Sunday, December 12, 2010
My book group meets at 5:30 today. My plan was to put sweet potato chips in the oven at 4:00, then get cleaned up and organized to venture out in the snow. But my plan was changed.
The video shows the beginning of the saga. About five 'til four I took the dogs out in the yard. We looked around some to see how much snow is down. Near the barn I noticed an unusual chicken sound. Usually that means one of the chickens is picking (sometimes literally) on another, so I went into the barn to investigate.
I discovered two chickens absolutely squished under the ramp that leads to the outside. Why had they gone there? Was one attacking the other? The red hen's wing was caught in the space between the ramp and the wall. All the other chickens were very agitated, squawking and clucking and running back and forth.
Of course I had to leave the pen for a minute to get a pitchfork with which to pry up the ramp, freeing the red hen. The young white chicken was stuck under there with her. What on earth?
I picked up the red hen, who seemed to be relieved to be freed. Then all the chickens came running into the part of the pen I was in. What is going on? I carried the hen with me into the other side of the coop. That's when I saw the hawk.
Yup, there was a hawk inside the chicken pen.
I quickly shooed the chickens into the far side of the pen and blocked the door between. There are still open spaces, but that seemed a bit safer. Then the hawk swooped at my head. I hadn't anticipated that! While I looked around for a stick or something to shoo it along, it flew out of the pen into the other part of the barn. That's when I got this picture.
OK, here it is cropped:
Is that a Cooper's Hawk? It was about the size of a crow.
Anyway, there are vents along that wall between the ceiling and the outer wall, and the hawk must have escaped up into the upstairs of the barn. So I raced over and opened the Dutch door, hoping if it came back down, it would leave.
I climbed up to have a peak upstairs. I never go there, there's nothing up there but a bunch of dust and bird poop from the sparrows (who may be leaving if the hawk takes up residence). At first I couldn't see anything, even with my flashlight. Then I saw a form perched on the far side. I took a picture, and while you can't see anything in it, you do see the reflections from two beady eyes.
Back down I went, raced into the house to get my gun. My staple gun, that is. Because you see, every winter I put heavy plastic up all around the chicken's pen to reduce drafts. And I hadn't done it yet this year, but it was clear that some heavy plastic across any openings could be mighty helpful in deterring this hawk!
You know that the plastic was all balled up in the corner of the barn, covered with a summer's worth of heavy dust. Blech. But I went forth and got it all up. And I stuffed empty feed sacks in any spaces I could find between the ceiling and the wall.
At one point while I was stapling, the hawk returned, swooping right at my head. I screamed and chased it out of the barn.
When last seen, it was fleeing over a snowy field. But will it return?
Update 9:45 pm. I went to check on the barn before bed. Sadly, I think the red hen is dying. I discovered she has a hole in her back, presumably pecked by the hawk. I set her in the isolation pen under the heat lamp because I couldn't bear to take her outside in the blizzard while there's still life in her, but I expect she'll pass by morning. Further update Monday morning. The red hen's life passed away over night. Rest in peace.