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Author Topic: Poultry slaughter - What did this?  (Read 1723 times)


  • Joined Apr 2020
  • Co. Derry
    • Valkyrie Craft: Handmade Canoes and Kayaks
Poultry slaughter - What did this?
« on: December 22, 2023, 09:56:51 pm »
Hi All,

I lost my entire flock of 9 birds last night. 
I would like to know what beast was responsible so that I can think through avoiding it happening again.

This morning I found the wooden coop broken into where two TIG boards had been ripped of the lower section of one wall - On examining it I found one end of the lowest board was a fairly rotten (Where the downpipe has been dripping onto the wall) so the creature has been able to lever  from one end to get easy access. Picture attached

Inside where 6 of the birds.  The other three where outside in the open run.  One bird had its throat well torn open and another's head was entirely missing without trace.  The other seven birds has no clear damage.  other than the two mentioned  none of the carcasses seem to have been eaten at all. Picture attached.

Outside of the external run was one spot where it looked like a short attempt had been made to dig under the wire.  Cut rushes spread in this area to help reduce pulping the wet ground in winter appeared to have been flung/kicked away up to 5m from the wire.  Picture attached.

The baffling things are
1. no birds were eaten or taken
2. the odd digging/rush flicking activity outside - which would seem to have been done by a biggish animal
3.  The gap where the boards were torn out is about 15cm high - and the sawdust and manure inside along the wall is hardly disturbed.

Clearly, if the boards had not been rotten the problem would not have happened . . ..  however,  the exterior run is a seven foot chicken wire fence, buried 8 inches into the earth.   The top is open.  There are mature trees alongside ethe run with some of there branches overhanging.  Do I need to rethink this once I've repaired the coop wall?

We have foxes visit occasionally and have lost the odd bird to them when we have them free ranging. In 15 years we have never had the actual coop or run broken into.

Anyone confident they now the culprit?
Any useful comments on the coop and run security?

Mistakes teach best.  😳🙄😉


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: Poultry slaughter - What did this?
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2023, 11:42:52 pm »
I'm so sorry you've lost your flock.  I suspect that most of us who keep chickens suffer this at least once, it's an awful thing to happen  :hug:

If the perimeter fence wasn't breached, despite the digging, then yes it sounds as though the overhanging branches would be better cut back. 

My gut reaction to your story and the pictures was "terriers".  It was a local terrier killed all but one of my first flock, nearly a quarter of a century ago, and the scene which greeted us on our return looked very similar.  I haven't heard of terriers using trees to get into pens, but they're clever and resourceful, so maybe. 

My only other thought was whether they've scaled the fence.  After our flock was lost we built Chicken Knox, which like yours had tall fencing buried deeply - but we ran two strands of electric around the outside too, to stop anything climbing the fence. 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing


  • Joined Dec 2011
  • Gascony, France
Re: Poultry slaughter - What did this?
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2023, 10:12:11 am »
That's a terrible thing to happen JFW67. As Sally said, most of us have had to deal with this. In our case, whilst we have lost several at a time, never all of them because the small flocks were kept separated.

I think it was a mink. We have had a terrier attack and it ate the whole bantam, head, bones and guts included leaving just the wings. It didn't kill all of them either, just the one.

The key here is not how it got in, but how it got out. Overhanging branches are OK for entry, but exit had to be by climbing over the fence. The mesh is quite tightly strung, so climbing is possible. Perhaps the digging was by something else some time earlier?

The coop was rotten, but it's still a small entry point. How did the chickens get outside? were they carried out and an attempt made to drag them over the fence?

Obviously you can't slacken the mesh of the enclosure now (ours is a very rattly loose fit deliberately to prevent climbing) but two strands of electric wire outside will prevent climbing again. It may well have got in via the overhanging branches, which are great for sun shade, but do allow entry for a good climber. Either put something around the trunk or cut the lowest branches back.

Have you found any footprints?


