The chickens have had a tough week on the homestead. Duke is still our hero for pinning that big chicken hawk down to the ground on Monday, but even a super hero like Duke can’t be everywhere at all times and on Tuesday, we lost one of the Silver Leghorn pullets to a predator.
I initially suspected a feral cat may have gotten the pullet. We have found a few stalking our flock in the past. I found what was left of the pullet in the woods and it appears she was eaten where she fell. The feathers off her back had been pulled out, and that section was eaten, and there was nothing left to the neck except bones. After talking with several people who have had a lot of experience with various predators killing their chickens, I’m almost certain the culprit was a chicken hawk. The pullet weighed around 6.5 pounds, which is quite heavy for most chicken hawks to carry off. When raptors kill something too large to remove, they will eat it where it is killed.
My suspicion that it was likely a chicken hawk was further confirmed yesterday. We were sitting in the living room when Bernie looked out the window to the back yard and shouted “Somthing’s going on out there!” He no sooner finished his sentence when both of us were headed out the door. We got to the backyard just in time to see one my poor Golden Penciled Hamburgs being attacked by a chicken hawk. We scared the hawk off, and the hamburg ran under Bernie’s barn shed. There were feathers everywhere. Duke was in the front yard with the new mamas and baby chicks and he was fussing something awful. It took some coaxing and a long stick, but we finally managed to get the hamburg out from under the shed. She was pretty shook up, and a little short on feathers in spots, but she was fine.
I was quite unnerved by the whole thing, and even though it was only around 4:30PM, we herded up the chickens and locked them in their run. About an hour later, I heard Duke fussing up a storm, and ran outside – just in time to see a chicken hawk sitting by the run fencing, staring at the chickens and scaring them half to death! Thank goodness the run is covered with chicken wire.
Spring is a wonderful time of year and it is refreshing to see the new life it brings. Babies in the wild are certainly a sign of spring, and with them comes the need for their parents to feed them. Chicken hawks are no different. They are naturally looking for food. They are hungry, and so are their babies. It is an especially dangerous time for free ranging chickens. They are easy prey, and pretty much everyone and everything finds a chicken meal quite tasty.
As you know, I had a few issues keeping my chickens penned in their run. It was not an easy decision to allow them to free range, but the consequences of keeping them penned were worse than the prospect of losing a few to predators. Now that there are especially vulnerable baby chicks to worry about, the risks are even greater. If you’ve followed this blog for any time at all, you know I am pretty attached to my chickens, and I tend to be a bit over-protective.
I’m not really sure what we are going to do in the future. This weekend, I plan to keep my chickens penned in their run. I know I can not keep them in there forever, but after such a stressful week I think we could all use a break. Four hawk attacks in five days is a little more than we can handle right now.
Predators are always going to be a threat when owning chickens. It’s just a fact of life. Every living creature must eat. But I’m not raising chickens to be a dad-gum smorgasbord for all the wild animals in the county.
I wish I could clone Duke. He’d get the message across. No doubt.