we’ve had some amazing animal adventures over the past few days. this is to be expected at the beginning of spring (or at least what appeared to be spring until it dropped from 50 degrees to 20 degrees over the course of 5 hours today and then started to snow and sleet!).┬áthis means the school system where i work is closed tomorrow… and i get to spend my birthday at home! fantastic!

the other day bolt unearthed a mole while digging in the yard (now we know what he’s been digging for!) and played with it a little bit but wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do with it since it wasn’t fighting back or running–just laying there and squeaking. bolt’s problem was solved when he encountered an escaped chicken (6 of them sneaked out of the small crack in the gate during feeding time a few minutes before bolt found the mole). the chicken ran from jason and i and flew towards bolt, who forgot all about the mole and tried to pluck the bird out of thin air. luckily, the chicken never got close enough, seeing the big black monster that bolt has become, and turned back toward us. when bolt returned to the mole it was gone, having waited for the opportune time to make his escape!

after this adventure we also noticed that dodger had caught a few prizes: field mice. we saw him catch 2 from afar, and later jason confirmed that dodger had eaten the head off of at least one of them. a little bit of a waste, dodger… we wish you would eat the whole thing!

also… about a week ago, jason saw a small, white-speckled, brown hawk fly in twice to smack up against the bird net above our chicken yard. after seeing this he sent me a text message that said: bird net: 2, hawk: 0.

unfortunately, this same hawk got smart and found a small hole in our bird netting a few days ago. the holes were torn in the netting a few weeks ago when we got 8 inches of snow. the wet, thick snow on the netting weighed it down too much and ripped out some of the zip ties that we had used to attach strips of netting together. we had noticed the holes but didn’t think too much of it, considering that up to that point we hadn’t detected any animal attacks at all.

anyway, this crafty hawk (which we are pretty sure is a cooper’s hawk) spent a few days looking at the netting and plotting his entry (or so we can assume). the first signs we found of his success came on friday.

i usually open up the chicken house and let them out into their yard every morning around 6am. jason found a dead bantam in the corner of the chicken yard around 7:30am. she was ripped open with many of her feathers missing and half of her breast was eaten. it was clearly a hawk attack.

hawk

a cooper’s hawk, photo courtesy Tobeyotter

the circumstances are still a bit of a mystery considering that the hawk was sitting outside the bird netting when jason came outside and flew away. did he kill and eat the bantam the night before and come back for more the next day? did he hear jason coming outside and somehow escape the netting in time (but stay around to actually see jason appear?). also, why was he able to catch bantams but not our standard hens who are much slower? after thinking on it, we’ve realized that the hawk probably didn’t even try to get the larger hens, since a cooper’s hawk is about the size of a crow. but, we just aren’t sure!

so, long story short: we lost a bantam from the hawk attack. then… late in the day on saturday once jason and i went inside after being outside all day, the hawk came back and went for another bantam! he got inside the netting again and pulled the feathers from another bird but did not wound her. jason and i chased him away and we have since patched all the holes in the net. once we move our chicken yard later this week, we’ll re-patch it again just to be sure.

overall… very frustrating. but also, admittedly, very exciting. and we suppose that this is the way it is: we’re learning firsthand that raising animals and plants comes with some failures and some successes. some living and some dying. you witness birth; you witness death, and the cycle goes on…

.:.