I moved 12 mid size chickens over to a new enclosure. it is very well contained although the man who was looking after them left them out thinking they would be safe. We only moved them 2 days ago and went out today to discover we had lost 5 of them. All look as though they have extensive damange to their heads and some have actually lost their heads by them being ripped off. We live on a farm in a rural area.
I have since moved them to a safer location and intend to set a trap but wondered if you had any idae what could have got in the area is pretty secure and did this. Thanks, I really appreciate any help you can offer. ps one of the remaining hens has to scratches down one side of its face and a cut on his head. Liz
When I first read your email my initial reaction was that it sounded as though it was a fox attack, I still consider fox as a main suspect but since the pen is enclosed it does make things a little more mysterious.
Sheep wire is not much of a barrier to a young fox, a dog fox of about a year old or a vixen could easily fit through the standard sized wire squares however if they did I would have expected the culprit to still be inside the pen.
I’d like to ask a few more details from you please to get a better understanding of your setup.
How high is the chicken wire portion of the chicken pen perimeter and what size holes are in the chicken wire? Is there any damage to the wire, or dig scrapes from either the outside or inside of the perimeter?
Does the door into the pen fit tightly and snugly or is there a gap that could be prised open even a couple of inches? Is the door kept locked, or is it possible for a member of the general public to open? Is your chicken pen within sight of a public footpath or road, or overlooked by houses?
Have you noticed an unusual sag to the roofed wire in any way? Or any traces of fur (of any colour) that has snagged on the wire joins?
Do you have rats close to your chicken pen? Do you have many rabbits close to your chicken pen? Is the chicken enclosure clear of dense vegetation, brambles, nettles, scrub etc? Is the chicken pen close to any bodies of water? Are there any trees or other structures that overhang or stand close to your chicken pen?
Do you what time of day the attacks took place? What the weather was doing at the time of the attack?
I’d like you to stand at your chicken pen and have a look for any mounds, tree stumps or landmarks that stand out close by, once you have identified them go and take a look and see if there is any kind of territorial markings present, you are looking for scrapings and poo mostly but also keep your nose open.
Lastly it would help if you could send me a few pictures of the chicken pen itself and, if it’s not too late or you feel it’s overly macabre, some pictures of the carnage caused.
The chicken wire goes a few metres high and makes up all the walls of the enclosure and its only the roof made of chicken wire, only really designed to keep buzzards out. The floor to the pen seems in good condition with no holes or gaps, its all tight on the ground. ON the outside is a few feet of metal. The door is also a tight fit against the ground with no gaps. The doors kept locked at all times and were very rural so no-one can see the pen.
There’s a few gaps in the roofing where the chicken wire overlaps and we couldnt find any traces of fur round or near the enclosure. There are rats nearby but many have been trapped/ shot in recent weeks so numbers are at a minimum. There are other adult chickens in nearby pens which havent been bothered by any rats or other pests.
Theres no rabbits near the pens but a few minutes away theres a wood where there are rabbits. he enclosure is clear of bushes and suchlike and the surrounding area is vegetabgle garden. No structures hang over the pen but there is one or 2 trees nearby and there is a very small burn thing near the chickens. The chickens were attacked over-night and it was cold and frosty over-night. Doesnt seem to be any territorial markings nearby. Liz
After looking at the images you sent me and reading the further information you supplied I maintain my initial opinion that this was caused by a fox. I have passed on the pictures to a gamekeeper friend of mine for a second opinion although I expect he will come to the same conclusion.
For further confirmation that this was a fox attack you can pluck feathers from the back of the dead birds, you should find in most cases a set of teeth marks from where the bird has been grabbed and shaken. Count the amount of puncture marks to be sure that they were caused by teeth and not by claws.
I have heard back from my gamekeeper friend who I forwarded these images to and he is in complete agreement that this has all the hallmarks of a fox attack. The big question in both our minds is not how the fox got in, but how the fox got back out again. When this kind of attack happens it is often the case that the fox is still trapped inside the pen. I think it is likely that the fox climbed on top of the shelter shown in your pictures, and then hopped back out of the chicken enclosure through the roof.
It is almost a certainty that the fox will be back to finish the job and eat the carcasses left behind. I would recommend that you place a humane fox cage trap inside your chicken pen and bait it with one of your dead birds. It’s probably too late to do anything about it, but it’s worth mentioning that the less you handle the dead chickens, the more effective they will be as bait. Acting quickly in this case is key to capturing the culprit.
I should also point out that it is in fact illegal (in England) to release a captured fox back into the wild in a different area to where it was captured. I’d suggest you find a nice local farmer or gamekeeper to errr “release” it for you should you don’t want to deal with it yourself.