Stephen Kahn

A Hawk Celebrates Thanksgiving

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2012 at 12:33 am

On Thanksgiving, two days before our 47th wedding anniversary (which happens to be today), we went to the mommies’ house in Seattle. We joined up with a daddy (Tim), a grandma (Barb, birth mother of Random Granddaughter’s birth mother) and Barb’s second husband Ken. Also present was Tim’s stepdad, Joe. As well as Dana, birth mother of Tim. I should not forget, Sylvie, the world’s most lovable cat. Even though Sylvie is fatally ill with cancer, she managed to purr and come down stairs and demand laps to sit on.

My wife said, when we arrived, “Don’t talk about religion,” a few minutes after we arrived Joe (who is a Methodist minister in Colorado), began talking about religion. I told him that I am an atheist and had started an atheist “church” on Whidbey Island. Joe said that he is an agnostic, and would like to meet with the members of my atheist group to chat with them. Ken said that he was happy now being retired, and had been a minister at one time. I told Joe to tell my wife that he had started the discussion about religion.

We ate well. The turkey (and everything else) was done to perfection. (My wife had brought peas with bacon, also excellent.) Eventually, sated and happy, we headed for home. My wife said, “Check on the chickens.” The chickens, supposedly safe behind a closed gate, mesh, and electric fence had put themselves to bed on the roost.

I looked in the coop door. I counted three gray chickens and one black chicken. There is supposed to two black chickens.  Outside, it was dark and wet. I began to search in the dark with my electric torch. After a while I found a shredded black chicken carcass in a corner of the run. Once before a chicken hawk had squeezed through the mesh and attacked Big Mama, my wife’s favorite chicken. It seemed obvious to me that a hawk had got in again and had black chicken for Thanksgiving dinner. It was too dark to examine for more clues. I went inside, ruined my wife’s Thanksgiving by telling her about the loss of a hen. Sadly, we went to bed.

In the morning we went outside. We put the dead hen in a paper bag. We cleaned up the feathers and mess. We put her in the woods and covered her with the dirt we had dug up. We did not provide a funeral service.

We thought one of the elder hens would be the first to go. They are now close to too old to lay eggs any more. We had not figured out what to do with them when we get some new chicks and there will not be enough room. Now we will be down to one egg a day at best. The one black hen looks very forlorn out scratching and pecking by herself for most of the day.

At the gym, another person told me, “I moved to Whidbey in 1972. I bought a farm. I bought some Bantam chickens and let them run loose in the woods. They laid eggs and raised chicks. They roosted in the trees. At night I would hear an occasional squawk as an owl caught a chicken.”

A lot of people on Whidbey Island worship nature. Nature is nice, but it’s not that pretty.

  1. Sorry to hear of your loss, my friend. The earth has groaned since the Fall, but that doesn’t make it easier to bear.

  2. I’m sorry about your hen, too. I hope she went quickly.

    Off-topic, but I see that Cameron’s comment was posted on “25 November at 1 am”. Which is funny, because it is November 24, almost 10 pm (EST). How did Cameron get into the future?

  3. Aaaack! Mine posted at “25 November at 2 am”.

    Am I in England & I didn’t know it?

  4. Cameron and Karen, than you for your commiserations. I am working on ways to better “hawkproof” the chicken run.

  5. Dear Stephen, it is a long time since I dropped in from Australia, where I write this at 2:27pm on Monday 26 November and will be interested to note what time WordPress says I put it up. I get regular notifications of new posts you put up and usually read em. So, when you lamented that nature is nice, but not pretty, I was reminded of the line “red in tooth and claw” and searched and found it. Tennyson wrote it in his Memoriam. You can look at it here:

    I am glad to see you continue curious and report to us your thoughts. Reflective and intelligent, sane and compassionate.
    PS. Have had my second stent put in a week ago, almost three years after the first. I don’t want to die just yet, though sometimes I get depressed and wouldn’t object to being gone. M.

    • Hi Michael. I am getting old, and my memory is fading. We probably conversed years ago but I can’t say for sure I remember you. I do remember the “red in tooth and claw” from my school days, and we do see examples (such as our hen) here where we live.

