A couple of days ago I noticed a big clump of red feathers in the hen pen. It's not unusual to see a single feather or two, they are shed or hens get in a tussle and you end up with a feather or two. But this was a clump and clearly from a bigger altercation. I did not see any sign of trouble within the flock, though, so I forgot about it.
Sadly, when I got home today, I found the end result.
When I came into the coop this evening the chickens were all clucking and running around like usual. But as I scanned the pen floor I saw this.
It did not immediately register for me what I was looking at. Was it an even larger clump of feathers? But then I saw the ribcage and realized it was the hollowed-out carcass of one of my chickens.
I have been a vegetarian for twenty years, but there was a time in my adult life when I cooked stuffed turkey, so I was not entirely unfamiliar with the anatomy. There was nothing, however, that looked like it should be in a little plastic bag. This hen was hollow. See?
I am puzzled now, trying to figure out whether the hen was weak and died, being subsequently eaten, or if something other than a chicken killed her (which would mean a critter was inside my barn, not a happy thought). After I disposed of her carcass I went back and inventoried the hens left. They are all there. This was a Rhode Island Red I got in 2006, so she wasn't exactly a "spring chicken".
We had exceptionally bad weather last week and they were cooped up together inside for a couple of days. Their radio died, too, so maybe they just got really bored? But the past few days they have been allowed outside again. I would be grateful for any ideas other chicken-keepers might have about what happened.