Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chickenhawk Down

Yesterday I was washing the breakfast dishes (oh, who am I kidding, I was washing last night's dinner dishes, too) when my eye falls on a the spaghetti pot, still partway full of cooked noodles. I decide to give the chickens (yes, we have four chickens) a treat; they have been trapped inside their coop since the last snowfall, and began gleefully running around their pen as soon as we let them out this morning. The chickens love spaghetti.

Greta follows me outside (Finn is at a friend's house), and I open the little gate and step into their pen - a small fenced in area in our woods that is about 20 feet x 20 feet.

That's odd, I think. The chickens are nowhere to be seen.

"Chicken! Chicken! Chicken!" I yell - this always brings them running. Nothing. I spot one chicken through the trees, cautiously making her way over to me. I scoop some noodles into my hand and slowly walk towards her. "C'mere chicken, I have some noodles for you!" I say, and hold the spaghetti out like a peace offering.

Now, my eyesight isn't what it used to be, so I'm only about four feet away when I realize that what I'm looking at isn't a chicken at all: it's a hawk. A big one. Five feet beyond the hawk lies the sad remains of one of our chickens.

"Stay where you are!" I yell to Greta, who immediately catches the alarm in my voice. "WHY?" she yells back. "WHAT IS IT?"

I'm trying to spare her the sight of what is left of Bubbles, and I don't know what hawks do when they are cornered, even when offered spaghetti. So I say, as calmly as I can, "It's a hawk, sweetie. Stay where you are."

"NOOOOOOOO!" she says, and starts to cry. "Are the chickens okay?" Before I can stop her, she runs up to the side of the pen. Thankfully, Bubbles is mostly covered by leaves, but she knows what she is seeing, and she cries even harder.

The hawk is eyeing me cautiously. I back away slowly and check inside the coop. The remaining three chickens are in there, safe, but clucking nervously. "The other chickens are fine," I tell Greta. "But we have to get the hawk out of here."

"BAD HAWK!" she says. "Go away go away go away!"

The hawk starts walking towards the far side of the pen, and I notice that it's hurt. One wing is dragging on the ground, and it is limping. Greta sees this, and her affections change immediately. "The hawk is hurt, the hawk is hurt! MommayouhavetohelpitohmyGoditshurt!"

I'm standing there helplessly, holding limp spaghetti, with my mouth hanging open. I decide to regroup. I throw the spaghetti at the hawk, back out of the pen and close the gate.

"I'm confused now," Greta says quietly, tears streaming down her face. "I'm mad at that hawk because it killed Bubbles, but now I want it to be okay, too."

"The hawk was just doing what hawks do, honey," I say. "Let's go inside and figure out what to do."

We go back inside and I call my husband at work. He doesn't have any bright ideas, but says he wants a picture. We head back outside with the camera to take a picture of the hawk. It is back to pecking away at the chicken, but when it sees us it starts limping away, dragging its wing. It look so pathetic that I feel badly for it, despite what it has done to Bubbles. I inch closer, camera raised. It limps faster. When I'm about six feet away, it spreads its wings and soars to a high tree branch. It is fine.

"It's not hurt!" Greta cries indignantly. "Stupid hawk!"

I have one of those moments where I just want to blink my eyes and forget about it. So that is what I do. I know - I'm great in a crisis.

"Let's go back inside, sweetie," I say to Greta. "There's nothing more we can do for Bubbles, and the other chickens are safe. We'll deal with it when Dad gets home."

Greta is still quietly crying, and we cuddle on the couch for a bit and talk about the circle of life, and the food chain. I get into a complicated conversation about who is higher on the food chain - humans or sharks - since sharks can eat us with their bare teeth and we can't eat sharks with our bare teeth. I'm in over my head, clearly, so I suggest we look up the hawk on the internet to learn more. Turns out birds will pretend to be hurt to lure threats away from their prey.

I'm going to try that the next time I'm in a confrontational situation and don't have a witty retort. I'm just going to limp away flailing one arm helplessly and go for the sympathy vote.

Or maybe I'll just chuck some spaghetti and run away.


  1. Do you see what happens when you start bemoaning the fact that you have no material to write about? A hawk invades your chicken coop! There has got to be a metaphor in there somewhere. My heart was breaking for Greta, almost as much as when Coalie died. I think we can survive a day (or two, no more) of you experiencing writer's block. You don't need to put a call into the universe for some chaos. :)

  2. LOL, Val! I was thinking the same thing, about calling on fate. And you're right, there is totally a metaphor in there somewhere. Instead of "fox in the henhouse" we have "hawk in the chicken pen", or something...

  3. This is why mothers should NEVER think "wow things are going well".

    Glad the 3 chickens survived.

  4. That poor chicken and what a sly hawk. There is that circle of life but it sure can be hard.

  5. I love that the faking-injury tactic works just as well on little girls as on wild dogs... just in a different way. :)

    Have you considered adding chicken wire along the top of the coop? That way they can still go out and peck around in the rain, etc., but nothing can get in.

    Or maybe you just need to get a new guard cat?

  6. Big faker hawk. So you and Liz, you could be the next big thing on the Discovery channel..."When Blogging Mommies Are Attacked" Who knew that part of the world was such a wild life refuge.

  7. So, I just have to ask, given the whole eating shark with our bare teeth thing (which I imagine we could do, in a pinch)... do you eat chickens???

  8. Robin - LOL! Yes, we do eat chickens. Just not OUR chickens... :)

  9. OH BUBBLES! I'm so sorry for your loss. I too eat chickens so I feel a little stoopid saying so but I've recently decided to only only eat well treated fo sure range chickens and not hawk bait. I mean, industrialized chickens. This is a fantastic post. I am sending the link to my hubs b/c his mom has chickens and she is very devoted to them too.

  10. I'm so sorry about poor Bubbles! I had no idea hawks were quite so smart.

  11. This was hilarious!

  12. This is why mothers should NEVER think "wow things are going well".

    Glad the 3 chickens survived.