I spent the weekend putting extra fine mesh over the two-inch mesh that lines the bottom of my chicken coop. Rats had been tunneling under and squeezing in to eat the grain. It was a long and tedious job on hands and knees, but hopefully will deter the marauders.
Then yesterday, I was outside just enjoying the chickens. That is, I was turning over dirt with a pitchfork and watching them greedily gobble the worms and bugs that emerged. It’s especially fun to watch them eat worms (or at least what I call fun). They sort of suction them out of their holes and eat them like strands of spaghetti. While we were happily engaged, there was a crash and a shriek, and suddenly the chickens were fleeing madly towards their house.
I turned around to see a young redtail hawk that had swooped in from the wooded side of the run. It had chased a few birds and wound up in the covered corner of the run, unable to get out. It hunched up facing away from me. Luckily I had my phone in my pocket, so I could capture the hawk digitally before turning it around with a long stick, and herding it out to the open area, where it could fly away.
When I first turned it, it took up a fierce, fighting pose. I prodded it gently, and locked up the frightened hens. Then I spent the whole day covering the open half of the run with bird net. I hadn’t thought there was enough open sky for them to attack from the wooded side, but clearly, I wasn’t thinking like a hungry hawk.
This is the closest I’ve ever been to a hawk, and its fierceness was impressive. It made me ponder life from the point of view of a bird that must kill live animals to eat. Unfortunately, chickens make an attractive target. I think I’ve now protected them from ground, air and laterally, from foxes, raccoons and possums, but who knows where the next incursion will come from? Nature is truly red in tooth…