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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Hawk strike and so it goes

As I drove up our road to the house, I put the truck in park and looked to the left to get out of car.

"NO-o-o-o-o!" I screamed.

There was a one of my Buff Orpingtons, dead, and I cried out again,

"NO-o-o-o-o..." but this time it was a quiet sighing on my part, an understanding.

The brown mass standing over had flown up and out as I left the car, a red tail hawk, leaving behind beautiful red feathers and down from the hen.

I could not find her head–but realized with calmer examination it had been destroyed, the talons had most likely ripped it apart-a quick kill I can only hope, but think it was. I've held a lot of dead animals since living here. After the initial realization of what is before me, there is a scientific curiosity that comes over me. The spirit is not being disrespected if the remaining onlooker holds the body and examines, learns, ponders-and is amazed at the complexity of the feather structure or the myriad of tones in each wing.

I got Boone to the barn and there was an eery calm. The chickens often hang out in various areas of the two barns, but what was different is the roosters had also congregated and were laying low. Some of the hens were in the coop. I was too rushed to figure out who might be missing, but I was relieved to see the ducks in one piece and old Priscilla okay as well. But I haven't seen my last remaining Buff, and I hope she is there. The once three Buff Orpingtons were some of my friendliest hens, and we lost Clara some time ago to natural causes. The two remaining- Florence and Golda- were just so fun, especially Golda. I will be saddened greatly if it was her- I couldn't tell from her body as it was wet-the two hens have different shaped combs and the hawk destroyed the comb.

I am not mad at the hawk. And please don't write here about the hawk as a culprit-he was killing for food. I kill for food and would be a hypocrite if I separated myself out of the food chain- a food chain I am part of. In fact, a calm came over me within seconds of finding the hen. It was as if I was being held by air, with the understanding I often write about here on the blog- it was as it was, this act of Nature. I had no control over it, and never could have. We have free ranged our hens for years and I've never had a hawk kill before. We put our hens in at night, but hawks are always around. We had noticed a younger Red Tail in the Doug Firs behind the old barn some weeks ago, and Martyn saw it swoop in but heard lots of crowing and screeching and by the time he saw the bird lift off, the hens had scattered and the roosters were all prancing around–we think the roosters kept it from snatching someone.

But he's been watching, I guess.

Someone is always watching here, be it owl or upper field coyote-taking notice of many minute smells we humans miss or ignore.

The chickens stay near the barns but do venture out to the house area, some 50 feet from the main barnyard gate. The Buffs have been exploring there a lot–there is mulch and dead leaf areas that are perfect for their protein meal. I suppose maybe there were a few of them pecking around and they were more of a target than the barnyard. Who knows.

Part of my agreement here is to do my best under each individual circumstance–circumstances that are always evolving. I do what I can to make the animals free, but safe. I keep my dogs out of the barnyard, and fence so other dogs can't get in. But I can't cover the skies. I won't say I'm jaded, but I guess I thought a hawk strike would have happened by now, in 10 years, so I didn't worry that much. I used to worry about them in the beginning years when I'd see them high above and I was new to chickens and heard so many hawk strike stories from people. I would call up to them-

"Stay away from my hens!"

So it has happened. They chose to be a hawk today–not a character in a semi fictional story.

I will keep everyone in for a week or so. And I will hopefully take a head count and find my other Buff, and hope it is Golda. She would skip, not run, skip to me in the mornings and evening. Such a happy looking girl. Florence was nice too, but Golda was dog like.

Still, it is a good day. There are no bad days if I am breathing and I can look forward to this day and the next. Hard days, maybe. Not "bad".


Anonymous said...

We have a few ducks and the hawks are always about. I netted their yard so I wouldn't have to face what you did. Nature red...I do understand...I did have a red tail swoop down and almost get my head under the netting one day...Can't imagine that sight from a chicken or duck's perspective....sorry for your loss.

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

Thanks Corrine- I am bummed as I love my chickens roaming about, but for now I left them and everyone in lockdown. Will have to net their small hut yard for now.
When a hawk kills it's instant. I don't think they see a thing.

Lynda Gene said...

When I was first starting community college and inhaling culture wherever I could find it, I started going to poetry readings. I was amazed at what people did with words, and that there were other people who cared. And thirty-odd years later, I recall lines from a young poet who had taken work at a western ranch, nursed a feral cat, and lost the same to a predator. "The eagle falls - from a circling sky Behold, the spotted cat - can fly."

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

Lynda- thank you for sharing that- a beautiful string of words...after witnessing it which must have been traumatic indeed...

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~