Wednesday 26 September 2012

A Rare Opportunity.

Our free ranging chickens sure do attract a lot of predators.
We do our best to protect them, and trespassers don't often leave if they are discovered.
As a farm, we are permitted to defend our livestock in any we see fit, provided we inform the authorities if we destroy a protected animal.
But predators are protected for good reason, and I don't like to kill anything if it's needless.

During breakfast, and still in my pyjamas, a Northern Goshawk descended upon the yard, aiming for one of our young roosters.
Kira saw it first, and I didn't see anything until the hawk was on the chicken.
I raced out of the house to intervene.
We have never shot a bird of prey, and likely never will, so I went out without a firearm.
I figured some yelling would be enough, but the hawk was determined to get away with it's meal.

Our chickens are a hefty size, and weigh too much for a hawk to escape with.
They need to kill it, and then eat it on the ground.
I suppose they might be able to leave with it once the chicken was dead, but that didn't happen here.
The hawk had a firm hold on the chicken, but so did gravity,
so the two birds were in a death grip; in equally life threatening positions.

The rooster was whimpering and the hawk was out of breath from the struggle.
The rooster did manage to drag the hawk around the yard a bit before trying to get underneath the barn.
That's where I caught up with them,
and so I carefully seized the Goshawk.
I did pause for a moment to ponder what the hawk might do to me.
I have never handled a hawk before, and they are certainly equipped to do damage.
But I do have a basic tactic for unwieldly birds that I use on roosters.
A hand around the neck lets the bird know to stay calm.
The hawk was tired out though, and was no problem to pick up more comfortably so I could show the bird to the kids.

This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity,
to handle a wild hawk and let our children get a close up look.
As we deal with threats to our chickens, we do our best to strike the balance between the principle of live and let live, and the imperative to protect the food that we invest so much of ourselves into.
Our children should be taught the value of all life; including the animals that we consider damaging.
It doesn't always work out the way I'd like.
But the hawk got the message that we're dangerous.
I don't expect a return visit from this one.
So it was released once everyone had a good look.
A very beautiful creature indeed.

(The rooster? He wets his bed at night now, but otherwise he's fine.)

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