Last fall, consistent with past practice (see here, here and here), we picked up 4 new hens from the NY State Fair.
There were 3 bantam-sized partridge cochins and 1 silver-spangled hamburg. They were all close to fully grown. The silver-spangled hamburg is a small breed, so although she wasn’t a true bantam, she was similar size to the bantam cochins.
As the hens were new to our flock, we quarantined them in the moveable chicken tractor for several weeks. When quarantining the new hens, we placed the chicken tractor outside of the main fences.
The chicken tractor is covered with wire mesh to both keep the chickens inside and keep predators out. As you can see in the above picture, the wire mesh is pretty small and anything that can fit through the mesh is unlikely to threaten an adult chicken.
After several weeks, one morning when I walked out to check on the 4 hens, the 3 cochins were missing.
Although the side are covered with wire, the bottom of the chicken tractor was open to allow the chickens access to the ground and the grass. There was a small hole dug under the side of the chicken tractor a few inches in diameter and a few cochin feathers spread near the hole. It seemed unlikely that the chickens would have dug their own way out.
We later found larger piles of cochin feathers several hundred feet away. Although we never found their bodies, we assume they were killed and eaten by a predator. We thought it may have been a fox or coyote as those are more likely to carry away birds whole to their dens, but the hole seemed too small for either of those. The next most likely culprit in our view at the time was a raccoon.
Luckily, the silver-spangled hamburg was a better flyer and was able to get up to the highest roost bars in the chicken tractor and was still alive.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last of the string of predator attacks. Stay tuned for more details.