A murder most fowl

The day did not break, it rather came out of hiding.  A slow and progressive lightening of the dark sky which  revealed the morning, and the misty cold rain that came down to  turn everything it touched to a dark and ugly brown.

I went out as I always do at chicken-thirty of a morning, to release everyone, and to put out feed and water.  I told my girls to stay in and stay dry, but do they listen?  NO!  After all they say,  “The bugs are juicier and more abundant out in the pasture.”

Fast forward about 4 hours…

The Guineas (aka: Weechoos) are going berserk, screaming and chattering so loudly I can hear them through the tightly closed windows.  I get up to go chastise them.  Two are strangely huddled against the fence while the one closest to me is running and jumping up on the fence by the window.  She is still screaming and looking at me, then to the other two.  Suddenly, a large shape separates itself from the fence line right above the two Weechoos farthest from me.  It is a hawk!

I stand there thinking I will never make it on time, but turn anyway to run out the door.   Grabbing the broom as I go I head out and begin calling to the chickens in the loudest voice.  I am hoping that the noise will scare away the hawk!  I think it’s working but go out into the pasture to be sure.

I find a handful of my girls and Topper bashing themselves against the chain link fence in blind terror to get back into the chicken yard.  I herd them all in  through the gate.  I keep calling but can’t see any of the rest of my flock.  Finally I see Grayson across the pasture and he is pressed up against the fence in the farthest corner from me.  Slowly I make out the forms of more chickens strung out along the fence line and frozen there.

I look about but do not see any evidence of the hawk, so I leave thinking I have done my job.  I go into the house and to the window.  At that moment I see little Tippy still on the other side of the pasture move, and the hawk is there in an instant!

Feathers fly and I am helpless to do anything for her!  When I am certain all is lost she breaks free and flies 400 feet across the field to get to safety!  I knew chickens could fly enough to get over the fence, but I had no idea that they could do that!

Again running for the door I scramble down the wet stairs in slippered feet, once again I go to the aid of my chickens!  I am yelling at the top of my voice HERE CHICK-CHICK-CHICK!  Repeating it over and over,  as I race to the gate to let them in.  Finally, Grayson makes a break for it and everyone follows his lead, they are running to get to me and I let them into the yard.  Amazingly, they all went directly into the chicken run … that is except for the Weechoos.  They are still outside screaming their wattles off over all the excitement.  I tempt them with scratch and they come in too.

Now I count chicken butts and find:  4 Barred Rocks, 4 Black Australorps, 7 Rhoad Island Reds, 2 Amerucanas, Grayson, Tippy and Topper.  All present and accounted for I tell myself.  Everyone settles down and begins scratching for the feed I scattered down.  I watch them eat paying particular attention to Tippy and Topper.

They are battered and featherless on their backs.  Tippy’s poor tail is gone save one lone feather.  It is pathetic looking, but I tell myself they are OK and the feathers will grow again.

Again I return to the house.  Bringing my computer to the dining room table I sit down to write to you and the Weechoos go off again.  I look to see if somehow the hawk has managed to break in.  No, all is well, but they continue to scream.  Going from window to window I scour the trees,  and then I see it.

The hawk is sitting under the silkies hutch.  It has caught Momma Roo and it is too late.  I run to the door, chase the hawk away, and pick up her lifeless body.

Standing there I agonized over whether to let the hawk have its meal or dispose of her.  I think to myself, If I take her away then the hawk will come again tomorrow and simply take another of my girls. Then I think,  But if I leave it for the hawk, then I’ll simply be reinforcing that this is a meal station.

I carry her inside, wrap her in paper, and dispose of her.

The remaining silkys were in hiding, the youngest in the hutch, Kung Foo Roo in the incinerator, and Lady Roo was nowhere to be seen.  I finally found her frozen in terror behind the incinerator.  I picked her up to put her in the hutch and Kung Foo Roo came out of hiding and attacked me!  A valiant effort on his part, but I was not the enemy.  I understood and forgave his savage blows.

I would make four more trips out to the yard before dark to chase away that hawk.  He was simply not going to take “NO” for an answer, but I managed to keep him off of my Roo.  (I would have put him inside his hutch, but I just couldn’t catch him.)  Now, and for some time to come, I will simply have to keep my birds in their run.  No more letting them out to pasture.  I will have to build them a larger run, and a new one for the silkys too.

