Yesterday we lost another young Sussex pullet. I ran outside to check on Stevie, who was barking like a hellhound. When I made it to the chicken coop, I saw that none of the hens were out. Something was definitely wrong. Stevie bounded up to the fence with noisy fervor and ran back to the rear of the paddock, behind the coop. I opened the fence and ran it just in time to see a Cooper's Hawk attempt to fly off with the dead bird. I was stunned by the sight of the large predator. Stevie ran after it, causing it to drop the pullet and it was gone.
My immediate reaction was to feel let down that Stevie let the hawk kill one of the chickens, but I thought about it a bit as I let her smell the carcass in the hopes that it would help form a narrative in her canine brain. It might help her do her job better. I considered the fact that she is a 9 month old pup working alone with the birds. I also considered that this was really the first time a hawk had the gumption to fly into her territory. She did the best she could to deflect this strange thing and call for help from her pack. She'd do better next time.
Turns out, "next time" would mean a mere halfday later. As Michael and I were expanding their paddock, the hawk returned with a sneak attack that Cooper's Hawks are known for...fly in low to the ground and just before you reach your prey, swoop up over it and down upon the unsuspecting victim.
Well, at least that's what it tried to do. Instead it got caught in the netting just as we cleared all of the brambles and ensured the wires weren't shorting on anything. That bird got over 8,000 volts through it before it got loose and went after the chickens anyway. The hens were hysterical we were in shock. Stevie took control, charging at the invader and barking it right out of her domain. Peach joined in from the goat pen. I think I may have done some barking too to encourage them. Both dogs ran circles around their yards, looking skyward and continuing to blast their warnings at any other potential troublemakers. When dust settled and our pups were sure the coast was clear, Stevie leaped towards us with tail whipping, seeking confirmation that it was a job well done.
"Good girls. Good girls."