whats killing my ducks and geese?

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Help!!! Something is killing my ducks AND geese and just eating their heads! What animal kills something and just eats the head? I'm down to a pair of ducks and a pair of geese. I can't even imagine what could take down a full grown goose. The last ducks are now being put in the henhouse at night and the two geese are in an enclosed pen. I'm going to set my live trap and see what I can catch. I hope it will fit, it's a racoon size trap that we've caught large coons in before. Whatever it is has to be small enough to go thru a field fence or big enough to jump a 3 foot gate. The geese were penned in there and I thought they would be safe.:( If anyone has an idea what this critter could be please let me know. We've only started having problems since our outside dog died 2 months ago. She was 15 and slept pretty sound but I think just the smell of dog kept a lot of critters away. We do have an inside dog that plays outside but stays in at night. I guess she doesn't leave much scent! Any info would be appreciated. Thank You, Judi Hunter

-- Judi Hunter (sheepspin@aol.com), November 30, 1999


Judi,it sounds like mink or weasels.Been there[every year].Try using a livetrap baited with the carcass[especially the smaller ones.If you have "access points" not accessible to the poultry try using conibear traps[killing traps,probably size #110]. If you catch something in the livetraps,put it into the pond or a barrel/can filled with water to drown it and kill it's external parasites.[use pliers/tongs/hay hook for handling trap[rabies et al].Pelts without bullet holes bring more at local fur auctions.You also possibly may be experiencing owl or hawk damage[ those stinkers are federally&state protected here:get birds under cover/out of sight >=3 days...hopefully the raptor will think it's food source is gone and go away.If not check with your conservation department and [federal]fish&wildlife service.Locally it's a $5000 fine for shooting hawks and owls[buys lots of poultry,plus no felony bust].Keep at least bird netting[like over fruit trees] over the ducks especially,but young geese too.For coons switch to smaller mesh[1/4"-1/2"maximum-coons will stick their paws through common chicken wire and pull CHUNKS of bird through the wire,bury the wire >12" or coons and mink will dig under it,put secure locks on cages[..had a dog knock over cage of chicks and opened the cage-killed the chicks for fun] The best solution for coons,weasels,mink,free roaming domestic dogs is heavy vehicle traffic or more fur coats[higher fur prices]. Set traps year round,especially when the nests are getting close to hatching:vermin hear the ducklings etc peepin in the shell] Good luck.Where are you located?


-- Karl Bechler (kbechler@frontiernet.net), November 30, 1999.

Wow! Thanks for the fast response,Karl! We live in NW Illinois on an 80 acre farmstead. We've lived here for 6 years and have not seen a weasel or mink. (maybe they're just sneaky) My husband did say he heard a screech owl last night when he was penning up the geese. Could that be the culprit? He said he had a hard time herding them into their pen. Would an owl chew all the meat off the neck and take the head? Thanks, Judi

-- Judi Hunter (sheepspin@aol.com), November 30, 1999.

I had the same problem a few years ago with something tearing the heads off my chickens. My kids were leaving for school one morning and heard a uproar in the hen house, they ran out there just in time to see a big owl fly out of the pen. This was very early in the morning (just at first light), and I had an opening the size of a window cut out near the top of the coop for ventalation. The owl was getting in at night. I have since screened that up and the owl hasn't been able to get in. It doesn't seem to want to go in the little door at ground level. I don't know of a good trap for an owl or hawk.

-- P.A. (adkins@webbernet.net), November 30, 1999.

Yep, mink or weasel. Been there too!

-- Marci (ajourend@libby.org), November 30, 1999.

May be owl-although owls given the chance will eat more of the carcass-or carry it off some distance[if you find a pile of feathers under a tree or post].Just the head/neck still sounds like weasel/mink-they're nocturnal.evil/little varmints.Ducks are especially susceptible to owl/hawk predation-but I lost goslings too [remember that overhead protection].Close your barn better too.You also might consider attaching a miner's lamp or D cell flashlight on your shotgun for night use[plus using tracer shot loads].Just be careful-the penalty on raptors is absurd.

-- Karl Bechler (kbechler@frontiernet.net), December 01, 1999.

one other point:hawks,owls, and other vermin will take ducks[nd other fowl] in the day time if the opportunity is present[e.g.ducks sitting on the pond banks,nearby high brush,etc.] Keep the areas around pens mowed["free fire"zones .good luck

-- Karl Bechler (kbechler@frontiernet.net), December 01, 1999.