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Poultry slaughter - What did this?
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2023, 01:30:33 pm »
My first thought was badger but if it hadn't dug its way in then, no.  Next thought was wolverine but we don't have them in the UK.  Next thought mink. Could be a fox, as they can climb trees and fences and love to kill everything in a spree.
You have my absolute sympathy as in common with most smallholders we have had this scene ourselves too.
When you rebuild, try wrapping the whole house in small hole square wire mesh, which is stronger than chicken wire.  It's not infallible, but it does make it more difficult to break in, as an extra line of defence. We also cover the bottom few inches with metal (cut up washing machine etc)

Then I went back to look at how the board had been ripped off and it could have been a terrier if it gave way quickly.  My terriers would shred the board.

I think you just have to protect against every possible attack.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2023, 01:35:14 pm by Fleecewife »
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  • Joined Aug 2012
  • Clackmannanshire
  • Qui? Moi?
    • ABERDON GUNDOGS for work and show
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Re: Poultry slaughter - What did this?
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2023, 07:43:39 pm »
How awful for you, especially so near a happy time of year.  You'll remember the aftermath for a long time -I know I do

My incident was entirely my own fault! I'd had a tedious day and totally forgot to ensure the birds were inside their coops.  I woke at three in the morning, ran out to shut the door, and found total carnage. I was too late. My lovely friendly rescue hens and home bred pure Swedish blues were lying in bits.

In my case it was a fox, because it came back the following night and one of my dogs scared it off. 

A fox goes into a killing frenzy and may or may not take any away to eat - it usually only takes them away if it has young, or it may just eat a bit of a bird - like the head of one of yours

However, a fox will not usually go in somewhere unless it is sure of the way out

Allez spent an hour retrieving the bits of a dozen hens and five ducks for me - legs, wings, bodies.  He used to retrieve the ducks and bring them to me as a sort of game - they were so used to it and didn't seem to mind as they never ran away from him and would just relax.  He never harmed one of them. 

They'd never have put up a fight from a fox  I have always felt guilty about that one night I forgot to check till it was too late
Always have been, always will be, a WYSIWYG - black is black, white is white - no grey in my life! But I'm mellowing in my old age


  • Joined Apr 2020
  • Co. Derry
    • Valkyrie Craft: Handmade Canoes and Kayaks
Re: Poultry slaughter - What did this?
« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2023, 07:13:56 pm »
Hello and thank you all for your input.

I've gone back and had a good loo at all of the evidence and am still at a loss.  No foot prints anywhere because the ground is either too wet, covered in cut reeds or covered in leaf drop.  The gap made by pulling off the boards shows very little sign of the animal either going in or out.  The wood shavings I use for floor covering also have no prints to speak of and there is no sign of scrabbling as they came and went.
The very neat way most of the birds were killed with very little sign of injury does seem to rule out terriers, foxes and badgers. . . . . although a couple of locals have strongly suggested Badger based on the digging attempt and the strength to pull the boards of so neatly.

In the end . . As you've suggested  - the issue is of course getting the next iteration of the set up right.

I will cut back overhanging branches, although looking at it anything getting in this way would have a fair drop and would need to be able to scale the wire to get back out.
Once I refix new TIG boards to the bottom of the wall I will nail chicken wire over the bottom couple of feet to make it difficult to get boards off in the future - rotten or not.
I'll also reorganise the down pipe to it doesn't leak onto the coop walls.
We will also probably fix a run of chicken wire onto the top of the fence so that it flops outwards making it hard to scale over the top of the fence.

Thank you again for the input.

Mistakes teach best.  😳🙄😉


  • Joined Sep 2020
  • Norfolk
Re: Poultry slaughter - What did this?
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2024, 03:32:06 pm »
Sorry only just seen this, and sorry you lost all your birds. First thoughts are it was a fox. Head missing from one bird is typical. A large fit fox would be able to scale the fence but could only could carry the head away, hence leaving the heavier body, and the other dead hens behind. The scrabbling of the ground outside could have been the initial attempts at finding an alternative way in before scaling the fence.


  • Joined Feb 2021
Re: Poultry slaughter - What did this?
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2024, 06:43:04 pm »
Only just seen this thread. Ive had exactly the same problem but I  keep trail cameras all over the place. It was a pole cat. I have electric fencing running all around the pen and that has sorted the problem.


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