So there I was… minding my own business…. going about my day when I heard the weirdest sound ever. I could tell it was coming from the backyard area of our property… well that general direction anyway. I went out back to check on our chickens and ducks because it wasn’t an egg song, but it was a poultry type announcement. I was a little shocked to see all our chickens and ducks in the coop because they free range our fenced in yard. None of them were injured and I could still hear the odd call so I decided to check my neighbor’s chickens.
As I looked over the fence, I counted three chickens in her enclosed pen. Wait… three? No that isn’t right…. there should be four! So I quickly ran to her yard to find the missing chicken (who I assumed one of the stray cats might have their paws on.) As I crouched low to peek under the bushes at the back of her yard I flushed out not a cat, but a VERY large RED TAILED HAWK!!!!! He was stalking her bantam chickens!!! (And yes the fourth chicken was found, believed to be hiding under her one standard size chicken! LOL)
Now I knew it was migration season for raptors… I mean heck I even wrote a blog post about it to warn you all last month…. and here one showed up in my neck of the “woods.” Well crap, crap, crappity, crap. For three days that stinking hawk was totally focused not on my coop and free ranging chickens and ducks (who I might add kept their fluffy butts in the coop) but the penned up chickens in my neighbor’s yard. It was obvious this hawk had had chicken before and was trying to figure out just how to breach security. He was so bold as to stand on the ground right next to the pen in full view, scooping the situation and pacing back and forth. I was getting seriously tired of running out there and yelling at him.
Yes I yelled at that hawk, because at least in the state of Michigan you are NOT allowed to so much as turn a water hose on a raptor. This guy was legally covered better then most folks in witness protection! The final straw came when I was in the kitchen, minding my own business, baking up pumpkindoodle cookies and as I went to put the flour back in the cabinet, I passed the window and that dang hawk was sitting on MY fence not 10 feet from me. Oh no, no, no sir, I do not think so. I had left the pop door of the coop open just in case my chickens wanted to come out…. they are smart and new better…… but since I had seen this hawk strolling around my neighbor’s pen, well I quickly wiped my hands, put on my shoes and went and closed the pop door on the coop. I was not about to let the hawk stroll right in for an all you can eat buffet at my place.
So now I was tired of yelling at the hawk and none to pleased with his proximity to my coop either. I called the DNR because I was running out of ideas on how to NOT harass the raptor but make him leave. I was pleasantly surprised when the DNR officer stated she too had chickens and could therefore sympathise with me. She told me to throw a party for the hawk….. well not like that but that is what it ended up looking like! She suggested using mylar balloons as a visual deterrent to the hawk. I was sceptical but willing to try.
So I called my neighbor and told her to pick up some mylar balloons on her way home from work, we were throwing a party! My neighbor brought home a few balloons that had NOT been filled with helium. You see the temperatures are dropping around here and helium shrinks in the cold. How intimidating would a flat balloon be!?!?! So she blew them up with her breath and hung the balloons around her pen. Then we waited. The balloons blew in the breeze, turning and flashing. And do you know what….. I kid you not…. that hawk left! Now I don’t know if it was the Elmo balloon that did the trick or not….. but it freaked me out to look out my window and see Elmo blowing around!
So why did a few simple mylar balloons from the dollar store work? For one, they moved. I know some people use old CDs this way so why are balloons better? Well the trick was that one side had a shiny, reflective silver side while the other side was brightly colored. Talk about over stimulation on old Mr Hawk’s visuals! So why am I telling you about this weird tale from the backyards of my neighborhood? Because it is raptor migration time and I am seeing a lot of people posting on Facebook about loosing chickens to hawks, and if this tale can help just one person to not loose another chicken….. then I say it is Party Time, bust out those balloons!!!
**** Everyone has different views on safety for their flock. My chickens are allowed to come and go from their coop in our fenced in yard as they please. I know to some people this seems like a recipe for predator disaster, but it is obvious that our poultry have learned from a young age to use the cover in the yard for concealment and obviously understand danger and hide as they did in the coop. Meanwhile, my neighbor’s birds were extremely stressed as they were caged in plain view of the hawk for three days, wondering if they were going to get eaten. I could plainly hear their distress calls off and on during that time. I am not here to debate how one should keep their birds, I just want to point out that all poultry should be given some type of coverage in their enclosure to hide in/under. ****