A small spring type trap like is used to kill coons, skunks, etc. mounted on top of a pole near the chicken yard is effective for birds of prey. They land to select a victim and are caught themselves. It is also highly illegal, so put it well out of sight of neighbors, traffic, etc.

-- (ratdogs10@yahoo.com), December 03, 1999.

I have been hearing the mink/weasel suggestion for years - it's probably valid in many cases. It think that it was an oppossum that killed a couple of my chickens a few years back and only seemed to take off the head - the birds didn't go into the house one night and a few days later I trapped a 'possum nearby. I have used a chicken carcase to bait the trap for 'coon but my feeling is that 'coons seem to take my chickens away and I see nothing but an empty place where the chicken should be. I live near a year-round running stream and several of my neighbors have stopped raising chicken because the 'coons break into the hen house through any weak point - one night I trapped a 'coon outside the little door to the chicken house and another 'coon opened the person door and took a hen.

-- kirby johnson (kirby@selco.lib.mn.us), December 03, 1999.

I have personally found possums killing chickens in our chicken coop..Just killed 2 of the things last night. Possums and raccoons and skunks are the only animals that I have actually caught in the chicken coop killing hens. Haven't seen fox or coyotes or owls or hawks or eagles doing it, but they m ight sometimes. I think that perhaps darker colored fowl are less visible to hawks or other flying predators than white chickens or ducks are. I have followed hen tracks on a dusty road to where they disappear- just sudden end of the tracks, a little blood and a few feathers. Most likely a hawk, but they have to eat too. (but I never saw them get the hen) But I sure hate those darn possums. Nothing makes me as mad as going into the chicken coop and finding a possum with a chicken in it's mouth, and they usually seem to grab the hen by the back of the neck.

-- Jim (jiminwis@yahoo.com), December 03, 1999.

I've found possums a problem-primarily-when the birds are nesting and just below the nest hatches. 'bout the only good thing about possums-is practice skinning them before you skin a valuable pelt.The possum's pelt is real thin-if you don't tear that,you won't tear a fox pelt.Possums also seem to be able to take an awful lot of slugs[probably they're so primitive,the critter doesn't realize it's already dead]. Being marsupials,I wonder if they can carry rabies??[common in the coons,feral cats,skunks around here in the Finger Lakes]

-- karl (kbechler@frontiernet.net), December 03, 1999.

Interesting thread; lots of people must have problems like this! For what it's worth, the heads only situation has always been classic evidence of an owl.(And probably a protected species.)

-- jd (belanger@midway.tds.net), December 04, 1999.

Yes I would guess an owl too. I lost several critters to what I suspect was owls. The only thing I couldn't get into the shed at night was my gunieas and the owl picked them off one at a time. The few remaining wised up and would gladly go to the hen house in the evening. Raccoons are also the biggest pest in the henhouse I have even encountered. They are also the most brazen little devils too.

-- Ruth Guida (n5rjm@arrl.net), December 06, 1999.

Thank you all for your helpful answers. We have had live traps set and did not catch a thing.(Except one of our barn cats! Thats why we have to use only live traps and corn as bait). All of our birds are safely locked up at night now. I'm thinking since we didnt catch anything that it might have been an owl. My husband did hear one that first night. He did kill a possum in the barn last night but thats nowhere near where my birds are kept. Possums are pretty easily caught in our traps and did not catch any yet. If he was the culprit he won't be eating any gourmet meals now! Thank you Judi

-- Judi Hunter (sheepspin@aol.com), December 08, 1999.

chicken damage on my place has been mink/weasel (have seen mink nearby), possum, fox and DOG! Dogs runnig at night can do alot of damage. Usually they dont take the chickens to eat them, just let them lay. Fox damage is when something comes every 2 or 3 nights, and makes a clean getaway with maybe just a littl pile or trail of feathers ( my chickens are free ranging, but go in a coop at night. Fox seems to get the first ones out in the AM). The mink (or 2?) nearly wiped out my whole coop once - left dead chickens ( minus head and heart )all over the yard - like it was having FUN at this masacre! 15 chickens in one night! possums seem to be primarily interested in the eggs (yeah I know I dont collect em everyday) and wont go for chickens if they have the egg meal. same with racoons.

-- b lathrop (bflfish@aol.com), January 08, 2000.

