13 November 2007

When the Crows Go

There are three types of birds we pay attention to most in our backyard: chickens, crows, and hawks. The relationship these birds have with one another is a lot like the rock-paper-scissors game. (I must admit that part of this has been heavily influenced by a Demitry Martin skit. I would add a link to it, but its just too damn long.) The equation goes as such: Chickens = Paper, Hawk = Scissors, Crows = Rock. As loony as it may sound, it is quite true. Hawks try to eat chickens, Crows attack hawks, because they are very territorial, and chickens, well, they eat all day. I think you get the point. Chickens don't do anything to crows and crows don't bother the chickens, and that's alright by us.

If you're worried about hawks in your area, we've learned that its pretty safe for chickens to free range when they have one or two of the following working in their favor: one is that there are lots of crows in their immediate area, second is if the deciduous trees where the chickens hang out have their leaves. When both of those things are absent, then it's time to think about a pen that protects them from the sides and the air.

We had to put our ladies in a pen about a month and a half ago because they were digging in our neighbor's flowers. It was a bit of a drag reducing their play area (which was wherever they felt like going) to a rather large pen, but we planned on doing it anyway, so no harm no foul. Hmm, no foul. That could be funny.

Last year our chickens were attacked twice by hawks. Thankfully someone was within earshot both times and our terrified and beaten girls lived to tell the tale. I will say this, however: when you hear a chicken gawking in distress, you'll know it. Then when you have to see the unfortunate sight of your silly chickens getting thrashed at, well let's just say that it's enough to break your heart. After the attacks Meg and I started designing what we felt would be a hawk-proof pen.

We used five-foot galvanized garden fence for the walls (there are foxes about, too) and fruit tree netting for the top. To make the vestibule tall enough to walk around in, we propped the netting with a cross beam from our bamboo patch. It's been working out rather well. If you'll notice in two of the photos, the chickens are in the area of the pen that is closest to me. This isn't because they think I'm cool, but because they think I might have food. Man! They make me laugh.

Its Autumn, the leaves are falling steadily and the crows aren't in the same summer abundance, but Meg and I feel certain that any hawk that wants to take a bite out of our chickens will surely starve. Cheers.

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