Thursday, January 6, 2011


All this week, after finding an opossum in the chicken coop on the 31st, I have been diligent in going out at dusk and counting chickens before closing up the coop for the night. Wednesday evening was no different, the sun was still shining through the trees, though the light was thin and darkness was quickly closing in. My count always goes like this: 4 buffs, 2 speckled, 1 rooster, 5 reds, 7 babies. This night, though, I came up with 6 babies. I counted again. I physically moved the chickens because sometimes they huddle close and can easily be overlooked, but I still came up one short. I walked around the coop, maybe the last one was just caught late and huddled outside the coop-- the babies do that sometimes, but no chicken.


I flashed the beam of my light further around the coop and saw nothing. I closed up the coop and walked around the house, checking the usual chicken hangouts. The babies don't tend to stray far from the house like the older chickens do, but I saw no chicken. It was cold, my fingers and my toes in my flip-flops were freezing. I went in to make dinner, then I'd go back out later to check again.

One more search before bedtime around midnight. I walked by the rhubarb patch by the side of the house and then I planned to walk into the woods and see if maybe I would flush out the chicken, but as I walked, something told me to stop and look down. I did, and there was my chicken, dead, partly eaten, feathers scattered all around.


I looked over the body, it was a young roo. It had the same marks as the one that the opossum was eating last week, so I am thinking the opossum got smart this time and took the chicken out of the coop instead of staying in there. It was freezing, late and nights in the country are very, very dark. I didn't want to carry the chicken all the way across the yard and into the garden to put it in the compost. I left it, planning to get to it in the morning.

I woke early in the morning and looked out my window, checking to see if the dead chicken was still there and what did I see? A Cooper's Hawk! What a surprise that was to see! I had no idea they would scavenge, but a freshly-killed chicken must be too good to pass up for a hungry juvenile hawk.

I tried to take pictures that were clear, but it was very hard to take decent pictures through the screen. I was so tempted to cut a hole just to get a better picture, but I knew that was just plain silly. The kids came to see what I was looking at and we all spent the next hour watching the hawk make a meal out of the chicken.
Archie and Lucy the cats came and chased the hawk away, but he just hung out in the tree until Lucy and then Archie got bored and went away.

He was a beautiful bird to look at. I've always admired hawks and it was a treat to see one right outside my bedroom window. After the cats left, he flew back down and ate some more. It was fascinating to watch it pull feathers out with it's beak then rip into the chicken and eat some more.

The kids and I all watched for over an hour until the hawk seemed to have it's fill and flew away. What a sight to see it's wingspan and watch it fly away. Afterwards, we talked about what we saw, looked up our animal encyclopedia and bird books for identification, but finally came up with a positive ID on the internet.
I felt bad last night for losing another chicken, but on the bright side, at least it was a rooster and not a hen, and we got such a great nature show out of it. One less rooster to butcher in the Spring, but also one less rooster in the freezer. Counted chickens tonight: 4 buffs, 2 speckled, 1 rooster, 5 reds, 6 babies. All safe.

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