A sad day for us here on the Farmlet

The Culprit

How would you have handled this situation?

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9 thoughts on “A murder most fowl

  1. Lindy says:

    Lynda, how very sad. It is so difficult for humans to understand the animal instinct for survival. I know that we all know the hawk was just looking for a meal and he found your birds. The logic does not make the loss any easier to bear. I, too, would have been furious at the hawk and in tears over my birds.

    Your question is a good one and one I will probably have to answer for myself in the future as I acquire birds. My protective nature would have sent me after that hawk with every weapon in my arsenal which would be a broom. My husband might grab his shotgun but that is probably not something I would do – no telling what I might shoot if I tried that. I can’t even load the thing. I think I agree with you that the safest place for them is in their run, at least for the time being. I’m also wondering about other animals for protection? I had always read how protective Guineas are but perhaps they are just very noisy? My dogs would probably help the hawk in catching a bird.

    Bottom line – I would do exactly what you did. I would grab my broom and run out of my house screaming at the top of my lungs, flailing the broom around in the air with the hope that I could scare the hawk away.

    • pixilated2 says:

      Lindy, I talked to some neighbors and they said to shoot “at” it. There is a lot wrong with that:

      1. The law of physics says that “What goes up must come down.” Also, with my dumb luck I might actually hit the bird! Which leads to the next reason not to do this…

      2. It is against the law to kill our birds of prey! And really, I just can’t see myself doing that even if legal.

      3. Lastly, I don’t own a gun!!! LOL! ( Though for other reasons I have considered getting one and learning to use it.)

      That said, the effect of shooting the gun was to make loud noise and scare off the hawk. And that I can do! Make big noise I mean. Yesterday it was a metal trash can lid and a stick. But this weekend I will visit the local fireworks outlet (they are legal and year round here) and will purchase a large supply of firecrackers (with l-o-n-g fuses!). That will provide the BIG noise I need without accidentally shooting the bird, or myself, by accident.

      So for the winter I think it best to just make more and larger runs. It is just such a helpless feeling.

      And Lindy, thanks for caring! ~ Lynda

      • Deb W says:

        Hi Linda, Sorry to hear your chooks got tangled up in the web-of-life. Is there anything to be done, other than keep them all under cover of a protective screen of some sort? I’ve heard some use a thing called a “chicken tractor”, portable enclosure. Sounds kind of labour-intensive, but effective?
        I’m guessing the feathered folk are all a lot more cautious now about keeping an eye on the sky though, eh? (Something about “life’s hardest lessons learned”?) Funniest darn thing to watch though, well, I thought so as a kid, anyway. ; )
        Ah, about the gunpowder thing… Better to not (just to keep the feathers on your flock). As Grandma would’ve said, “…like cutting off your nose, to spite your face.”
        I do hope everyone recovered all right. xo D

        • pixilated2 says:

          I have been re-working the chicken’s run and their yard, as well as slowly reducing the size of my flock. (There will be a post about that later.) As for recovery, well, I think the only one who was seriously scared over the whole ordeal was ME! 😉

  2. elenaramirez says:

    Sorry to read about the loss at your farm. I like your understanding, of the hawk, that if you let him, have the meal, he would return. He did not deserve that meal. Good for you, for cutting his supply off. Take care and God bless…..
    Elena

    • pixilated2 says:

      Hello Eleana! Well, I’ve said it before… “Hawks gotta eat.” I would just prefer that he not eat my chickens. After all, there are squirrels and voles a plenty for the taking. One thing I have learned over the past year is this:

      White and/or tan colored chickens are easy prey here on the Farmlet. Since my other chickens are darker colored and blend in more easily I will only get dark feathered birds from now on!

      So, being he’s one of God’s creatures I will wish him no harm because he has a role to play here on earth. But, on the other hand, I will do everything in my power to assure that his next meal isn’t chicken!!!

      Thanks for stopping by Eleana! ~ Lynda

  3. dogear6 says:

    Wow, thanks for giving me the links on my blog. What a story. . . that’s too bad about your chickens. I’m glad you were home though to do something about it – it would have been far worse to come home from work and find a major carnage.

    Nancy

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