|Red Tailed Hawk|
(Photo courtesy of
"Wayward" on Wikipedia)
Over the years, I've lost a number of roosters to various predators. Although I'm rarely there to see a wild animal go after the chickens (I did glimpse a fox once), I have seen the roosters stand up to cats and people. In a free-range flock of chickens, the roosters are always on the alert for danger. They are the sentries of the flock. There is a distinctive "predator alert" call they give, which the other chickens recognize immediately and run for cover. The rooster himself will often attack whatever is threatening them, and this is probably why so many lose their lives. The banty that the hawk was eating must have put up a terrific fight; there were feathers all over the place. But every other chicken made it safely into the shelter of the coop, where I found them all cackling and raising a huge racket.
Of course, if I kept the chickens penned up in cages all the time, this would not happen. But part of the reason I have my own chickens is because I do not want my eggs to come from factory farms. Giving the chickens freedom to scratch, peck, flock together and do all the things chickens do means a certain amount of risk. But I believe the chickens, like most people, prefer some risk rather than be locked up. Every living thing craves freedom.
There was a time when a farmer would shoot a chicken-stealing hawk as a matter of course. Nowadays, these birds are protected, which I consider a good thing. Although a hawk might take a chicken now and then, he is more likely to grab a mouse or a rat. The number of rodents eaten by raptors is huge. (I remember seeing a story about a family of Red-Tails that nested on a building near Central Park, New York. I'll bet they found plenty of rats around there!) So really, these beautiful birds are more beneficial than destructive. Death is a part of the circle of life. Although it is indeed sad to lose one of my roosters, I still prefer to try and live in peace with the hawks and other wildlife around here.