      • Go back to your post “Let us not speak falsely now” to find our conversation, which was about Dylan and Shakespeare. I lucked on to it because “Let us not speak falsely now” is the name of my blog. I have turned 70 now. Is that as old as you?

  6. I am so happy to see this site still has a pulse! I hope you have all been well. And you likely know me well enough that no chicken story can go by without my worthless commentary… Well Steve, I have the same problem… Last week an owl nailed one of out NEW chickens. Here we have 4 OLD chickens that don’t even lay anymore, and the owl nailed one of the young ones that just started laying! Their pen IS owl-proof but if one leaves the pen door open it is no longer owl-proof. SO now the “Free-range” chickens are no longer free. Or ranging. Neither is freedom…

  7. Hi Pete, I see that you keep the old hens that don’t lay any more still going. I suggested to my granddaughter that she build a coop for superannuated hens because we (especially my wife) are too sentimental to let them wander the field until a hawk, owl, eagle, coyote, or raccoon makes a dinner of her. We are stretching fishing line across the mesh to make it more difficult for a hawk to penetrate the defenses. Of course, the hawk may hurt itself on the fishing line. Then I will be in trouble with the Audubon Society.

  8. Michael, I am a “youngster” as 68. I will check back on your earlier comment. I am glad that you are still alive, and appreciate you following my mumbling blog. My wife and I took a train ride across Canada and had dinner in the dining car one night with a couple from Darwin. I said, “My stereotype of Australia is that there are all sorts of spiders, scorpions, snakes, etc. that make life dangerous.” They said, “It’s not that bad. We check our shoes each day before we put them on. Then there are the green snakes that drop out of the trees. But really, there’s not that much to worry about.” I was very relieved, and then worried that I had trouble understanding their accent, although we all speak the same language, called “English,” last time I checked.

    • Yes, we do speak a kind of English. And that reminds me, I have often been chagrined to find that I have reviled, in my superior way (for which the justification eludes me), American English, calling it “modern” or slick or worse, only to find you all are using some form that is old English from around the time England sent you all in search of a less-persecuted life. Hubris is healthy.

  9. Thinking about “English.”

    I probably told this story, but why not again? When I was an English major in college, one of my professors was a sweet little Englishwoman. Not a bad teacher, but she had a rather droning high-pitched voice. As the class came right after lunch, it was easy to fall asleep. One student came to class each day, sat near the back of the classroom and dropped off to sleep within 5 minutes of the professor beginning. She never noticed, or discreetly (very English, I am sure) pretended not to notice.

    One day another professor subbed for her when she was ill. He was a pompous, loud-mouthed gentleman from British Columbia, who habitually wore bermuda shorts to class. He was bellowing something about Chaucer being the first great poet in English literature when he observed the sleeping slacker. He walked back to the snoozing student near the back of the classroom, and with a loud roar, bellowed into his ear, “AND WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE?” The poor student was more startled than he probably had ever been while viewing the scariest of horror movies, and from a sitting/sleeping start bounded three feet into the air, to the delight of the rest of the class, who had been struggling to stay awake to that point.

  10. condolences on your chickens. like ground squirrels and rabbits, they are so at the bottom of the chain. foxes are proliferating here, as well as coyotes, and the chickens suffer. climate change? lots of black phoebies and bluebirds, never before seen in these numbers.

    saw a hawk circling with turkey vultures last week. took it as an omen.

    • Birds such as crows (very intelligent) and chickadees (surprisingly bright for their tiny size), have a strategy they use against raptors: “mobbing.”

      My wife often talks to our chickens, who talk back to her, and she urges me to talk to the chickens more than I do. . So yesterday I told them, “Next time a hawk gets in to the chicken run, I urge you to mob it. Work as a team!”

      The chickens replied (I think) “It’s every hen for herself. If a hawk lands on blackie #2, we will squawk and hide inside the coop. We may be a “flock,” but when the hawk appears, it’s every hen for herself!”

  11. Congratulations on your anniversary! I made a very similar comment regarding politics to Robert before visiting his family the other day, though someone else did bring it up. That sounds like a wonderful thanksgiving, except for the poor chicken. My grandmother used to keep chickens, and I know that there were constant problems just like this one.

