(WARNING – GRAPHIC PHOTOS OF CHICKEN INJURIES IN BLOG)
Another problem you may face when raising poultry are the predators that come with it. I am relieved in a way that we haven’t faced many problems, until now. Back in March we lost our first hen to a predator. I came home after work to find out affectionately known hen “T##tface” beheaded and one other hen with the back of her neck ripped open. Although the missing head usually signals Racoon attack, when we set up the traps the only thing we caught was a possum. The back of the neck injuries I had first assumed was just a rough rooster, but have since come to learn that was also the possum as we had another hen with neck damage only the week before and no further injuries since we disposed of the possum. Due to the nature of the injury we were able to superglue the flap of skin back over and both hens with the neck wounds did survive.
So we had no further problems after that until last week. When a hawk was lingering, I was more concerned this time than others due to the 8 week old chicks we had free ranging. Easy meal. So I was surprised when the first attack happened on Venus, a 16 week old pullet. It was purely by coincidence that I had decided to run down and collect the extra eggs and I just saw the hawk fly out of the woods and a horrible screech coming from Venus. I spotted her in the shrubs still screeching and managed to catch her. Initially there looked to be a lot of blood but after I cleaned her up I really wasn’t sure where it had all came from, she had a small puncture to the base of her neck, her nostril was bleeding and both eyes were shut. So I bought her inside and put her in chicken hospital under the heat lamp. After a few hours I gave her some water and then left her alone for the night to recover.
She was in shock for around 24 hours. The next day her only friend in the flock was pining for her so I decided to bring Venus out for a few hours to sit in the sunshine and see her friend. Venus totally changed her behaviour and started acting normal again, she opened one eye and went off pecking in the forest with her friend. The day after that both eyes were open and she appeared perfectly normal so I left her out with the flock. All was well until 4 days later. I had spotted the Hawk flying over head with a mouse in his beak. I had to pop out that afternoon and sure enough when I came home not a chicken was to be seen. I walked around the house and some were hiding under the deck, some in the coop and Norman was crowing away in the forest. I instantly knew something was up. After a quick scan I couldn’t see anything or anyone missing. I spotted our Rhode Island Red in the kitchen garden which was odd, but she was walking around as usual, so I opened the gate and got her back into the chicken run. That was when I saw her acting a little strange, nothing major, just being a bit slow and a bit hunched over. Unfortunately she was having none of being caught so I had to wait till dusk to pull her out of the roost and check her over. to my horror she had been completely skinned across her back!!
She hid that well! So I text my vet who advised to apply wet gauze to the area, keep her on antibiotics and just allow to heal. Honestly you would have no idea that there was anything wrong with her, she is still eating, drinking and pecking around as usual. But to the right of the above picture if you lift the feathers up her whole neck is completely exposed! So I did my best to bandage her up, which she hates, but we shall see how she gets on!
Apart from this I must say I am relieved we don’t have a fox or coyote problem. This would cause much more damage to our flock. But having a lingering hawk is really problematic as it is illegal to kill hawks here. We have added a few ore plastic owls and spinny shiny things to deter them, but once they know where dinner is, it’s hard to get rid of them. So the girls are run-bound at the moment, which provides little shelter. We are looking to run some wire over the top of the chicken run and we will keep you updated on Reds progress!
May 2017 Update –
Great news, The next day our amazing local vet came out and stitched poor miss Red up. She healed, with the powers of Bannix , rapidly over the next 3-4 days and after 1 week was able to re-join the flock. Here she is this morning. Easy to catch as she is still broody!!! Doh!
We also have recently been hearing the noises of Foxes at night. We installed one of these:
and happy to report we’ve not heard the fox since! So a thumbs up for this product.