We lose a few ducks to owls every year. They take only the head. The chickens are penned and we have had problems with possums. They eat out the belly and leave the rest. I am told skunks do the same thing but our dogs wouldn't let them around. We sometimes can tell they have been in the holler on the north tho. Sometime I will have to tell you my famous possum story.

-- Susie*Ks (goodartfarm@msn.com), April 29, 2000.

Mink and weasels are related, so maybe mink do the same thing weasels do -- strike at every movement they see until all movement stops -- they don't have enough intelligence to realize their prey is dead as long as they see something moving. Isn't much comfort when you've just lose a whole batch of chicks to a weasel (as we did last year), but it does help a little to understand why they do it.

-- Kathleen Sanderson (stonycft@worldpath.net), April 29, 2000.

My duck population was up to 76 adult ducks now down to four. ducks do not like to be closed up like our chickens. We have lost 100s of baby ducks in the last year and a half. I am at wits end. We are sure it is the owls we have so many. I can not believe they are protected . We have so many at last count we had 8 barred owls at one view . It is terrible. we are their feeding ground. I am both sickened and saddened by our loss. I was hoping someone new of away to keep the owls away without killing them we have a small pond and had it stocked the fish were gone within a week. Between the owls and the heron. What is left to do owls are protected . I t is costing me a small fortune. the owls are not even afraid of us they will sit within a few feet of us. Our guinea hens were killed right in front of the house. I have left the dogs out to deter. But no luck. I was hoping if anyone has any ideas they would let me no!!!!!!!!!! desperate

-- paul miller (millerclan@alltel.net), June 13, 2001.

We lost half our ducks to a bald eagle this year. Can't do anything about it as the eagles are a protected species and there's a HUGE fine and a jail term if you mess with 'em. Time to get more ducks. Interestingly, it didn't get our chickens. Weird!

-- sheepish (the_original_sheepish@hotmail.com), June 14, 2001.

Coyotes grab my birds and take them away. Skunks mutilate them and prefer to eat the guts out. Heads off has been the golden and bald eagles here. We had the only known nesting pair in Utah feeding at my house every day all spring and summer. Their tree got blown over this summer in a wind storm (Yee-ha!) They had 3 babies, and now I can see the whole family circling sometimes. I've watched the eagles in the act: they circle, dive, stick their daggers in the bird and kill it, land, take the head of and consume it, pick the carcass clean of feathers, eat as much as they possibly can, and then take the rest of the carcass away to feed their young. If you find a pile of feathers, it is a bird of prey. I like the idea of putting a snap trap on a pole. The eagles would land in a young cottonwood or on my rock steps leading to my coop area and scope the area out. They took out over 100 chickens, 50 guineas, and some ducks. They'll pluck the ducks right out of the pond! Now all my birds (the few I have left and my new babies) are all housed in the coop except for my two turkey hens, and my geese. White chinese geese are good watch dogs. The coyotes don't bother them, and after killing one turkey, I think they found the fight to not be worth it. I caught the skunks in a trap, approached with a tarp and covered it, and submerged the trap into a water-filled garbage barrel. Magpies get my chicks if they have the chance. Antifreeze soaked dog food is great for eliminating magpies, but keep it up on something out of the way of your pets and poultry. I want to figure out how to get the eagles, but then Utah would miss its only nesting pair. (Besides, I don't have extra money or time for jail.) We think they will probably make a new home closer to their food source next spring! I see them often. I'm guessing my best bet is to invest in constructing a covered run area near the coop. It's sad they have to loose their freedom, but when there are predators loose, you have two choices: get rid of the predators, or be captive. I wish these war protestors would realize this.

-- Still Trying with Birds despite predators (jnjhenderson@elitelink.net), September 30, 2001.

I would try shooting in the air at the tree tops during the night~that is, if you don't have any neighbors near by. Maybe it would scare the owls away from your trees. I wouldn't want to kill one, but they get a few of my kittens every year, especially the light colored ones.

-- Ardie from WI (ardie54965@hotmail.com), September 30, 2001.

We lost 4 chickens to a weasel over the past month. It only went for the head; two of which were missing heads. We saw it this morning. It struck twice during the day. We watched it from about 2 feet away and it was very bold. It jumped at one of the chickens right in front of us!!!!!! Traps do work but you have to make sure that you get them all. They are solitary animals but where there is one, others are not far away. They are drawn by the smell of blood, so if you have had a killing then make sure that the chicken house is cleaned thoroughly.

-- mary jodoin (djandmj@metrocast.net), February 27, 2002.

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