I do have good news regarding this past weekend, but first I have to get something down on here in hopes it will ease my mind some and help my sadness to fade. I am better now, but yesterday was one of those days...one of those days of loss.
Early in the day yesterday I heard a ruckus on the side of the house where the pretties are housed and fenced. Everyone was sounding the alarm. Everyone was hiding in between the pens...screeching and screaming...sounding the predator alarm.
I got up from what I was doing to go and see. Unlike guineas...when chickens sound the alarm like this, there is really something threatening them and they are scared. When I opened the door and looked out there stood a hawk. Right there on the gate at the bottom of the steps going out to Buckbuck, Babe, and Derbys side of the house. I clapped my hands together and yelled at it to get out of here. It took off and sailed across the front yard to one of the bartlett pear trees lining the drive. Not good enough for me...more yelling and clapping sent it flying across the street to the patch of wooded area. It promptly landed on some dead branches straggling along the outer edge of the wooded area. It sat there and sat there. Soon crows saw it and began to harrass it. Crows will run hawks off. I didnt see anyone missing. Priscilla was standing at the bottom of the steps...just looking out at me.
This is where I should have stopped and thought things out. This is where I made my terrible mistake that cost Priscilla her life, and I am to blame for not thinking better and bringing her in right then and there. You see, she doesnt hang out in the pretties pen during the day. They dont like her over there. If you remember I had rescued her from being killed by them. It took her some time to heal. She lost half her comb but she became so tame and trusting of me. She knew her name and came to me when I called her. She is the one that comes in in the evening going straight to her little pen, getting in and having a drink of water and a bite to eat before settling in for the night. She never hesitated or cringed when I would pick her up. She loved the attention. She knew I wouldnt hurt her. Just the other day the wind had blown the screen door on the porch open. She had come into the porch, jumped up on top of Mochas cattery pen and began pacing at the kitchen window wanting in to see me. I was doing dishes at the sink. I asked Shelby to please put her back out of the porch for me. Now I wish I could see her pacing at that kitchen window. Normally Buckbuck and Babe are out there and she hangs around on their side with them, but they arent out there right now, remember, they are in the house on shavings in a box because I am showing them. So she was alone.
You see, the hawk came back a second time, landing in the exact same spot on the gate. I ran outside to shoo it away. Then I saw it. Behind the row of pens...one of the emus was picking at something on the ground...something surrounded by feathers strewn everywhere. This is why the hawk had come back. It had already made a kill, but I had missed it. The hawk had killed one of my precious first birds I ever raised. One of my speckled sussex girls. They are coming up on being seven years old now. They are old, slow and very heavy. This is why I believe she was killed easily by a hawk that was just not that big. Out in the back near the peafowl pen were more feathers...big feathers, little feathers...all torn out of my speckled sussex as she ran for cover behind those pens. She just didnt make it fast enough. I found her body...her whole neck area eaten down to the bone and her bottom jaw missing. The hawk hadnt had its fill. I have seen how much a hawk can eat..and they can eat a lot. Usually they tear into the breast meat down into the entrials and strew those about. Yes, I know, it is grizzly and gross sounding, but I have lived it unfortunately last year with one of my buttercup hens being killed.
I ran down the steps and out of the horses pen area into the back and around behind the pens shooing away the emu, disgusted by their behavior. Emus dont eat meat, why was it picking at my poor dead chicken? I can't say that I have an answer for that. I picked up her body and got her up to the porch. Storming through the house I was mad...and I told Ian what had happened and that I want him to get up right now and get the gun and get it loaded and kill that hawk when it comes back.
I have had one person tell be before not to do this, that they are protected. On a farm, you do what you have to do to keep your animals safe. Period. Its just the hard cold truth. A wild predator that finds a food source will keep coming back until that food source is gone. I can't allow that. Just the way it is.
The hawk was again across the street. I noticed that Priscilla was missing. I called and called Priscilla but she was not coming to my calls. I told Ian she was missing and he walked about looking here and there. I called and searched. Nothing. He came back up into the porch and then he saw it and he said to me "Kelly she's dead". I watched as he ran out to the pool deck, but the pole was out in the yard. As I came up the steps and into the porch I saw what he had seen. She had panicked. She is a lightweight bird and can fly very well for a chicken. The golden and the silver Phoenix are like this. She flew up and over the wall that serves as a blind on that side of the deck. She landed in the water. We never heard her thrashing about so I assume this happened when the hawk came back the second time. She had already drowned so we never heard her. I ran out to the yard and got the pole. We both knew it was too late, but I ran anyway. I got to the backside of the deck and handed Ian the pole. He pulled her in and set her on the deck. She was not moving. I said "Give her to me". He handed her over the railing to me. She was limp and cold and wet. I didnt care. I tried anyway. I opened her beak and put my mouth over it and shallowly breathed in air. I felt her neck and chest expand a little and backed off. I kept on doing that for a couple of minutes. Standing there with this cold, wet limp chicken...trying to breathe life into her again. Her heart was stopped. It had just been too long. I cradled her body in my arms careful not to let her lolling head droop down. I went into the porch...I sat down on a chair...and I cried. I cried so hard. This girl was special. She had an awareness some of the other chickens just dont ever develop. It wasnt fair. Ian had gotten the gun. He was going out to the edge of the street. He was going to try and shoot the hawk that was still perching at the edge of the wooded area. As I sat there cradling Priscillas body and crying I heard the shot...and I prayed he hit his mark. I got up and gently set her body down and headed out the porch door, down the steps and out to the front to see if he had made the kill. He was halfway back across the yard and I asked him. He had tried, but it was just too far away for a shotgun. The hawk flew off after he made the shot. Still, I have hope he may have wounded it enough that it will not be back. I do have the shotgun loaded with the safety on, chambered, ready. I will be watching today.
I went to bed last night...and as I fell asleep I wanted to stop thinking about what I should have could have done. If I had brought her in that first time, as she stood there looking at me...with those trusting sweet innocent eyes, looking at me for protection, she would still be alive this morning...laying her egg this morning, announcing the arrival of her egg...and then clucking about to be let outside for the day.
I am still sad, but it will pass. I have others that still depend on me and need me today, and I will do my best to be there for every one of them.
I will be back later with a full story and pictures on Saturday. I promise you won't be disappointed...it was a VERY eventful day. If you read through to the end of this sad entry, thankyou for listening. I just needed to get it out. Sometimes when you write about things it helps.
There was another death last week here on our little farm. Shelby's Flemish Giant buck rabbit died. She went out to see him just the day before and he was fine. This breed is only supposed to have a lifespan of five years. He was seven years old. She took very good care of him. She found him the very next day when she went out to fill his water bottles and feed him. He had passed away from old age. We knew it was coming. He was losing body mass. It doesnt make it any easier though. Shelby had her rabbit for half her life. Got him when she was seven years old. She called to me from across the yard and I came to see what was the matter. She said she thought he was gone. I checked. It hadnt been long, but he was gone. I took care of getting him out and taking him away for her. She cried...she went upstairs and sat and cried for a long time. I just hate it. It always hurts so bad.
4 weeks ago