The morning was gray and cool, with rain falling off and on.
My wife and I were hanging out in different rooms in the house at our remote Texas County outpost, when we both noticed a commotion emanating from the area in front of the house, across the driveway, where the chicken station is.
I moved quickly toward the front door, and at the same time my wife came running out exclaiming, “there’s a hawk or something out there!”
I picked up my pace, burst through the door and ran toward a scene that couldn’t be described as pretty. Sure enough, there was a hawk all right. And it was on top of our small old English porcelain bantam hen, Slippie, who’s not yet a year old and barely the size of a large robin.
The dainty mini-chicken had obviously been minding her own business and munching on tidbits outside the fenced-in portion of the station (as she has many times since we got her last summer). But this time Miss Slippie had been accosted by a big raptor and was squished in between the fence and the sharp leaves of a yucca plant.
With her life in the balance, she was squawking to beat the band and trying to loosen her assailant’s deadly grasp by kicking, flapping and thrashing around in every way possible. I ran right at the surreal avian struggle, clapping as hard as I could and yelling “hey, stop it!”
Not wishing to tangle with the rapidly approaching angry biped, the hawk relented and flew away. I reached down to pick up Slippie, and she kept shrieking and writhing, still terrified by her brush with the winged monster.
I kept repeating, “it’s OK,” and took her inside the chicken room and placed her on her favorite perch. She seemed comforted by the safety of her surroundings and calmed down.
At that point, my wife and I began searching for Puffie, a white cochin banty who had no doubt been with Slippie and subsequently faced same danger. We didn’t feel encouraged; she wasn’t visible, but a pile of white feathers was, only a few feet from where Slippie had bravely made her stand.
“I don’t feel good about finding her,” I said.
A few moments later, my wife called out.
“Here she is!” she said.
Puffie was under a tall bush, not moving much, but apparently OK. I tried to flush her out, but she was surely feeling the same terror Slippie had and figured her best bet was to remain cloaked in the bush’s thick cover, out of view and hopefully out of range of silently descending killers.
I finally got her to move out, and guided her with a long stick to the fenced-in hawk-free zone.
Whew, that was close. Multiple things of opposing nature were in play here, some of which I don’t care for, but all of which I understand.
First, I realize some people raise chickens to eat them, and would never get attached enough to one to name it. That’s fine with me, and I’ll take a good hot wing or barbecue drumstick most any time.
But then again, others – like my wife and I – keep chickens more or less as pets, and enjoy them being a form or yard art and conversation pieces as they freely range the property in an insatiable quest to eat bugs. We like having them provide us eggs, but for us, the thought of a hawk having a chicken breakfast at our birds’ expense isn’t easy to abide.
Second, I have absolutely nothing against predation in nature. Animals eating animals is included in the way God designed things, and I accept that as normal (myself included; I’ve seen very few rib eye steaks I didn’t like, and pulled pork is great).
Nonetheless, I can and do get attached to some animals, and I consider those in the select group that live with myself and my family as off limits to predators and predatory behavior. As a result, even though I accept that a hawk makes its living off of eating various animal life forms, wolfing down one of ours is not acceptable.
That’s why I stood alone for a while in the gently falling rain after the chicken-hawk incident had ended. I was scanning the sky, almost knowing the hawk wasn’t going to return because of my presence, but almost hoping it would so I could grab my .243 and teach it a permanent lesson about the unacceptability of its actions.
And for the record, I love hawks, eagles, ospreys and all other raptors, and I used to take weekend trips to simply view them in the wild during my younger days living in western Washington. But at the same time, I would have been well within my legal rights to take away all of that hawk’s rights and I would have done so in a heartbeat.
Barbaric? No more than eating a bird alive.
Contradictory? Not nearly as much as caring about an animal but having no connection to its protection.
If that big bird comes back for more, “Chicken Run” might turn into “Red Hawk Down.” I figure it’s simply life in action and death in motion, and it goes with living in the hills and hollows of the Ozarks.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.