Yesterday, the girls were tormented by a juvenile Red Tailed Hawk for a few hours. Either myself or one of the contractors would chase it away, only to find it returned and perched upon the coop. Finally, I had remembered something that I had seen and learned about from Terry Golson during her Chicken Workshop. She had strung old CDs across her pullets’ open top run to ward off flying predators. It had worked beautifully.
Today I was working in the backyard with our contractor replacing a window. I kept hearing the chickens sound the alarm. I could only assume they were reacting to the power tools and hammering. Little did I know that the threat was real. I decided to investigate after they were squawking for a while. As I rounded the corner, I was taken a back by this juvenile Red Tailed Hawk perched atop the coop staring down at my chickens! It was big, about 2 feet tall, and it was not fazed by my presence. The girls, on the other hand, were down in the far end of the run fearing for their lives.
I snapped a quick picture with my phone, went into the garage, and grabbed a 2 x 4. I was ready for battle. As they are federally protected, my intentions were not malicious, just scare tactics. It was not until I was about 5 feet away swinging that it went up into a nearby tree. I was shaken. After a few minutes standing there, it took off, buzzed my head, and flew into the woods. I am sure it will be back. I now will not dare let the girls free range. I had never been within a few feet of such a magnificent creature. Nor do I think I want to be for a long time. The worst part was, poor Fifi was trying to lay her first egg inside the coop while all of this ruckus was occurring outside. She never did lay that egg.
Photo Credits: Tilly’s Nest
I knew that it would happen eventually. I’m not actually saying that this happened for the first time yesterday. I just happened to see it. Both kids were home sick with that horrible cough that sounds like a barking seal. The little one also had pink eye. Needless to say, instead of braving the crowds and getting a little more shopping done, I was on home arrest, noticing every little dirty thing, clutter, and feeling like I was waiting on two little members of royalty during their recuperation.
If I do say so myself, we have a really nice set-up for feeding the wild birds in the winter. Our set-up allows the birds to have a smorgasbord of sunflower seeds, nyger seeds and suet all at the same time. However, the best part of the arrangement is that it is completely squirrel proof! This is entirely another whole blog entry as it took us two years to perfect.
So yesterday, as I was emptying out the dishwasher, I caught a large bird sitting on top of the feeder’s arched pole. At first, I though maybe it was a blue jay. No, it seemed a little bigger. Maybe it was a large woodpecker that we typically get; like a flicker or a hairy woodpecker. No, it was bigger than that. As I walked over, it dawned on me; it was a hawk.
My husband happens to be a birder, so I have become pretty familiar with the local birds that visit our yard. I knew that it was either a red tail hawk or a Cooper’s hawk. Upon closer inspection, based on the size, tail pattern and breast coloration, it was definitely a Cooper’s hawk!
I was shocked that it was just sitting there. Of course, the feeders were all empty except for the rotund happy squirrel on the ground gathering the discards in his cheeks. I was surprised that the hawk did not go for the squirrel. I was even more surprised that the squirrel seemed to know that the hawk didn’t want him. You see, Cooper’s hawks love chicken. In fact, early colonial settlers called them chicken hawks. Apparently, the squirrel and the hawk knew something tastier was in the yard.
The hawk flew from the top of the feeder pole to a rustic chair that I have on the front lawn. It sat and glared over at the chicken coop. It was only 14 degrees yesterday due to the Alberta clipper we were experiencing and I am sure that he was hungry. I’m not sure if the flock saw him. They were not free ranging yesterday, as it was even a little chilly for them. They spent most of the day in their coop coming out in the run for water, scratching a little then returning inside. He sat perched on top of the chair for about five minutes and just as I thought to grab the camera, turn it on and line up the shot, he flew away.
I had seen hawks circling over the yard. I had seen hawks fly over the yard. I now know that they know about the chickens. I am sure that they will be back knowing a chicken buffet exists in our yard. In fact, I thought that I would have seen one in the yard sooner. This was my close encounter with a chicken predator. I’m sorry Mr. Hawk, for now, something else will have to be on your menu.