So during this morning's chores, I found that some critter last night made a snack out of a Rhode Island Red chicken pullet. The birds were in their moveable pen, but a predator got one of the birds. A wing here, a tuft of feathers there...then the final dining spot on one of my raised bed rows next to a tomato transplant.
Predator control is yet one more thing that can sink a free range business, and I feel like we've come a long way down in the pasture. Two years ago, we lost 8 birds in a day. This year, no predation losses. This despite sightings of bobcats and howling coyote packs. The pullets under siege were up near the house, and that's more than a little disconcerting.
So step 1 is to figure out what the problem critter is. I'm thinking that it's a group of coons, possibly a large possum due to the nature of the attack. I'm ruling out a coyote, fox, or bobcat as these guys would have left only feather "blasts" (just a pile of feathers) and the culprit from last night left a wing and rather large tufts. Plus, there was a splotches of feathers here and there, so I don't think the predator was very large, as the pullets are rather small.
So I made sure the hens were up on roosts tonight and put a live trap out with baited with a can of cat food. If it's a possum or coon, there's a good chance that'll get 'em. We'll see.