The Man, M, and J were returning home from a funeral (how fitting) yesterday just in time to see one of our resident hawks attack another chicken. They came running into the house, quickly changed clothes, and went back to the orchard to shoo away the hawks and retrieve the fallen bird. Yes, it was already dead, but that didn't mean the hawks would get to eat it.
It was late enough that M went ahead and put the chickens in their coop for the night. This morning he shut the cage outside of the coop so the chickens couldn't get to the orchard. That meant they had to spend the day in the coop or a 4 x 8 cage. That is 32 square feet of outside space for 23 chickens. Not good, but safer than being pastured. As we were driving by the orchard coming in from church today we could see the hawk sitting on top of a tall pine just outside the orchard. Waiting.
For those that haven't seen our chicken set-up, you really need to come visit! We have a fenced orchard area. A few years ago we dragged an old building next to the fence. A chicken wire partition was put in that to confine the chickens to half the building. Old kitchen cupboards that were in the barn were put in there to use as nesting boxes (eggs can be retrieved by entering the building, but not by stepping in chicken waste) and an old door was installed so M can clean out the chicken area on a regular basis. Attached to the building and the orchard fence is a 4 ft wide x 4 ft high x 8 ft long original chicken tractor I built in the spring of 2004 to house a batch of baby chicks. That's where the chickens lived (in the orchard) prior to the building move.
Since The Man attached my tractor to the building and fence, I had to build another one the next year to house our next batch of chicks until they were ready to move in with the big girls. I built that one 4w x 4l x 2h to make it more moveable. That one is currently in the fenced garden area. Tomorrow M (and J and S?) are going to move 8 of the chickens to spend the day in there, returning them to the coop at night and rotating 8 more the following days until we get the safety situation handled.
About the hawks...they are protected, so getting rid of them isn't an easy option. Besides, we like having the hawks around, except when they're eating our chickens. I'll put in a call to Fish & Game on Monday. They may have suggestions, but now that they've killed two chickens in less than a week, I don't think it is safe to allow the chickens free range of the orchard.
I've already sketched out plans for a new improved chicken tractor. Since The Man is working in the ER tomorrow, the kids and I will go to the big, big city to get supplies to build it.