Backyard Chicken Stories: Hawk Attack!
November 4, 2019
Backyard Chicken Stories
A friend of mine just lost one of her chickens last night and it made me think about all the girls I've kept, and lost, over the years. It might seem silly to some to get attached to a chicken, but if you've never kept chickens you may not realize how full of individual personality they are. Nor how connected to you as their caretaker they can become.
One of the most important things you learn when you start keeping livestock - even if it's in the city - is that you must become an expert on their health and wellness. You are their first line of defense, so you end up studying all sorts of bird illnesses and their symptoms and causes. You have to monitor your birds closely and learn to recognize conditions, whether they be pests, diseases, injury, predator, or flock dynamic issues. You'll learn to administer medications, treat wounds, and be responsible for putting down the animals humanely. In fact, when teaching chicken keeping classes, I'd always advise that if you aren't willing to put a chicken down humanely yourself, you may not be ready for a flock. When it comes to chickens, you can't really just run them to the vet down the street. Most city vets don't treat chickens and aren't terribly familiar with their ailments. You are front line triage.
Often, you can't save your chicken once it succumbs to something like a virus, bacterial infection, being egg bound, or any other number of injuries. But every once in a while, you get lucky. My favorite chicken triage story is one about my black laced silver wyandotte, Kim Deal. That's her on the left in the photo, which is from 2012 Dallas Observer story titled: "The Chicken Quixote". The barred rock on the right is Joan Jett.you KD!
We live near a small urban lake, White Rock Lake, in Dallas where many, many birds live and use a migration stop. So we have LOTS of hawks. Hawks love chicken, and they are the most serious predator for our flock. One day I heard some urgent alert squawks coming from the chicken yard. My husband opened the patio door and said "hawk in the coop!!!" Without even thinking I bolted out the door and threw the chicken yard gate open, coming face to face with a huge, mid-flight hawk, who was already trying to make a meal out of Kim Deal. Talons outstretched, the hawk flapped its wings in my face while I yelled at it to bugger off. According to my husband, it was quite the scene.
Once the hawk decided dealing with me was not worth lunch, it flew off and I turned to inspect the carnage. The hawk had gotten a hold of KD a couple of times but they looks of it, but couldn't manage to fully gut her or carry her off. But the hawk had managed to slice multiple large gashes into KD's skin, down to the muscle tissue. This was not good.
Again, without thinking, I yelled at my husband to go get me the BluKote and super glue. I then proceeded to quickly disinfect her wounds - of which there were many - and super-glued all of her gashes closed. Yep, superglue. This is, of course, the original purpose of the product, so why not? I figured if she had any chance of survival, this was the best option. Kim Deal spent about three days in the roost, head hung a bit low. Clearly, and understandably, she didn't feel great. But surprisingly, by the next week she had bounced back and lived another good 2.5 years of chicken life, and egg laying. Crazy. 7 years later, Joan is still with us. My girls are hardcore.
We miss you KD!