I seem to have a predator issue with my chickens. The total so far is two dead and one totally missing (certainly assumed dead). These are young chickens, less than three years old so I'm not thinking natural causes. First one was a couple months ago. I found her in the chicken house but we had been gone a couple days and she had started decomposing. I couldn't be sure she was actually killed by something. I chalked it up to natural causes because no more turned up dead, until now. Two days ago one chicken went missing. No sign of anything, just gone. Highly unlikely she escaped and left though. These chickens have been both free range and penned up, never going any farther than our yard (which is why they are currently penned. I can't deal with all that poop!) Yesterday I discovered a hen dead in the pen. She was in the corner of the coop, head and wings pulled through the fencing, her chest opened up and gullet gone.
From my reading it seems this is common coon MO. They will kill the chicken, usually not be able to drag it far and likely will just eat the gullet. They can get in and out without any sign of entry. We have foxes and coyotes but I don't suspect either as both would be able to, and would, cart off the whole bird. Also it seems a fox will typically kill many, if not all, the chickens in one night. As the chickens get worked up it puts the fox in a frenzy. A coyote can't climb fencing so they'll usually dig in. There's no digging or fence disturbance anywhere. I'm thinking a coon is my biggest suspest.
So other than killing the coon, is there any way to deter them from coming around the chicken yard at night? I don't have dogs, so nothing around the house to scare the coon off naturally. I can lock my hen house at night but only when we're home. When we leave for a few days I can't leave the chickens locked in their house. Plus they want to be out and about long before I'm up in the morning and they were rather ticked this morning at being locked up. I suppose if that's my only option though I'll have to do it whenever possible. Any advice or ideas are appreciated!