- Coopers Hawk sitting in our backyard Chinese Elm tree, trying to decide which chicken it wants for lunch.
Hawks are a serious concern for free ranging chickens, even for flocks living in urban areas, like ours. Since I spend a lot of time outside and love watching birds, I have noticed we get plenty of fly overs from Coopers Hawks, Prairie Falcons, American Kestrals, and Red Tail Hawks. With 3 chicken keepers on the block and a big park that connects to giant nature preserve and river, I think our street is a favorite stop on their daily tour of the area. Hearing panicked squawking, I have rushed out back on a few occasions over the last few years to find a Cooper’s Hawk, alone, or with its mate and some juveniles, on the house roof, on top of the chicken coop, in our tree, or even once on the patio table just staring at the frightened chickens inside the run. It probably figures our house looks like a Hawk version of a KFC, and its just hanging out at the table waiting for its chicken dinner to be served.
Even though we have a lot of tree canopy and shrubs for shelter for the chickens to run and hide in, as seen in my photo above, the big tree also makes a great place for the hawks perch while they enjoy taking their time picking out which chicken looks the yummiest! For good reason, I don’t let my chickens out unless George and I are out with them. I bet a bantam hen or chick looks like pretty easy pickens to a hawk.
We had a low fly by a month or so ago when I was out working in the yard while the chicks and mama hen were nearby. I totally understand why the chickens were really freaked out, but it was interesting to see how they were able to communicate in chicken language to the babies what needed to be done instantly, in order to avoid the hawk getting them. I happened to have my phone in my pocket, and of course this crazy chicken lady had to capture the moment. What was I thinking?
Usually the baby chicks are busy scurrying all over the place, within a few feet of their mama hen when they are out of the coop. And normally the hens are busy too, looking for bugs and nibbling grass as they scratch around. But when the hawk flew over both hens near me sounded the alert call, everybody (well, everybody except me) bolted under the bushes, and tried to blend in. Once under the blackberries, the mama hen was making an intermittent very faint cooing sort of sound, almost like a purr. Apparently this is the chicken word that means freeze and hush.
Along with the buff mama hen, Daisy, our white cochin, THX1138, was also looking out for Daisy’s baby chicks. She often sticks nearby the mama and chicks rather than forage with the other two adult hens. I could also hear THX1138 quietly telling the couple of chicks near her to stay frozen, too. I think she would also like to be a mama. J and I felt bad for the scared chickens, so we scooped everyone up and put them back in the coop and garage pen. Once inside, they went happily about their chicky business as if nothing had happened.