Jack and I lost our first chicken to the hawk that’s been circling since June. When it first attacked, we drove it off because we happened to be in the yard. Then we put up gauze strips to blow from the trees, reflective tape on the clothesline, a mirror atop the coop so the hawk would see another bird if it dove there.
We counted on the natural cover of trees, shrubs, and the brush pile to keep the chickens safe, and we set out two plastic owls, which we moved every day.
For awhile. We saw the hawk occasionally, but as the chickens grew calmer, so did we. Things got relaxed. In November, a headless dove left outside the coop door overnight gave a godfather-esque feeling to the warning that it was quiet, professor, TOO quiet.
I was gone for a week. The weather was bitter cold. The shredded gauze tangled in trees, the reflective tape fell down, and the owls were buried in snow.
“I can only find three chickens,” Jack said last night. This was not super unusual. Sometimes the one the others picked on most decided she’d prefer a tree roost. We acquired two banty girls just a couple of months ago from my parents–they took up residence under their holly bush–and those two prefer tree roosts, so we didn’t worry too much.
This morning, though, when Jack took hot breakfast out, she didn’t appear. (Hot breakfast for a chicken means replenishing the heated water bucket so they always have access to water.)
He shook the grubs jar, a sure-fire treat draw for all the backyard birds. Nope.
I knew what had to be done, and sure enough I found her several minutes later, looking very like a patch of unmelted snow. She’d attempted to take cover under a bush, but the hawk dove right through the thin winter cover. I doubt she had more than a moment of fear before it was all over.
We left the body because, put bluntly, now the hawk will pay attention to the easy pickings for a couple of days. That’s how long it will take our new handy dandy portable chicken run to get here. Think chain mail tent. We know the girls will love it, and we won’t feel this sense of guilt again.
People with farms accept losses, yes. These girls are, as Jack says, pets with benefits. We like the eggs, but we like the girls more. So we’re accepting full moral responsibility for their future safety.
And you know that circle of life thing, we accept that all creatures have to eat? Yeah, no. If I could catch that hawk, I’d kill him with my bare hands. I’ve thrown several rocks at him as he waits in the tall tree beyond our fence. Too high, my aim is too bad. If only vibes could kill. Circle of life, my tail feathers. Die, you bastard.