Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Red and the Hawk

I am such a terrible chicken mama!
I give them everything they need but have been putting off a predator proof run. I even have a tractor they use in the nice weather and hardly let them  "free range" at all anymore unless I am right there with them.
They are fenced in and I put them away all locked up in the safe coop at night (that thing is a fortress).
But, lately have been contemplating building them an outdoor predator proof enclosure. I guess it's time to get busy with the plans.

The huge tree protects the run from swooping hawks so why did she get attacked?

My Beautiful Red the morning before the attack.

Cause she "flew the coop" quite literally. I think she is the only one light enough to get airborne anymore. They all have the right side wing clipped but this doesn't stop this Rhode Island Red. She knows she can get up enough to get the claws on the top wire of the fence or a fencepost and hurl herself the rest of the way over. Typically she only does this dare devil trick only when I am in the veggie garden (just a 4 feet from the run) and deer fenced. Which is why I think she doesn't do it any other time because she can't get in if I don't leave the gate open (as is what I do if I am in there).

You know Oscar?
So, I leave to attend an assembly at my girls' school and am gone for no more than 2 hours. Oscar is hanging out today. I come back and Oscar can't wait for me to come out the back door. I get my coop clothes on and go out to put the hens to bed and lock them up for the night and 2 are in the coop but no Red. I go to look in the run and call her. She comes out from hiding behind the coop and around the outside of the run looking very happy to see me and tired. She walks up to me and Oscar and squats for me. I pick her up and put her in the coop. While locking everything up and giving the coop the nightly check, I noticed she had considerable feathers missing from her backside and she was growling more than usual. I checked her out and found the puncture. My head steamed and immediately thought the dog bit her.
What? This dog wouldn't hurt a fly but, you never know for sure - dogs are dogs and he is not a bred livestock dog.

I wrapped her up and checked her out on the porch in the fading light and discovered the lacerations. The blood on her foot and the wounds I could find got sprayed some wound spray. I decided if she wasn't roosting tonite I would bring her in. She roosted so, I covered her bare spot with the few feathers she had left and let them all sleep. She hates to be separated from her flock - it stresses her out too much.

This morning I got her into the garage to take a better (and warmer) look at her.
I greatly apologize for the awful focus - my auto focus is undergoing tech support and it is terribly difficult to manually focus and keep a chicken from walking off the exam table by yourself. These photos are the morning after and the wounds are already healing beautifully.

The puncture (that was sprayed in the photo) looks to be similar to a blunt scissor cut with a somewhat "v" shape to it (you can kinda see it in the photo with the "bottom of the "v"" pointing toward the right like this >.

I also found the site of attack.
Last year I found a pile of yellow and black feathers in the same vicinity. It seems to be a good spot for an aerial attack. Just a few days ago a small eagle or hawk was flying around this area only 10 feet up from the rooftop (house is just to the right).  The coop is just up the stairs.

 My theory is she was scratching around in the dirt on the ledge (their favorite spot when free ranging).
The bird swooped and missed causing the topside puncture and laceration. Red fell, jumped or was flung down onto the cement. The bird hopped down for another attack. Red somehow gets on her back either be force, accident or on purpose and is cornered (receiving the puncture to her underside with a talon or beak).
Red fights of the attacker with all her attitude (hence the bloody foot). Possibly this is where Oscar may come in hearing the commotion or seeing it and Red scrambles up the rock or steps toward the safety of the coop. But, she cant get back in and hides right next to it under the eves and the heavy metal grate leaning against it. Oscar keeps watch until I get home.

At least that is what it looks like with my hopes it was not the dog.

Because of the the pattern of the wounds, the place and location of the feathers and the way she acted towards the dog with indifference and the way she obsessively scouted the skies... leads me to believe it was a bird of prey. Most likely a small one to not be able to carry her off or leave bigger wounds. Maybe Oscar was there to help scare off the predator. Maybe Red has more fight in her than we give her credit. Anyway if happened, she is one lucky duck hen! And I am one grateful keeper who's next build is a proper enclosed run.

I am not at all against free ranging (my free ranging friends) but I am also against my birds getting tortured and eaten alive.

She is now in the coop with the other 2 hens and she refused to go out the pop door when I offered.
She is eating and drinking and scratching and making sure her dominance as top hen is still asserted.


She laid a beautiful egg @ 2pm today - lets me know at least the egg didn't break internally in the attack :-)
She is a trooper. and my best layer.

