Yes, it’s me. The author of the White Pine Farm blog that has been silent for something like three months.
Work has been crazy.
Travel has been crazy.
Life has been, alas, crazy.
I’ve written a number of posts in my head in the intervening weeks and much has happened around here. But sad news yesterday brings a new post.
Hawkeye is dead and White Tail is injured (and traumatized). We believe they were attacked by a hawk at some point yesterday. I guess Friday the 13th came a day early.
I came home at 5:30pm and Ron said that he had bad news from the chicken coop. It was a rotten way to end what was actually an above-average day, which is, alas, all too rare.
He had put the chickens to bed around 5 o’clock, but counted only 9 hens on the roost. He looked around, ended up seeing White Tail under the coop, but Hawkeye was nowhere to be found. He was able to shoo White Tail out and get her in the coop, but he had to lock up the coop sans Hawkeye. Ron also thought that one of White Tail’s wings had been injured because she wasn’t using it. He picked her up and put her on a roost.
I went out then and checked on everyone. White Tail was still on a lower roost by herself. I patted her a little bit and she definitely seemed, well, off–in pain? Not sure, but definitely not normal. I went back out around 8:30 to check on her again. I wasn’t sure if I was going to find a dead chicken lying in the poopy straw or what. White Tail was in the same place, but she turned around on her own and seemed to be doing a bit better. But I could also see a lot of white feathers (they are under-feathers so they are normally less visible) and many feathers sticking up. Something wasn’t right, although I couldn’t entirely tell in the darkness of the coop and a small flashlight.
We went out soon after dawn this morning to check on White Tail and see if we could find Hawkeye. Fortunately, White Tail was alive. Ron managed to pick her up off the roost and we put her on top of the nest cubbies to check her. White Tail was unusually cooperative. We looked at her wings, poked around a bit, gently felt her sides and belly, turned her around to get a better view of her other side, tried to identify what, if anything, was wrong. White Tail was patient and still through all of it. I was able to hold her with a good view of her back and it was pretty clear that two big patches of feathers had been ripped out, one near the base of her tail where their gland is located (this could be over preening, although unlikely in this case) and another near the top of her left wing. There were two small patches, perhaps dime sized, where blood had been drawn. We couldn’t tell if it was a puncture wound or the result of ripped out feathers. We let her be for the moment and went looking for Hawkeye.
I found her almost right away, dead in the bottom of the corn and squash patch. She hadn’t been eaten at all and it wasn’t clear how she was killed. I also found a big pile of white and dark red-brown feathers–definitely White Tail’s–about 10 feet from her in the corn patch.
Ron walked the perimeter of the fence and didn’t find any holes where a fox could get in. He has noticed more hawks the past few weeks. In fact, on a run a few days ago he saw a Cooper’s hawk dive-bomb a poor duck that our neighbors down the road have. It’s strange that two chickens were attacked. Hawks generally have a one-shot-and-you’re-out attack approach. We wonder if the hawk attacked White Tail and was unsuccessful, went back into the nearby hedge row until things calmed down again, and then attacked Hawkeye.
For now, White Tail is in a plastic cat kennel in the greenhouse by herself. We are hoping that her wounds heal without any complications. Blood can draw, um, horrible behavior from chickens so we want to avoid her being attacked by her own flock. Hawkeye is in the garage and Ron is about to pluck her and conduct an autopsy.
It is, needless to say, ironic that Hawkeye was probably killed by a hawk. I named her Hawkeye because she looked like a raptor and we were watching old MASH episodes at the time.
Looking back through photos, it’s strange to me that we had Hawkeye for only 18 months–since July 20, 2014. It seems much longer than that. We got Hawkeye, Beaker, and Cleo as very young, 4-week old chicks to be company for Scruffy. Hawkeye was a more independent chicken from the very beginning. She was often off on her own, looking for bugs away from everyone else. She loved treats, but was usually more wary than the rest. She’d usually grab a bite, peep or squawk, and run off to eat by herself. She was an incredibly beautiful bird, although she had started to over preen this year, which left a big ugly patch of skin near the base of her tail. But we weren’t the only ones who thought she was pretty. Scruffy had the hots for her and seemed to like her best.
Here she is with Beaker the day we brought home the Eastern egger trio.
And here she is with her entire cohort about a month later: