Mystery chicken predator, broken eggs, dead hens…
The last weeks of June and early weeks of July were not a good period for our chicken flock. Each evening, as we went out to collect eggs, they were all broken in the nests. This started happening every day! I decided to start collecting the eggs earlier in the day, around noon and then again in the evening to see if it would make any difference. It didn’t.
I did notice our rooster Rafael was actually getting up in the nests where the broken eggs were. He would make this new sound that I hadn’t heard before, similar to a hog noise and I thought that was interesting. I started to think that it was Rafael climbing up in the nests, then calling to the hens to come and eat the egg insides after he had cracked them. I discussed the possibility of killing the rooster to stop this problem and came close, however it did not answer the question of several dead hens.
At this time we had found three dead hens in the chicken yard over the course of a week. It was time to solve this mystery before taking any decisive action!
GoPro in the Hen House!
I decided to set up my GoPro Hero 4 in the hen house for the entire day, set to take a photo every few minutes. I left the camera in there from 10:00 am until about 8:00 pm that night. The eggs were still getting cracked open and eaten and it was time to find out the who the culprit was!
That night, I uploaded the video from the GoPro to my desktop computer, an iMac 21“. As I watched the video I could see Rafael jumping up in several different nests with the hens. As I continued to watch the dimly lit video, I noticed flashes of movement through out the nests. I slowed the video down and bingo, there was my answer. A small raccoon ran in from the chicken coop flap door, proceeded to go to all the nests and stop and eat the eggs! I watched this happen several times throughout the course of the video and then the biggest surprise!
As the raccoon made his way to one of the top nests, he was surprised to have a hen sitting in the nest. In an instant, caught on film, the raccoon yanked the hen out of the nest and dragged her out into the chicken yard, killing her and leaving her while he escaped.
While sad to see another hen killed, it was good to know the real culprit and spare the life of Rafael. The next course of action was to decide what to do next.
Reinforce the Chicken Yard…
I have to admit, this raccoon was tricky, and I was unable to catch it in a critter cage as I have done with several others over the years. I tried several attempts with no luck. Something had to be done quickly or we will continue to loose eggs as well as hens.
At one point I even got out my 22 rifle, caught the coon red handed in the coop and was ready to end this problem. I aimed and pulled the trigger…nothing! The rifle was empty and the raccoon ran out of the coop laughing as he went! That was very frustrating.
We decided to reinforce the chicken yard. The current yard was 60′ x 24′, fenced with 1″ poultry wire and covered with greenhouse shade cloth. The cloth was must as we have numerous predators to include Owls, Hawks, Possums and Raccoons. This set up proved faulty as the cloth became worn and more openings appeared. We lost many hens a few years back and thought we had everything working until now.
Working steadily for 8 days straight, I framed in the chicken yard, reducing the size to 22′ x 22′ and removed the greenhouse screen. In it’s place is 1″ poultry netting frame by 2′ x4’s as seen in the top photo. I thought this would do the trick…sadly it didn’t! Once again we saw the raccoon squeeze through a 1 1/2″ space above the chicken yard gate! I couldn’t believe it. With a little more work and 6 latches on 2 doors, we have now been raccoon free since!