Just over a week ago, I got a call from a lady down the road that needed to get rid of her laying hens. They were a year and a half old, laying well, but a storm blew a huge tree onto their Chicken Condominium (man, this thing was spiffy!!) and they just wanted to get out of the chicken business.
Anyhow, I said I'd come over and help her round up the hens and give them a good home, be it with us or our neighbor's place.
Got the hens, a bunch of chicken "accessories" (no, not bracelets and hats for the biddies, just feeders and waterers) and took them home. Paul put up some wire mesh on the door of the kidding pen so the new hens couldn't get out and I put them in their new abode:
They were quite the motley crew of chickens as five of them were missing almost all of their butt feathers and one had a naked neck. The dominant hen was pretty much full of feathers, so I'm assuming that the nakedness was from picking & pecking. But other than being a bit revealing, they were laying the first day I had them in the pen.
I wasn't sure how I was going to integrate the new gals into the flock, especially with their exposed skin, which was sure to be noticed by the current flock. I figured I would just keep them locked up in the pen until they grew their feathers back then just let them out & fend for themselves. This would probably have taken several weeks. And I wasn't really sure if I wanted to be babysitting another flock of birds.
Our neighbors have been chicken-less for several months now. They've been having predator problems, even with them locked up at night. Something was taking their hens at night, inside the coop, one by one. No blood, no big pile of feathers, just missing chickens. So when they got down to a few hens, one of them an egg-eater at that, they just gave them away and figured they'd start over again after the heat of summer.
I have chickens I didn't really want, and I had neighbors that wanted chickens again. So I gave them to the neighbors who were more than happy to have a small flock of already-laying hens.
The neighbors had planned a short weekend vacation prior to acquiring the new hens, so they asked if we would watch the hens. Of course, no problem! Open the coop in the morning, feed & water them, collect eggs, close the coop up at night. Repeat.
Except instead of finding seven hens one morning, there were only four. There were seven when I locked them up. No blood, no chicken "parts" no more than a few feathers scattered here or there. The neighbors are gone one stinking night and almost half of their flock is already gone! That night I made sure that the coop door was locked and walked around to see if there were any obvious breaches in the floor or door. The coop door itself is a bit wobbly, and if you pushed on it a certain way there is a gap of a few inches, so I pushed a big rock in front of the door to keep it from being pulled open. Said goodnight to the biddies and walked back home.
Next morning. Only three hens. Another one was taken during the night. And the only evidence I saw were three or four feathers on the other side of the pen, over a 4' fence, and led out into the woods.
That evening Paul and I went over the coop and found a window where the chicken wire could have been pulled back, so he secured it with wire. We also jammed a big piece of wood in front of the coop door and more importantly, brought the live trap and a can of cat food. The next morning there were still three hens, but a big, fat opossum in the live trap. Which quickly became a "dead" trap for him.
Of course, I was anxiously awaiting the neighbor's phone call the next day. I had to tell them that four of their seven hens were eaten on my watch. Man, did I feel crummy. But of course, they understood and didn't hold it against me. Not that I thought that they would, but it's just a bummer of a feeling when livestock "happenings" happen when you're the one who just so happens to be watching them.