Last Monday I got home after dark and closed up the ladies, as usual. I counted them, made sure they were all there, and locked them in for the night. The next morning when I let them out, they greeted me and hopped out of the coop like they do every morning, but I noticed that one black and white hen was missing some feathers by her tail. No biggie. That happens; they molt, they peck them out, it’s nothing to worry about. Then as I turned to walk back to the house, I saw Molly sniffing a giant pile of black and white feathers. Uh-oh.
I went over to the hen with the bald spot and pulled back her other feathers to reveal the nastiest giant slash across her back. Crap. As Luke described it, the gash looks like someone carved a slice across a roast chicken. It was serious but she didn’t seem to care. She was the first hen out of the house that morning (and every morning). She’s still chatty and busy, scratching and foraging around. The other hens don’t bother her; nothing seems to have changed. I decided to wait it out. The local vet does treat chickens, but I wanted to see if nature would take care of itself.
A week later, the injured hen is still acting normal, laying eggs, taking dust baths, and squawking at me each morning when I let her out. Her gash has started to heal and her feathers are growing back in frizzy little tufts. I started to wonder what attacked her in the first place. My thought is that it had to be a bird of some sort because if it was a fox, or something on foot, it would have just followed her back into the coop after the attack. We do have an abundance of hawks and even saw an eagle here a few years back, so I figured it had to be an overconfident little hawk.
Well, I was half right.
Sunday evening I was in the kitchen when I heard a whole bunch of flapping and scrambling and squawking from the yard. I looked out to see a gigantic hawk gliding through the yard about six feet off the ground. It landed in a tree in the back yard (no chicken in its claws, thank goodness) and all of the hens frantically scattered. I spent the next half hour trying to round everyone up. A few ran to the coop, others ran to nearby bushes and trees, or under the deck. I managed to coax the injured hen out from under the deck and lure a couple of others out of the bushes, but most everyone had to be carried back to the coop, they were so scared. All ten were accounted for and no one was injured. Phew! Close call.
We’re starting to get back to normal again, except now the ladies prefer to take dust baths under the back deck, and they follow me around even closer than before. I must be their new sign of safety. They stick so close to me now, it’s hard to walk across the yard without tripping. I’m also afraid that this hawk has now learned that our yard is the place for easy chicken pickings, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.