Update Nov 29th

The girls were all taking a bath together in the sun today. Guess thats a good sign that Red felt comfortable enough to bathe. Too bad a chicken bath is in dirt or in our case a sandbox. So, I just let her finish and  then took her in to clean her up. Of course the wounds had debris all up in them.
I got some warm water and a syringe and flushed them out gently and used Q-tips to help brush the stuff out.
Then I sprayed with vetericyn gel and sent her on her way.

You can see from the 1st photos that the swelling has gone down around the big gash.

She does NOT like being sprayed and is still tender but I guess she is used to me fooling around with her especially after the bumble-foot episode.
She takes it pretty well if I let her tuck under my arm rather than a towel over her head.

She still is pretty nervous when I take her out of the coop. She looks around like her life depends on it ('cause it kinda literally does) and she shakes and makes a whining sound.

UPDATE December 3rd

I looked at her Sunday and let the wounds alone for a day.
Here are photos from Monday afternoon almost 1 week exactly from the attack.

The bruising is almost completely gone. The wounds do have some sand in them but, I am not going to fuss too much over it especially since the healing is coming along nicely. I made sure to flush and clean when they were still young but now it looks ok to let the body do its' work. Chickens have amazing healing power.

You can see that the scabbing is forming and starting to lift, taking the debris with it and revealing new tender skin under the anterior portion of the laceration. The puncture still looks a bit deep. and I may have to end up cleaning that one out and packing it with antibiotic cream. I have read some old keepers use raw honey but I don't want the birds to find out it tastes good  - you could imagine where that would go.

In the photo above, you can see the tummy is 99.9% healed already! WOW.
And, below the scab has peeled of and left shiny smooth new skin.

UPDATE Dec 5th

I may have to breed this tough girl... bumblefoot heal, hawk survivor, molt and still popping out 6 eggs a week in the deep dark  of the Pacific Northwest.
I put some wound gel on her today. Since all is good with the 2day checks I will wait till Saturday or later for the next check and photo shoot.

Today I could really see the feathers starting to pin-in. That is what all those spiky-looking things are on her back skin. The puncture is still pretty deep but I can see new tissue starting to fill it up. Large laceration is half the length is was.

NOTE: I did not use bandages or saddles and I have no roos to worry about. She preened the existing feathers to cover up the wound herself. I also put the feathers back over after I treated.

UPDATE December 10

2 weeks later. All better.
Excuse the photos - my dslr is at the hospital - I can tell a huge difference in the quality of the pics.
using the ole point-n-shoot.

hdr this for contrast


  1. I have had problems in the past with "aerial attacks". I have been using fishing line that I attach from either a pole I set up in the yard or a branch and run it to the other fence posts or anything (your house). The fishing line is invisible for the most part to me, but the hawks can see it and won't risk coming around in an area that is too difficult for them to easily get in and out of with their prey. I fashioned mine in a spider web design that was high enough for me to walk and mow under. Fishing line lasts for several years as well. It's amazing how God will give answers to the worried chicken owners when they can't sleep at 2am !

  2. What a remarkable escape and recovery. Thank you for linking up with the Clever Chicks this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  3. Thank you so much for sharing Red's story and all the photos. Our Perry was the victim of an attack today and normally she'd screech and run as fast as her knock-kneed, deformed-toed feet would carry her away from me if I tried to touch her. Hubby saw the attacker, even had to toss a log at it to get it to fly off. He was afraid of hurting Perry, but she ran off under our grill and remained there until I got home a couple of hours later. They moved the grill and I scooped her up. I don't see any visible injuries...she can stand, but her wings and tail feathers are drooping down. She's also panting with some drool in her mouth. I have food & water with her and separated her from the other girls. One of them is hanging out next to her on the other side of the divider. Praying that she's just in shock from the ordeal. Hoping Perry heals as quickly and as well as Red did.


    1. Also hoping Perry heals completely and quickly! It is so difficult to find injuries on a bird. Thankfully hens are fast healers and generally tend to recover from injuries much better than we think they will. Red is now the only survivor of my original 5 hens and she is a great teacher for the 4 hens that I kept from her surrogacy last year. She is much wiser and wary of predators and tends to keep close to the coop unless I am out with her even now. Keeping Perry separate but close to her friends is great for her in this situation. She needs to feel safe and hidden. It won't hurt to put electrolytes, and vitamins in her water to help with the shock. I also like to mix some runny scrambled egg in with the feed to encourage them to eat (and it moistens the feed to help with hydration). I think it rattles us just as much as the bird. Take care of yourself too and thanks a bunch for stopping by the blog and sharing!!


I love to hear from you and will read all your comments.
Please share your thoughts!