My hens live in a lovely coop I purchased from Summerhawk Ranch – it’s secure, adorable, and spacious for my four birds. Each morning I take a cup of coffee and a book (or some document I’m proofing) outside and let the girls free range for a bit. The first time I did this the neighborhood hawks appeared almost instantly – swooping to perch in nearby trees and check out their potential meals. The hens quickly quieted and scurried to nearby cover.
Today I nearly lost one.
I was out earlier than usual, enjoying a chat with my sis-in-law while the hens happily clucked and chased bugs. Moments after hanging up the girls squawked frantically. I looked up to see a small hawk hovering just a few feet above them. My heart in my chest, I stood to my feet and yelled “Hey!” quite loudly several times. Luckily it was enough to spook the hawk and spare me the loss of one of my hens. They ran for the coop, I locked them in, tossed some mealworms, then paused to catch my breath.
I’ve been expecting something like this to happen for quite a while. It is, after all, a reality in farming that there will be loss. I’m thankful that my lack of vigilance didn’t cost me a bird today. I’m thankful I didn’t run toward the birds – that may have caused the hens to flap and harm themselves in the back fence. Mostly I’m thankful to learn that I can handle this type of crisis.
No, it won’t put me off letting my girls free-range. They need the time to feel grass beneath their feet, flap their wings, chase bugs, and play with one another in an open space. I will, however, be a bit more aware of what is happening – especially as the weather turns colder and predators find hunting a bit more lean.