  12. Hi, Waxing. Good to “see” you. I hope your family visit went well. I have a taste for sick humor, as any long time readers of my blogs knows, but I outdid myself (unintentionally).We were visiting the mommies before our trip and stopped in at the Pike Street Market for the first time in many years. One of our hens (Lucy) is rather pecky and aggressive for a hen, so I bought a “joke” sign that says “Caution. Premises protected by “Attack Chicken.” I was just thinking about attaching it to the “chicken run” when Blackie #2 was hawk slaughtered. Every day now I look at that sign and think, “Boy, that’s REALLY bad taste.” Though my wife outdid me today (as we strung up more fishing line in our “lock the hen house after the hen has been taken” efforts. My wife said, “She [the hawk] didn’t even eat the entire chicken, she just took the “good parts” and left quite a bit.”

  13. So Steve, how was your train trip across Canada? Did I miss a posting? And Michael – I think you are correct about American English… We have done a good job slaughtering it. I find your version of the language far more pleasant to listen to!

  14. Thank you, Pete. I will take personal responsibility for Australian English (Don’t mention this to the other 20 million, give or take, of us. They probably don’t think it’s all my work. In fact, a few English teachers I’ve had in the past might suggest I am a drawback.)

    It is good to hear/read that you find it pleasant.

    I have been ambivalent
    [for example: about it at times, but the older I get the more I relax into Australian-ness, and our lingo is a large part of that, of course. [Someone said of our species (all of us, I mean, the human family) that language defines us, that we are the animal that talks.]

    It is ironic, I guess, that coincident with feeling OK about being an Oz, I began to venture out into the world for the first time. Christmas in Oxford and London, with snow to suit – what a dream come true, first time I’d ever been snowed on (been snowed plenty, but that’s another post). That was in 2010. And in 24 hours we (my family and I) are doing it again. In fact, it was on the last stop en route back here to Australia, stop-overed in Japan a few months before that exquisite land and its exquisite people got tsunamied, that I wrote the last post post above. I had been suddenly plunged, at the airport, into the reality of Australians and their sound, heaps of us all itching to get on the last hop home, which we still call Australia, and bitching, too. As is our won’t.

    But I reconciled to it. Again.

  15. Pete, I will write a post about the train trip across Canada. The most important thing is that we survived. In a way, that is very surprising. In another way, it is not surprising at all. Stay tuned for a post one of these years.

  16. Steve – On your note about keeping the old, non-laying chickens alive. Some people have suggested eating them after their laying life is done. The man at the feed store told me this: “Bring a pot of water to a boil. Throw in the chicken and an old 2X4. Once the 2X4 becomes tender, throw away tthe chicken.” Depending on who you are you will either be scratching your head, or find that amusing! :+>

    • Pete, well, you know who I am. I am cracking up. We have been stringing fishing line across the holes in the mesh covering our chicken run, so the hawk will hurt itself when it tries again to get a hen. I presume I will be sued by the Audobon Society for harming an endangered bird. Also, blackie younger hen has not fully integrated itself with the older three hens. When Blackie goes out to scratch and peck, the other (older) hens watch her with interest, helpfully saying in clucks, “Yes, Blackie, you go out and play in avian traffic. We will watch with interest and amusement and use you as bait for hawks.”

  17. Anybody home??? I need light thoughless banter!!!!

  18. I am home. I am still alive. Thoughtless, I can still do, though I think only bantam chickens are allowed to banter. As a child, we had full size chickens (white leghorns) who laid white eggs and a few bantams who laid tiny eggs. We had roosters who crowed in the morning. The full-sized rooster had spurs which scared the chicken droppings out of me. We had a bantam rooster who thought he was as big and impressive as the full size rooster, who just laughed. Now as an adult my wife and I only have hens. Everyone at Whidbey Island drops off their roosters at the island recycling center, where they live in the in the recycling bins and scare the sweet little old ladies dutifully dropping off their newspapers and the vegans who run the recycling question shrug about the danger to the roosters from the hawks, eagles, and owls. Obviously, they are not so vegan they don’t know how nature works.

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