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
How would you have handled this situation?