How the Hen House Turns: Dogs Aren’t Enough When It Comes to Hawks

How the Hen House Turns: Dogs Aren’t Enough When It Comes to Hawks
Column by Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

My neighbors enjoy the fact that Coopers Hawks nest in their back yard, which edges on the steep canyon that houses tall Ponderosa pines and a pleasant stream in Walnut Canyon. Trouble is, there is no way that the dogs can protect a lone chicken from a hungry chicken hawk.

Years ago, when Jupiter, an old red hen I rescued from another bird-lover who had rescued her from someone else, went missing, all I found was a tuft of red feathers. It simply happened too fast. The neighboring hawk took her probably, even though the dogs were on duty in the yard. 

I’m sure it was a hawk attack, because the two English call ducks, Kiebler and Ms. Ritz, were also missing. I searched and searched, then looked out the back gate. There they were, waiting to be let back into the yard. They must have panicked, flew over the chain link fence and missing the good sense to fly back in, waited for me at the gate.

I have seen the hawk dive into the thick Juniper bush in front, flying at full throttle to catch one of the wild birds we feed.

Buttercup, an Americana hen I raised one spring, was taken in heavy rain. The chickens had sheltered under the dense apricot tree by a huge Ponderosa, and I thought they were well protected.

Wrong. All I found was a pile of blond down by the back fence. She must have been too heavy for the hawk to carry further. There was nothing the dogs could do. I had brought them in out of the rain. Ever since then, when first thunder announces rain, I rush the birds back to the Hen House.

Hawks have to eat, like the rest of us, but I would rather not supply them with friends of the family. We do live in a Ponderosa forest, so vigilance is necessary ─ something our deer friends do very well.

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