It doesn't help that, with the door closed, the coop is the safest place for them. Because they don't know that and I can't explain it to them.
The coop is a little hut on stilts. It was designed to be unattractive to non-birds to jump into, easy to clean and safe.
Whatever it was that killed the first chicken a few nights ago came back, last night, for another go. The first attack happened at about 4:30am. Last night it came at about 10:30pm.
It startled the chickens so much that the two oldest (who learned years ago that a closed coop wasn't supposed to be a jail) pushed their way out and into the yard. Bad move chickens....
Fortunately my neighbours came running to see what the noise was and I too ran out to rescue my pets. We rounded up the two and put them back in the coop and leaned the ladder against the door (so they couldn't push their way out again). One neighbour said they saw something pale jump over the fence so I'm assuming at this point that it's probably a very large cat.
After coercing the chickens into the coop, tonight, they spent a lot of time looking at the floor of the coop (which is just wire). I figured that perhaps whatever is attacking them isn't actually entering their coop but is terrifying them from below....
Simple solution, I've put old chook food bags over the wire floor and pegged a few more up the big wire window. It'll hinder ventilation a little (although not enough to stress about), but if the big scarey thing can't parade around underneath them, or jump up and rattle the bottom of the coop it should be worth it.
Hopefully whatever it is will give up and go away soon so that I can go back to being lazy and leaving the coop door open. Getting up at 6am, when I'm used to sleeping until at least 8am, just to let the chickens out, isn't that enjoyable.
It becomes a problem if it doesn't give up, as we usually request some nearby friends to look after them when we both go away. I can hardly ask these friends to get up at 6am, walk over to my place, just to let the chooks out....
I'm not quite sure how I'm supposed to identify that the critter has given up too. Poor chooks.