This past weekend I lost three of my hens. After cleaning the coop of the winter deep bed straw getting everything fresh and new, I did a head count of my ladies and found 17, which was spot on. That was Saturday.
Sunday - just a normal day. Nothing to suggest there was a problem in the coop. Watering and feeding occurred without incident, although it was done after dark with limited visibility of the outside run.
Monday - Friends were over for dinner and wanted to see the chickens. I noticed three ladies were missing. Head count = 14.
I noticed the hole right away, being daylight. Under the door that leads into the their outdoor run. Something had dug a hole just big enough to get through and had made off with three of my ladies. Whatever it was, it was small. The depression is only about 4 inches under the door and I can not imagine a coyote or a stray dog being able to fit through it, let alone get back out hauling a struggling chicken.
I am going to go ahead and guess that it was a fox. And he must have visited three times that night, or he had friends with him. A gang of deviant, misdirected young foxes who got in with the den from the wrong side of the tracks.
Tomorrow is fence fixin' day. We are going to remove what is left of the top netting, reinforce the wood posts, tighten the rope that the netting rests on and fill in the hole under the door. i am also going to trench around the entire outdoor area about 6 inches and put an "L" shaped layer of chicken wire in the ground with the "L" running up the bottom of the existing fence. I am going to bury it in there so if anything tries to dig they will hit wire and not be able to go any further.
The roll call of the missing: Hildred, Abigail and one of my un-named Golden Comets. I raised the golden comet from a tiny little chick from the Tractor Supply. Hildred and Abigail were two of my original six chickens - the ones who started it all. I only have one of the original six left - Gladys. I can tell her apart due to her clipped beak. The original six were from a farm that performed that procedure, which I think is not all that humane.
That's four chickens lost to predators and two lost to natural causes in the few years we have had laying hens. I will never get used to losing an animal, especially to such a violent end.