In the year and a half I’ve been raising my chickens, I’ve had two loss incidents.
The first one was the worst, and easily identifiable. I heard a ruckus in the chicken yard and went outside to see a neighbor’s German Shepherd head into the coop with feathers flying in the air. The dog had jumped the 4′ welded wire fence around the chicken yard, killed my favorite hen and a rooster and injured two other roosters – one seriously.
The second was a night kill, and took me a couple of weeks to figure out. In fact, the injured hen wasn’t yet dead when I found her upon opening the coop in the morning, but with nearly half of the flesh eaten off of her from the wings back, I did the merciful thing and finished the job.
I searched all around the coop for any signs of a predator inside – nothing!
I searched all around outside and found a rodent hole under one corner of the coop. I put some poisoned meat down the hole and made sure there were heavy rocks mostly blocking it so my birds wouldn’t get the bait.
A few days later, another hen with similar, but not so severe injuries when I opened the coop.
Once more I searched the coop for any signs of a predator. Nothing could be found.
The injured hen decided on her own to move her residence from the coop to the nearby cattle shed – in the next paddock. I watched her closely for several weeks as she healed, and always made sure that when I was feeding the cattle their grain treat, I gave her some as well.
When she was nearly healed, she headed back to her coop. The next morning when I opened the coop, as I was doing the feeding/watering chores, I saw another hen start pecking at the nearly healed injury. I tried chasing her off, but she was determined that she wanted fresh meat!
With the help of a neighbor, I got the “hungry” hen into a large wire dog crate that we had put into the coop. She’s been fed and watered there for nearly 2 months and there have been no more injuries to any of the other chickens. As soon as the weather is warm enough for my outdoor butchering set-up, she’ll find her way into the stew pot.
I’ve always known chickens could be cannabalistic, but this is the first time I’ve heard of one pecking another to death just because she wanted fresh meat!