Before Becoming Serious and Responsible Pred-A-Gards…

Every so often, animal keepers hear the disturbing sounds of alarm from their pets. In the case of my dogs, the alarm is a sharp, persistent, low or high pitched bark (size dependent.) Chickens too, sound an alarm. Unlike some chicken people who describe the sound as a growl, my chickens sound more along the lines of a strong continuous loud baaw…kawc-occoccoc baaw…kawc-occoccoc baaw…kawc-occoccoc. 

Now that the flock is hanging out on the dogs side of the fence, whenever I hear the cacophony of baw…kacoccococ’s, a spurt of adrenaline incites visions of raw, wild, beastly dog-chicken mayhem. More often than not, I run out the door to find?  Not a thing. Many times, the dogs are napping soundly inside. I’ve wondered about these false alarms  – why do dogs and chickens cry wolf?… (or do they?)

The day before yesterday,  I heard the familiar fear-inducing baaw…kawc-occococ and as usual, I ran down the stairs (irritated at my Pavlovian response) and out the door just in time to see –  in the corner of my eye – a Cooper Hawk fly from a large oak (or something) tree that overlooks the smaller pine trees. Underneath those pine trees? Five chickens. Mr. C. Hawk secured a perfect spot for an interested raptor to swoop down and snatch up a wayward, dreamy, one-step-behind smallish hen — a hen like Sissy. Luckily the roosters had some semblance of flock command and control and luckily Sissy hadn’t wondered off.  Even so, a purposeful walk back to the nest for laying purpose is exposed enough.

According to Wikipedia, the Cooper Hawk is a species of raptor that falls under the larger “unofficial” designation of Chicken Hawk (which is what I Googled. Of course.) The term Chicken Hawk in fact represents 3 species: the Cooper,  Sharp-Shinned, and Red-Tailed Hawk and that “chickens do not make up a significant part of their diet; Red-tailed Hawks have varied diets, but may opportunistically hunt free-range poulty.” Based on my fleeting observation, I concluded that what I saw was probably a Cooper; it best fit the Wikipedia image and description. Were my chickens therefore safe? I’m not one to tempt fate.

Where were the dogs? Inside, on their backs, tongues out, napping as usual. A bit  Quite irritated, I mobilized the lazy lot of them and insisted that they immediately perform their new serious responsibility of guarding the flock. OUTSIDE, I barked. NOW!! Get out there You Pred-A-Guards (short for predator guards – I might copyright it.) Get to work. Earn your keep. Be productive. Save-A-Hen! So out the pack went, tails wagging, looking anxious, excited, uncertain;  perfectly willing to do whatever task is asked of them — if they only knew what that might be! It’s my fault – these dogs have never put in even a moment’s worth of work in this household.  Other than helping me take groceries out of the bag.

So awhile later, smart phone in hand, I went to check on things and this is what I saw:

But thiis is exactly what I want:

And this:

Invariably though, the Pred-A-Gards go back to something along the lines of this:

And this:

Or this:

And eventually back to this: