Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blitzkrieg on the Banks of Big Creek

The London Blitz involved nine months of German bomber induced devastation that drove Londoners to live in a state of constant alertness and awareness of where the nearest bomb shelter was.   While the banks of Big Creek aren’t faced with the drone of mechanical motors and sounds of carpet bombs exploding one right after another, we are faced with a dive bombing hawk intent on scoring a fresh chicken dinner.

As a result of these military-like forays, this bird of prey has forced my six hens and one rooster into a life of constant attention and awareness quite unlike anything they have experienced before.  Typically, these contented free-range fowl wander as carefree as chickens can over acres of grassland searching out tasty grasshoppers and other insects that go in the beaks as bugs and emerge from the other end as rich, yellow-yolked eggs. 

Since my flock came to this particularly relentless hawk’s attention, my formerly free- rangeing cluckers now hover in the shadows of  lilac bushes or  tree rows around the place.  When they hear the red tail’s distinctive high pitched “scree scree” or see his shadow leading the way on the ground, their contented clucks and cackles become strident squawks as they begin running for cover.

 Even without stress, chickens don’t run gracefully—think miniature feathered and billed Tyrannosaurus Rexes lumbering frantically to safety.  Awkward is the only way I can describe this agitated movement.  I do have to give the rooster some credit.  After sounding a roosterish alarm, he stays back like a good commanding officer to make sure his harem makes it to safety before he joins his girls.

The other morning our little camouflage terrier and I were taking advantage of the morning’s cool temps to water the garden and flower and herb beds.  Intent on watering, I barely noticed when Buster, our feisty watch dog, leapt up and raced barking toward alarmed and noisy chickens about twelve feet away.  

Immediately jumping to the wrong conclusion, I thought he was chasing a chicken.  I began scolding and calling him back when I saw the red tail swoop down to snag a young white hen with its outstretched talons. 
Buster knew his duty.  Ignoring his inattentive mistress, he continued to bark and jump at the tail feathers of the invader. Inspired by his bravery and wanting to keep dog and chickens safe, I turned the hose into a water cannon and began spraying the whole noisy group.

The little hen dashed desperately into the lilacs away from the distracted invader, Buster sounded like Patton giving the Germans heck until the hawk realized he was defeated, regrouped and rose back into a blue Kansas sky.

The war isn’t over yet.  I have to shoo the hawk away every day when he buzz bombs the yard.  The chickens live a restricted life as a form of self-preservation, and Buster, the watchdog, scans the skies like an air raid warden waiting for the next assault.  I hope that hawk will soon realize he’s defeated and head for new territories to terrorize.

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