Sunday, January 24, 2010

Not Tashi - at least not all of them

I just scared off a kestrel that was attacking a hen.  The hawk was smaller than the hen, but fierce!  I was almost on top of him before he let her go and flew off.  Buster (the rooster) alerted me that something was wrong or he would have finished her off for sure.  The chicken he was attacking is in the cage in the basement, but she looks pretty bad.  I don't know if she will make it.  So much death.   I will try my best to save her. 

Yes, Tashi got a couple, but not all.  Tashi is doing very well around the chickens.  I am letting her out alone (with the shock collar on) a couple of times a day.  Of course, she is always where I can see her.  I think she will be able to stay here with us on the farm.

My free range chicken experiment will have to cease.  Not much I can do in this weather, but I am going to have to build a permanent pen for them.  I viewed them as fly eradicators when I got them, but I feel so differently about them now.  The thing I like best is how chatty they are, with me and with each other.  I will do what I have to do to make a home for them. 


I just checked the hen.  She is on her feet and clucking, but there is a lot of blood.  I gave her some vinegar water.  That is all I can do for now.  Buster started squawking again and I went outside in time to see the hawk flying away.  I did a head count and could only find nine.  There should be ten, plus the one in the pen downstairs.  It was hard to believe he could have carried one off, but I couldn't find her.  They wandered back to the Moop and into the trees that surround it, where I know they will be safe.  When I went into the Moop to finish my count, there was #10, inside.  And three eggs in a nest.  She must have been inside doing her thing while all of the excitement was happening in the yard by the garden.

Another update:

The kestrel was back for a third time.  I was out in the barn helping with Lucy when I heard Buster squawking again.  I ran out of the barn in time to see the hawk on top of a chicken.  He flew off.  What am I going to do?


  1. How 'bout a shock-collar on the Kestrel?

    Sorry, just thought a little levity might be called for.

    You had some elaborate overhead arrangement of fishing-line last Summer didn't you?

    As I mentioned on Facebook, I maybe had a small epiphany. You know I used to keep chickens in CA. And we had tons of Red-Tail Hawks there (Kestrels seasonally as well). But unlike you and some other chicken keepers I've met online, I NEVER had problems with raptors going after my chickens.

    I suddenly came-up with a theory for why I would never have had the issue and you and others have: Climate. Cold Winters. Where we were in CA (Santa Barbara Coast), the climate was mild. Even in Winter time there would be plenty of small rodents and such around for birds of prey to hunt. Gophers being numero uno. They were present year-round.

    A mature chicken seems like a HUGE target for a Kestrel to take (as you mentioned). And still a challenge for a Red Tail. But my theory is that come winter, the raptors in a cold climate such as yours have much less wildlife to select from compared to the Spring and Summer seasons. So, with so little to choose from in the wild, your chickens start looking real tasty this time of year. Enough so to convince even a smaller bird like a Kestrel to take a shot at them.

    Here in MT, even in Winter, I have yet to have any problems with large birds of prey. We have Red Tails here but they bug-out during Winter. Just too harsh for them I suppose. I've had locals tell me that the Bald Eagles will take my chickens. And I've seen how the chickens behave in the pasture when one does a fly-by. I think I haven't had a problem with losing any chickens here to big birds (yet) because:

    1) When the Eagles, Red Tails, Kestrels and Falcons are around, it is Summer and there are easier pickings for them compared to my chickens right up near the house where us humans are a threat;

    2) Come winter, most of those birds make themselves scarce around here and head south or over to the coast I think. The Eagles seem to stick around here the longest into the late Autumn but even the Bald Eagles seem to disappear when the serious part of winter arrives. If we were further south and had milder winters, I'm betting I would be at least having the same problem occasionally this time of year. Snow on the ground etc. leaves few options for the hunting birds.

    So, if my theory has any validity, it is the winter weather/snow on the ground that is the issue right now. As the better part of the year comes, they'll have other stuff to choose from maybe?

    But remind me, did you confirm you were having a problem with the Hawks last Summer? I know it was a possible problem but I don't know if you ever confirmed their attacks like you have now in the past week or so...

    Hang in there.

  2. Hawks last summer - one of the milkers saw a hawk get one of them, and it was partially under a bush! And when I found the birds (some were carried off), they were partially eaten, including the one that he saw get attacked. The seven that were lost last summer were definitely not Tashi. She throws them around when she catches one, and when they are dead and can't play anymore, she leaves them. And none of that started until she saw me shooing them out of the garage. I think she thought she was doing me a favor.

    The shock collar is working well. I take her outside several times a day now, and this morning she went out without the collar. I want to know that she will react the same way when it isn't around her neck - and she did. Stayed away from them, away from the Moop, and was waiting for her treat when we came in! Ah, food! The great reward!!!

  3. I'm missing another chicken. Hoping she will turn up. I saw the kestrel circling high above the trees by the creek. Too far away to get the shotgun. I truly don't think he could carry off a chicken. And I haven't found a body. I'm hoping she will turn up at roosting time.

  4. Roller coaster! And I know the feeling. I sit here in the house at dusk knowing there are a few straggler chickens of mine that take their damn time doing to bed so I've got the door still open to the coop. And this little voice in my head tells me I better get down there. And I think, "naw, it is still too early, there'll be a couple still not in yet". And then I think, "but yeah, what if that voice is my primordial 'Gift of Fear' telling me something?" So I throw on a coat and shoes and get out there...