Our chickens have succumbed to a menagerie of species over the years—fox, mink, raccoon, skunk, hawk and, most recently, a golden retriever.
Each predator has his own method. The condition of the carcass, or the absence of any carcass altogether, signifies just how the chicken met its end. For example, mink and skunk leave the carcass behind after draining the blood. A fox will carry a chicken off, bury it and come back for another. Then another. If adult birds are missing but there are no other signs of disturbance, the predator is likely a coyote, fox, hawk or an owl. These predators typically kill, pick up and carry off an adult chicken. Hawks are a threat during the day, while owls feast at night.
And dogs? Well, they seem to do it for sport, killing aimlessly or even accidentally. It’s not uncommon to find a bird with a broken neck or mauled but not eaten. The bird will usually be left where it was killed. As soon as the bird stops struggling, the dog moves on. This must be where the term field day comes from. And that whole notion of tying a dead chicken around a dog’s neck to teach it a lesson? That’s more of a punishment for the dog owner than the dog itself.
Life’s a hazard
It’s a risk we take, keeping a backyard flock. Our chickens are free to roam. The trade-off is that predators, both domestic and wild, lurk at dawn, at dusk and in broad daylight. Periodically we lose one or two. One time, we lost five in a day, including our Most Revered Dwight, the regal rooster with gorgeous plumage and sharp talons. We’ve become more cautious over the years, especially since the death of our loyal dog, Quincy. His very presence seemed to keep predators at bay. Our coop is secure, we’re home when the chickens roam, and we’re careful to close the coop at night. We are becoming more practiced in responsible animal husbandry, balancing chicken joy with chicken safety.
Relative safety. Those foxes are sly.