Yesterday, because someone was going to be home all day, we let our chickens out early to free range on our lawn. I also had the kids set up the “little ones” outside. The chicks are not old enough to be unsupervised in the yard yet, so we put them up in a “fenced-in playpen.” On the top of the playpen we put sides of our heavy wire dog crate for protection. We’ve found that if we don’t do this, some of our older chickens will hop into the playpen and terrorize the chicks. It’s better for all, if the chicks are kept protected.
I was inside the house and suddenly I heard a loud ruckus from outside. Looking out the window, I saw that all the adults flock members had fled to the coop and were *bellowing* from inside the safety of the wire walls.
I’ve heard this “danger warning” before, but I had never seen them all retreat to the coop like that.
“Must be the darn neighborhood cat, again,” I said as I put my book down to go out and investigate. We have several neighbors who let their cats loose and the decrease in our rodent population far outweighs the nuisance of occasionally chasing them away from the chickens. (To date, they have never attacked a chicken and with our Zelda being so male-like these days, quite frankly, I don’t think any cat would stand a chance against our flock.)
I wasn’t too worried, usually all I have to do is run toward the cat and caw while flapping my arms and clapping my hands. Startled, it always takes off.
Problem solved. Peace is restored to the yard.
Except that when I walked out our back yard, I didn’t see a cat.
I saw a falcon, perched on the back of a chair, looking over our baby chicks. The older girls were cawing in alarm and the babies, terrified, were all trying to stuff themselves into a small wooden box we had put in the pen.
The falcon turned from the chicks and looked at me. I looked at him and deciding to use what had worked in the past, I ran toward it and cawed while flapping my arms and clapping my hands.
With one last look at the “crazy chicken lady,” the falcon took wing and flew out of our yard. I counted the chicks, they were all there. I walked over to the coop, “He’s gone,” I told my very relieved flock, “you were all very brave.”
Our chickens poured out of the coop and for the next few hours, hovered around me, clearly recognizing me as the flock protector that I am.
I didn’t see the falcon again (although I kept my eyes open all day for it), but if it does return, trust me, I’ll be ready.
Because no one messes with this mama hen.
Note: It all happened so quickly that I didn’t get to see enough of the bird to properly identify it. However, it was upright and unlike a red tail hawk (we have many of those) this bird was lighter in color and had a white breast with brown spots. If I had to guess, I’d say it was a Peregrine Falcon, of which we have an increasing population in New Hampshire. I’ll be on the lookout for future sightings.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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