We have all seen it, the knight, high on his horse, holding a falcon on his gloved fist. Or the gentle lady holding the sissy equivalent of a hawk, something weighing in a bit lighter than a 4 pound hawk. And didn’t you wish it were you? Wouldn’t having a hawk ride your hand be entirely COOL?
Early on in life, flying a hawk got on my list of “things-to-do-before-I-die”.
Growing up in Germany, every self respecting hill has a castle in various stages of dilapidation on it. It seems that every knightly family had at least one member hanging on long enough to former glory to keep part of the burg in good enough repair to be semi inhabitable. If you were to bet on the burg being a cafe today, you would win about 99% of the time. For the climb/drive up the mountain you are rewarded with coffee and cake or dinner and a view. Now, near to where I grew up, one of the burgs was that 1% exception. The burg had a falconry. You got shown the falcons and got the obligatory educational talk. But what you really were there for was to see the guy with the leather glove holding a hooded falcon. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have one of those for my own hand.
I grew up. Other things took center stage.
And then one day that falcon holding item on my to do list had moved up to the top 10. I made my inquiries. And yes, there are places where they indulge your fantasies for a few hundred bucks and a long weekend. Almost immediately the flaw in the plan became apparent to me: you are supposed to HUNT with a falcon. Meaning, some hapless little critter that just happens to hop/fly in the wrong place at the wrong time is going to be dead. Thanks to yours truly indulging her fantasy.
Well, the list is long, life is getting short. Scratch that one off.
And then the miracle happened. Call it chicken intuition.
(I have to digress here. Widely I might add.)
You all know about my “retirement coop”, where good hens go to live out their days and die. When I first set this coop up I had no idea just how long chicken retirement lasts. I thought maybe a year or so after the first two productive years. WRONG! How about 8 more? Not everybody makes it that far. The length of a chicken’s life seems to be directly proportional to the amount they eat. The more, the longer. The skinny little Leghorns lay eggs for two years like crazy and keel over dead in year 3. But one of those nice heavy breeds, like a Partridge Rock, she saves her health and lays only now and then, eats a lot and lives to a ripe old age.
Back to first setting up the coop. In anticipation of early attrition I only put up a small hen house. Good for a half dozen hens, o.k. for a dozen. Well that was the first year. Next round, came time to move the “old” hens down and make room for the baby chicks, things got a little crowded. I get a dozen chicks about every other year, so do the math.
Fortunately in the middle of the coop sits a gnarly old Scrub Oak. Some of the better fliers of the flock would work their way up the branches of an evening and go to sleep in the Oak. This arrangement worked fine for year.
Enter the drought in the southwest and human encroachment on wild life turf.
About 10 years ago the first raccoon came to visit, a few years later a couple of Great Horned Owls moved in.
I went into the “better fence building” business.
In 6 not so easy steps, accounting for the learning curve:
1. The fence grew from 5 foot to 7 with the top two feet leaning outward.
2. I added an electric strand of wire about 3 feet up from the ground.
3. I added bird netting over the top
4. I attached the bird netting every 6 inches to the fence
5. I added industrial bird netting over the top of that
6. I lock the chickens up at night in the chicken house
Just in case you ever want to defend your chickens against predators, just go the whole route in one fell swoop. No sense doing it the way I did, one little hopeful step at a time, thinking this one surely will do the trick.
The netting in step 5 was a great idea, except…. raccoons apparently are high wire artists too. The beasties found out they could WALK on the netting.
So imagine the raccoon, set on dinner, climbs up the fence, launches himself about 8 feet with a little fancy footwork in the middle, and lands right on top of a sleeping chicken in the Scrub Oak. He grabs the neck, end of chicken. And to top it off, he can’t even take it home, she’s under the net, he’s on top.
And this is where we return to the story.
After the raccoon’s trapeze act only about 3 chickens thought that sleeping in the tree was a good idea. Everybody else decided to head indoors at dark. Might I add, the house is lit till 10pm. So it’s quite the place to be.
So after it is dark I venture out and check the Oak. One hen sits on a low branch, I grab her around the wings, and shove her into the coop. By this time hen number 2 has sailed to the ground voluntarily and heads indoors herself. Which brings us to number 3.
The reason for the story!
She’s a brown and gold Araucana, and she likes to sleep up high. High enough to where I can not grab her. The first time I gently shoved my hand next to her feet and began to pry her toes away from the branch and onto my hand. She got the idea and rode my hand to the ground. Now we do this every night.
Flash back! Wasn’t this what I was going to pay the big bucks for? Have a bird ride my hand?
Here I am, in the dark, in my house shoes, probably standing in chicken doo, in my back yard, no fancy lady, no knight hovering near, no entourage, no horse, but I GOT THE BIRD.