpes.  Now 3.  One went missing while free-ranging yesterday.  Never found any feathers or other evidence.  Coyote?  Neighbor dog?  Hawk?

There have been cats coming through, but I doubt any are big enough to carry off that chicken (the largest of the 4), at least not without a feather distributing fight.  

The other 3 refused to come out of the coop for most of the day.
 
gardener
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If there is no major signs of any struggle, then it's probably a larger predator as you listed.  Usually a hawk or large preying bird will leave a feather or two on impact, but not always; it could have broken the neck and then flew away with it.  Any large quick predator can snap up something the size of a chicken by the neck and get away with it without rustling a feather.   Sad for you, though.  If nobody has done so already, Andrew, I will welcome you: Welcome to Permies!  
 
Andrew Mayflower
pollinator
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:If there is no major signs of any struggle, then it's probably a larger predator as you listed.  Usually a hawk or large preying bird will leave a feather or two on impact, but not always; it could have broken the neck and then flew away with it.  Any large quick predator can snap up something the size of a chicken by the neck and get away with it without rustling a feather.   Sad for you, though.  If nobody has done so already, Andrew, I will welcome you: Welcome to Permies!  



They are still molting so it would also be a little tough to pick out just a feather or two in the yard as forensic evidence.  I think they're about done losing feathers, but not quite.

Thanks for the welcome!
 
Posts: 75
Location: NW KS/NE CO State Line
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So in the spirit of permaculture, let me theorize a bit on natural order/food webby stuff.  

Predators generally predate the introduction of domesticated poultry to North American by the European colonists.  Naturally occuring wildlife species therefore, are the natural and instinctual prey for those animals we now struggle at times to out-fox (pun intended.)  The exception to this is the domestic canines (the few indigenous breeds of dogs tend to be small and rather terrified of chickens... or at least my wife's Chihuahuas are.) Manmade or inflluenced gaps in their prey cycle (think of it like the daily special cycle at a restaurant) forces the predators to adapt.  For example, in my area, indigenous upland game birds are almost completely vanished, leaving only pheasant.  If June is "Eat Feathery Things Month," and they can't find the quail, grouse, & prairie chickens their ancestors ate, they are going to hunt for other appropriately sized birds.  Once the pheasant (in my area) start hatching out the pressure on my birds from indigenous predators decreases.  

The wrench in this particular set of gears is domesticated predator species.  The majority of medium to large size dog breeds have been selected and refined for specific behaviors. LGDs, I'm sure, we're all familiar with.  Herding dogs who traditionally nip and bite to gain compliance work great to move cattle and sheep, but when a 60# dog tries to bite a chicken to gain compliance, problems insue.  Hunting dogs can be a real issue because their instinct is to kill.  Add in a feral or perpetually stray dog, and you increase problems because hunger is a motivator.  My first attempts with ducks ended badly because of a pair of dogs that were running loose.  They also took down a couple calves.  

Raptors are a completely different set of problems, but identifying their kills shouldn't be difficult.  They tend to avoid carrying their prey far to consume them.  Our last raptor kill was found less than 200 feet from the chicken coop at the base of a utility pole.  The raptor grabbed it, carried it to a convenient spot away from competition, and ate his meal.  Owls, incidentally, are excessively clever.  A friend lost a several birds over the course of a couple weeks because the owl figured out how to go through the chicken door (which was raised high enough to prevent land-based predators.)  

Overall, with no feathers and no carcass, at this time of year when rabbits, squirrels, and other rodents are in abundance, I'd lean towards a stray dog in your particular case, particularly given it sounds like a mid-day strike, while fox & coyotes prefer early morning and late evening to hunt.  

 
pollinator
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I have had chickens go missing for 2 or 3 weeks and then show back up a number of times.  If there are no feathers or blood, I wouldn't be so sure you lost this one.

The dog attacks I have seen are a blood bath, usually with lots of the chickens being killed and blood and feathers everywhere.
 
pollinator
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My first guess would be coyote.  A smaller canine (e.g. fox) would be more likely to leave feathers, as there would be more of a struggle.  We lose all sorts of birds to coyotes, no matter the time of day.  They are generally more active early and late, but I had one take a duck off the pond at about 1 pm this past summer.  At any rate, they rarely leave feathers.  They're canny critters.

Domestic dogs tend to kill and leave the carcasses lying about.  And they kill more than one.  Then again, the domestic dogs I've had to deal with were free roaming, but not, I think, actually feral.  A feral (read: hunting) dog might behave more like a coyote, but that's just conjecture.

It seems that raptor attacks always leave feathers at the point of impact.  One possible exception might be a large bird like an eagle.  With red-tailed hawks, they'll tend to kill and eat on the spot.  If they want to move, they might fly off a short ways, but I've seen this take multiple attempts to move the carcass any appreciable distance, with feathers thus dispersed.  My only known (successful) owl attacks have occurred at night, with a chicken roosting out in the open.  The result, found the next morning, is a headless chicken.  Although, I once had an owl attempt to take a chicken, swooping down perhaps 10 feet behind me while I sat and waited for them to return to their pasture shelter at dusk, so they aren't strictly nocturnal in that sense.  In any case, birds of prey seem to leave ample evidence.

I would rule out a domestic cat.  Not that a cat couldn't kill a chicken, but certainly there'd be feathers.  I'm not sure about bobcats, if they're even a possibility.

Chris makes some good points, but in my experience predation isn't necessarily linked to limited availability of other prey species, but to opportunity.  A coyote's diet, for example, might generally lean heavily on cottontail rabbits, but domestic poultry tend to be much easier quarry.  I've even noted, seemingly ironically, that early fall, when squirrels and rabbits are at their most abundant and with fewer leaves on trees and brush to make them easier to see, is when we experience the height of hawk predation for the year.
 
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I didn't read every single word that every writer wrote.
But, if someone didn't already write it, .....
-If the dingo ate your chicken, it'll likely happen again.
A free meal, is a free meal.
Keep on the look out.
Catch 'em in the act.
Then eat the eater.
 
steward
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Is it possible that she has a nest of eggs that she's gone broody on?  Or she could have found a more preferable place to sleep.  Like others, I've had chickens go missing for weeks only to show back up with a couple chicks in tow.  Chickens are strange  like that.  
 
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