Goldie’s Close Encounter, or Our Hawk Problem
We’ve been having an issue with hawks. It’s winter, and there must not be much for them to feed on. We came out several weeks ago and found Penny’s dead, headless body frozen on the driveway. Fairly gruesome. We weren’t sure what did it. When Dominique disappeared some weeks before that, we thought it might have been a coyote, since she was carried completely away with no trace. This time we thought, what? A skunk? A possum? We researched and learned both of those are known to kill a chicken and just drink the blood, leaving the carcass behind. And not to be mean, but Dominique wasn’t our favorite chicken – so nervous and squawky, always acting like it was Armaggeddon RIGHT NOW!!!! So when she disappeared, we felt bad for her, but it wasn’t too awful. Penny by contrast was a nice girl, a beautiful Black Copper Marans hen, sweet and timid, who had just laid her very first egg. Brian cremated her in the wood furnace.
Then, a couple weeks after Penny, we heard the chickens screaming outside our front door. Brian ran out to see a hawk on top of Gams, the Light Brown Leghorn hen, just feet from our front porch. The hawk flew off when Brian ran out, and Gams was lying in the bloodied snow. She was alive, though. I picked her up, gently, and brought her inside the house. Nothing seemed fatal, but it was my first experience with a wounded chicken. I called our local vet. They referred me to a specialist clinic a bit further away. I called them. The fantastic receptionist said they didn’t treat chickens, but she herself had chickens, and had had several hawk attacks. She told me what to look for, and how to treat Gams with some gentle cleaning, antiseptic gel, swaddling and comforting, and some time separate from the others to recover, eat, and drink. She was fine by nightfall, and back in the coop with the others, no harm no fowl. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
We started keeping the chickens under closer watch, letting them free range when one of us was around. But then, one afternoon, when Brian walked to the barn to get a tool, a hawk came back for Gams. It killed her right on the porch of our guest house, while her “twin” Lyeta ran back and forth screaming in alarm. Brian was too late to save her this time. Her head was torn just like Penny’s. It was awful.
And then. Today, while Brian was literally walking up and down our front path, unloading things from the car into the house, with the chickens all around him, a hawk swooped down from the cedar tree and attacked Goldie! With a human (Brian) standing just feet away! Brian ran to them and knocked the hawk off. Goldie ran towards the front porch, and the hawk went after her and attacked her again. Brian KICKED the hawk, and it flew off. All of this in a few seconds, and captured on one of our security cameras. See the below:
Goldie – now you’re messing with one of our very favorite hens. This is serious. It’s a quandary because we do happen to love all birds – especially hawks. They are magnificent. The sky wouldn’t be the sky without hawks circling in it. But we’re also not interested in raising chickens to have weekly tragedies around the farm. Since we don’t believe in birds in cages, we either free range, or nothing. So. There we are.
More to come on this topic, as we have some thoughts on next steps to keep our chickens safe, without harming a feather on anybody else. (Gentle readers, please note it is 100% illegal to harm a hawk, just in case you are thinking about it. You can be fined something like $30K btw, if you break that law. Plus ‘hawks are people too’. So don’t.)
Meanwhile, Goldie is OK, thank goodness. She lost a clump of beautiful gilded feathers but is otherwise none the worse for the encounter. And we are in ‘chaperoned free ranging’ with an eagle-eye on the skies, hoping that word has gotten around in hawkland that hunting at Dyberry Creek Farm isn’t quite as easy these days….