First one down


We had all 6 chickens for just over a year.  Now we have 5.

A few days ago, just after her first birthday, (a very important and heartbreaking part of the story according to my daughters), Henrietta, a beautiful green-egg-laying Easter Egger, was snatched out of the chicken coop by a hawk.

My mistake.  I didn’t lock the egg box that day, in fact, I haven’t locked the egg box in months. yet another lesson/misadventure for the books.

Lesson Learned:  Lock every single door and hatch to the chicken coop.  

So, somehow the hawk pushed its way in, grabbed the chicken and yanked her out.  I was inside the house at the time, working on a pest prevention document for work and I heard Henrietta the chicken screaming. Ironically, so far the pest document only includes insects and fungal diseases.  No hawks.

Chicken screaming is different from the chicken egg call, different than regular chicken chatter.  I ran across the house to look out the window and could see Henrietta outside of the coop, trying to get in the run.  But all of the doors were locked and she was trapped outside.  I ran to put on my boots , but by the time I got to her outside, the hawk was on her and she was still.

I screamed and yelled and waved my arms frantically, but the hawk just quietly looked at me with talons from one foot firmly embedded into Henrietta’s neck.  The hawk tried to fly away holding the chicken, but couldn’t lift her, because the chicken was larger than she was.

I thought Henrietta was dead.

I walked solemnly back inside to get my phone with a camera and returned to find the hawk biting and pulling at the chicken’s neck.  She was about 6 feet away from the coop and the rest of the chickens were inside and silent.  I inched closer and closer with the camera and took pictures.

This likely seems a strange thing to say, but the hawk was so beautiful.  Her head was square and wide and reminded me of an owl.  Her coloring was stripey brown and white and she had a tinge of blue on her beak.  I realized she was the same bird I chased away from the coop a couple of weeks ago.

It was strange to feel both in awe of this bird of prey that I so rarely get so close to, while at the same time being furious and sad that she had killed Henrietta.  As my friend reminded me, it was natural selection at play.  So true, and if I were going back to the classroom tomorrow I would talk all about it.


Henrietta and the Hawk

And then, to my horror, after taking a few pictures, I realized Henrietta was still breathing.  I could see her chest rise and fall; and a few seconds later her body stretched and she tried to get away, but the hawk held on.

I didn’t know what to do–Henrietta wouldn’t survive the attack, but she was (probably) suffering.  I don’t own a gun, so I couldn’t shoot her.  I was nervous to whack her with a rock or a stick, for fear of wounding the hawk or making it attack me.

So I went inside and waited.

After a few more shakes, claws and bites, Henrietta finally died.

As the hawk began eating, I realized I had to move the chicken body before my kids came home from school.  It was also just starting to snow, and I could just imagine the red mess the girls would see.  After some consideration, I grabbed my pitchfork and poked the hawk.  She was very quiet.  I am used to loud chickens, but she just looked at me and tried to drag the hen away,  too heavy.

We played tug-of-war with the hen, until the hawk let go and hopped about 2 feet away.  I lifted Henrietta up and carried her across the yard, toward the stone wall and wooded area.  The hawk landed once on the bird, tugged her a bit, and I yelled.  The hawk flew back up to the nearest tree and just kept following me, flying from nearest tree to nearest tree as I walked, holding my dead chicken on a pitchfork.

I tried to bury her under a very heavy rock, but over the course of the next couple of days, the hawk (and possible other animals) found her and dug around the big rock and took her away.

When we brought our day-old chicks home a year ago, my daughters were so in love with them.  We agreed on names and they stopped eating chicken.  The chickens were and are our first pets, and my daughters have not had much experience with loss in their lives yet.  It was a sad night at our house when I explained what had happened, but we grieved and all said something about Henrietta at dinner.

And then–and this is the most exciting part–we talked about getting 2 new baby chicks!

Goodbye Henrietta!




3 thoughts on “First one down

  1. lafarmette12 says:

    I am always in awe at nature. Thank you for sharing your story. We just brought home chicks of our own and although hard to think about, I know that it is inevitable that we will lose some along the way.


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