Red Handed

Ha! We got him! Caught him red handed. Last night, Jerry shot the chicken-killing-bandit. He was up in a tree right over the chicken coop, no doubt selecting his next meal.

Over the past week or so we’ve lost one laying hen, four pullets (young chickens), and one of our meat birds (the humongous rooster ready for butcher!). All killed. Most were simply decapitated.

The hen had escaped her pen through a hole I later found in the chicken wire. I can’t help but wonder if the raccoon made that hole. I didn’t catch her before nightfall, and in the morning she was a mere trail of feathers. Okay, it might have been a fox who dragged her off since her whole body was gone, I don’t really know. But I’m blaming the raccoon nevertheless.

I actually just missed possibly rescuing her. It was about 5:45 am and I was nursing baby Elias when I heard the rooster going crazy outside. Not the regular good morning cock-a-doodle-doo, but his oh-my-goodness!-danger!-danger! cry. I pulled Elias loose, laid him on the bed, and ran outside in my pj’s. But just as soon as I got into the yard Dirty Wilson stopped making his warning sounds, and fresh feathers scattered the lawn. Bummer.

Fortunately for us, it was the oldest hen who was eaten, and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t laying anymore. We were considering butchering her anyways… but still. That was meat we could have had.

Then the four pullets were yanked through their cages and either decapitated or utterly demolished. And yesterday morning, I found our nice, plump meat bird dead; missing his head and gutted. What stinks the worst to me is that the entire body (something like 15 pounds!) was completely wasted! All of that meat! At least the varmint could have eaten his victim. Ugh.

So, now you understand why I was so relieved when I heard the shotgun blasts and knew my husband had killed the critter terrorizing our poor animals. Maybe now they’ll be able to sleep in peace.

About Kendra 1103 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.


  1. I just stumbled upon your it! We started with three ducks and four chickens in our urban barnyard. Just since August this year we’ve lost two ducks and a chicken. Aside from getting eggs, these are our pets and it was a traumatic loss for our family. The chicken evaporated, so I’m thinking fox. The ducks were decapitated and left. Not even used to feed another part of the food chain! Is that a raccoon’s doing? We’ve set up a trap next to the chickens’ enclosure hoping to catch the backyard marauder. My husband wants to kill the critter responsible, but we live in the city making that illegal. Ideas on how to catch our prowler? (We’ve since started putting the last duck in the coop with the chickens at night. The coop is a fortress…as long as we remember to close the door.)

    • Summer,

      Sorry to hear about your loses. Yes, nature can definitely wreak havoc on our backyard homesteads. We’ve lost dozens of chickens to hawks, and several to foxes and raccoons. My husband always says it was a raccoon when the head is missing. If you can’t kill the pest, the next best thing is to set a trap. Animal control may come out and set one, if you call and ask. That’s probably what I’d recommend, if you don’t own a live trap. Good luck with it!!

  2. “gonna experiment with the ‘coon meat at all? I don’t know that I would, but it’s a delicacy in the South.”

    I was born, raised and currently reside deep in the south and I have NEVER eaten a coon! I don’t even know anyone who has eaten one, or maybe they just don’t admit it. lol

  3. We just lost our first hen to a predator last night, too. 🙁 Pretty sure it was a coon also–since we had one visit our deck the night before, and it’s also been in our garden. We actually thought it got both the hen and the rooster–because they were both missing last night and there were a bunch of rooster feathers all over the inside of the coop. I felt awful about it because it was our fault; we’ve been letting them free range and forgot to close them up in the coop before we left for the evening. Anyway, this morning the rooster showed up (to our great surprise and delight), seeming none the worse for wear. The 3 other hens were pretty traumatized, but amazingly we still got 2 eggs today. Now we’re on the lookout for some new hens (hoping to get some free or cheap off Craigslist) and my hubby is hoping to trap the coon. I’m glad your hubby was able to get rid of your bandit–apparently they are pretty nasty little critters!

  4. I think all dogs are chicken killers by instinct. They need to be punished anytime they mess with a chicken. They catch on after a while. They usually aren’t very nce to cats either. It’s probably easier to train a puppy. However with all you have going on, you probably don’t have time to work with a dog unless your husband would take on that project. The older children could help him keep an eye on a new dog to see that it didn’t bother the other animals until the dog learned his role as protector

  5. We have had a lot of trouble with opposums messing around our chicken coops, but never lost a chicken to them. I can understand how much relief you feel tho when you get rid of a pest like that. Hope it’s the end of your loss of chickens!!

  6. This winter we had a mink getting into the coop… actually like you he was pulling birds through the wire. We lost two laying hens and a duck hen before we caught him in the “have-a-heart” trap. Mr. D took him many miles away and let him go there. I never realized how vicious mink can be. We just got close to the cage and he would go wild making the most horrible noises. We’ve seen fox in the area, but we have many neighbors who raise wildlife also and I think out little “Spot” dog keeps varmint away too. We know she has chase bear and other dogs away.

    Hope this stops the killing for you.

  7. We farmed for many years and found that an outdoor dog helped to keep predators away. If nothing else, they will bark and let you know something is going on outside. Also an outdoor cat who is not overly fed will keep the mouse population down. Of course you have to make sure outdoor animals are warm in winter by various means and have plenty of water in the summer. Also a dog has to learn to leave chickens alone which doesn’t come naturally to them. Our pets were neutered and didn’t run away and get into trouble.

    • Carole,

      Yeah, my first instinct was to hop on Craigslist and look for a Border Collie. We’ve just had the WORST luck with farm dogs here. They’ve either turned out to be chicken killers, or they wander off the property and get in the road. Maybe we’ll try again in the future.

  8. A live trap is a great way to catch a raccoon. They have a tell-tale sign of decapatation. How could something so cute be so viscous? I’m sure you will sleep better now…..well new baby 🙂 maybe not.

  9. Ooooh, such excitement! I kept thinking how brave you were to run outside to see the danger for yourself–did you pick up a gun first? Glad to hear that your birds are safe again…gonna experiment with the ‘coon meat at all? I don’t know that I would, but it’s a delicacy in the South.

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