Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Post #4 - Hawk in a Box

Looks like those buttons won't be going on eBay after all. I mentioned them on my Facebook page and a couple friends expressed interest them. I'd rather they have them than some random internet stranger. Besides, one of them has already agreed to pay me in stinky bleu cheese and good coffee beans.

My last eBay sale was a pleasant surprise. I put ten old Dead Milkmen Newzletters up for sale not knowing if anybody would even want them. They ended up going for almost $25.

So far this year I've only had four chicks hatch and two of them disappeared one afternoon a few weeks ago. The most likely culprits are either a cat or hawk. At first I suspected the former but now I think it may have been the latter.

A couple days after the chicks disappeared, I heard a ruckus coming from Frankencoop. The chickens were worked up about something.

When I entered the coop, I found a very agitated Cooper's hawk throwing itself against a screened-in window, desparate to escape. Some of the chickens had fled to the other room while the rest (including my he-man rooster, Sanchez) were cowering in the closet.

Only Mama Graybie - the fiercest, meaniest, orneryest hen to ever lay an egg at Spenardo del Sur - was challenging the hawk. She was all puffed up and screaming at the top of her lungs, dancing around and gettin' all up in that raptor's grill.

Mama Graybie has a chick this spring and is an incredibly protective mother. You do not fuck with her. She has a sharp spur like a rooster's on one of her legs and she will cut you, bitch.

My little chola chicken

Last year, one of her babies went missing. The next day I noticed one of the cat's had a slit throat. Not a little cut but a big gash that displayed the inner workings of his neck. I assumed it was the work of Mama Graybie - a theory supported by the fact that the cat has not gone near the chicken coop since.

I was surprised the cat survived. The wound never got infected and eventually healed. You can't even see the scar anymore now that his fur has grown back. I gave him the gangster-inspired name John Gatto.

So, there I was - trapped in a small space with a large, agitated hawk. The room used to be my grandmother's bathroom. It is about 8'x8' and still contains the bathtub and toilet. There is a wall between the bathroom and the door leading to the outside - a door the hawk can't see and apparently no longer remembers. I didn't want to leave it alone in the building with my birds so I had to deal with the situation using only what was close at hand.

There's a large cardboard box with a large hole in the side that the chickens use as a nesting box. I put the eggs in a corner and emptied the wood shavings onto the floor. Since the hawk was still at the window, I was able to position the large hole over it and trap it against the screen. I slid the box down to the floor.

I grabbed a sheet of cheap faux-wood panelling I'd taken off the wall a long time ago and was using to block the light in a nesting area. Sliding the panelling between the box and the wall, I then tipped it over so that the now-covered hole was facing the ceiling.

Great. Now what?

The door only opens halfway due to warped floorboards and the box is too big to fit through without breaking it down. The box is also in bad shape and I have no idea how long it can safely hold the hawk.

I ran to the house for three important things: the camera, a loaf of bread and a pair of welding gloves.

When I got back to Frankencoop, the chickens had calmed down. I lured them outside by scattering the bread on the ground. With the flock safely out of the way, I went back inside.

I gingerly lifted a corner of the panelling while blocking the hole with an old broom I keep in the coop (great for knocking down cobwebs). I snapped a few photos and then put on the gloves to protect my hands from its razor-sharp talons.

I quickly realized I would need more than two hands if I was going to just grab the bird and release it outside, welding gloves or not. Instead, I dragged the box around the corner to the half-open door and tipped it over. I removed the panelling and the hawk flew outside.

But we weren't home free yet. Built on the back of the house is a pen covered in chickenwire, no bigger than the bathroom we just left. The hawk still had to make it through the 3'x3' door that it originally came in through. I shut the door to the house so the hawk couldn't get back inside and used the broom to (gently) guide it through the pen door and back to the open sky where it belongs.

I'm outty, y'all!

No comments: