Today for the first time I let the chickens into their large, uncovered pen that gives them plenty of grass and bugs to eat.
They’ve been in a small enclosed area since they went outside, about a month ago. The enclosed area has chicken wire or bird mesh around 2″ x 4″ wire, and is about 5’ x 16’. It’s covered top, bottom, and sides. Their house is inside and is 3’ x 4’. It’s hard to believe they were once small enough to fit through 2×4″ mesh! They cheerfully but cautiously explored, then went back in to their smaller area after an hour or so.
I stayed out there with them, to make sure they really are too big for the chicken hawk, because a few days after I first settled them in their caged area, I saw a young Sharp-Shinned Hawk or possibly a Cooper’s Hawk (they also call these hawks Chicken Hawks, no surprise) sitting on top of the chicken coop.
It was hardly larger than the chicks (so probably Sharp-Shinned–they’re smaller), but it seemed thoroughly unintimidated by me.
It let me come within 15 feet before it reluctantly moved to a branch slightly further away.
The chicks were huddled in their house.
I did lose one chick the day before I saw the hawk. I started with eight. I went for a walk one afternoon and came back to find only seven. I counted and recounted. Only seven. Then I found a small hole in my wire. I guess one got out, and perhaps was a meal for the hawk or a cat or… Nonetheless, I didn’t try to chase the hawk away. It’s my job to keep them safe, not the hawk’s to refrain from catching one. So they only get supervised freedom for now. As my friend Poppy once said, when we saw a raven grab a baby sparrow from its cliffside nest, “It’s a bird eat bird world.”