The chickens have been hit hard with attacks that have decimated their ranks. First Tex, the gorgeous banty-cross rooster. That happened when a Red-Tailed Hawk got through an open spot in the overhead protective netting. In a panic, we moved the gang into a free stall in the barn, setting up nesting and roosting areas, piling a nice layer of old hay for them to peck around in, and seeing to their comfort.
All was well for a time, but then Cooter, the pure banty with an ego the size of Manhattan—the one putting dents in my calves, the aggressive little shit—he got gutted. We thought maybe the hens had gotten sick of his constant posturing and bullying, though the evidence (breast sliced open) spoke to other explanations.
That same day, Firstborn found the Leghorn (pure white, medium size) covered in blood and one of the black mixed breeds missing an eye and quite a few feathers. Was Leggs the culprit?
I hit the books, and sure enough… chickens can be cannibalistic and once they get a taste for it, there’s not much you can do beyond isolation or a stew pot. But… Leggs wasn’t packing a switchblade last we looked, so… wait and see.
The next day, the Silver Wyandotte was slaughtered, a clean slice fore and aft, but this time we had a bead on a culprit. Firstborn had seen a raptor in the trees but couldn’t quite ID it given it was early morning, foggy, and he was perched in a dense stand of brush. Given she couldn’t be sure what was getting into the stall (rats, coons, weasel?) she moved the remaining birds into their pen while I planned on how to protect the ground surrounding the enclosure from burrowing critters.
Next morning, Ro sighted the raptor on the fence next to the barn, bold as brass! Fortunately we still had a full complement in the hen’s enclosure so the overhead netting was doing its job, but while Ro was feeding in the barn, she noticed the raptor swooping by the barn door, flying fast, making several passes.
Bingo! The raptor, a Cooper’s Hawk (determined after extensive research online and through our bird books), was deemed the perp. Apparently it’s not unusual for Cooper’s to hang around bird feeders, taking down small to medium sized birds, squirrels and chippies. But, mercy… to go *inside* the barn where he could sit on the top of the stall enclosure and simply select a nice juicy, plump hen, drop down, do a surgical incision and then feast on warm innards?
Huh, that’s a level of brio I did not expect.
But the good news is the girls seem fine now. They never once ceased egg production (5-6/day) and the netting and other protection measures are holding.
Today a friend is bringing us a rooster to replace Tex and Cooter. I’ll have pics to share, I promise.
Meantime, y’all have a great day!