It’s been a while since I’ve written an installment of the Chicken Chronicles and I have to tell this story because I still can’t believe Popcorn is still with us. Over a month ago one of our chickens, Popcorn, was attacked by a hawk. Sadly we lost three of our other chickens a few weeks before that (Twinkle, Dolly and Ditto) but I thought it was a fox getting them so I had been keeping my eye out for an animal on the ground, not one in the air.
On the day that the attack happened I had been pretty vigilant about keeping an eye on the flock when they were free ranging outside of the run. I’d seen a hawk earlier in the day and I wasn’t too worried about it because I saw our crows chase it off so I didn’t think twice before stepping into the house for a few minutes. That hawk must have been watching me from a distance because just a few minutes later I heard a commotion. I know the sound of spooked chickens…it sounds almost like a turkey gobble, chicken gibberish I call it. I ran outside the back door and I saw most of the chickens huddling in a corner under the eaves but three were missing. I walked around to the other side of the house to find the others. At first I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary but then out of the corner of my eye I saw something past the chicken coop. I couldn’t make it out at first it, I thought it was just a paper bag blowing away, but then I saw a flash of yellow and I realized in horror that I was looking at the bottom of our chicken Popcorn’s beautiful 5-toed daffodil-colored feet. She was being dragged off like a limp rag doll…by a huge hawk!
Everything after that was in slow motion and I literally turned into Wonder Woman. All I remember is running across the yard past the chicken coop, slipping and sliding down the steep iced hill to where the driveway curved below the house. I was able to catch up to them and the hawk dropped Popcorn to the asphalt and flew up into a tree above us.
I was scared to approach Popcorn at first because she was laying motionless with her feet splayed out behind her. I thought she was most likely already dead or almost dead. As I bent down over the beautiful mound of feathers of my beloved chicken I thought I saw her eye blink. I looked closer and her eye DID blink! She was alive! I scooped her up and held her close trying to be as gentle as I could. Popcorn felt lighter than air, as if she were hollow. She felt so tiny all the sudden. I brought her into the house and she didn’t even move. She was obviously in shock and I didn’t want to stress her out anymore so I just put her in a cage with a towel over it so that she would rest. I tried to get her to eat and drink but she just sat perfectly still, and hardly made a peep all night.
I was so worried that she wouldn’t even make it through the night but the next morning I lifted the towel from the cage to peek in and Popcorn looked right back at me, blinking that one eye. I gave her a warm soapy bath and tried to assess her multiple wounds. That hawk was vicious! I was relieved though that most of the wounds were on the top of Popcorn’s body, her ultra-fluffiness had probably saved her life because the hawk’s talons are what could have caused the most damage. So many of her feathers were missing and they were strewn all over the yard, so poor Popcorn had put up quite a fight! Her poor wing only had two large feathers left! Her eye was still clothes but after swabbing it with Vetericyn she opened it up and I could tell that it was still intact. This wasn’t our first first aid for a chicken so I was prepared with a full chicken first aid kit.
Oh gosh she just looked so pitiful that second day! I was so happy when we were able to get her to eat and drink something and then she slept for almost the entire day and night again:
The third day when I gave her a bath she had a little more pep in her step and ended up soaking the entire laundry room so I could tell she was feeling a little better! Have you ever see anything so cute as Popcorn being blow dried?
Every single day Popcorn showed just a little more improvement. Her eye began to open up and she started to take a step here and there. The problem was her balance she wasn’t able to move much without wobbling or toppling over. Her morning rehab routine would consist of me scattering birdseed in the garage and she would move slowly around to pick it up:
After just a few days Popcorn was definitely making herself comfortable. She would sit and watch me from wherever I set her down:
She’s so tiny and cute you can’t help but love her. Here is our Christmas selfie:
Even though Popcorn was content in the warm house I could tell that she missed her friends. After about a week I decided to let Popcorn have a supervised visit with her friends out in the yard. She scratched and scavenged and even took a little dust bath.
She did okay when she didn’t have to move much but whenever she tried to do anything athletic (like preen her feathers) she ended up falling head over heels. In the video you can see her do a half somersault…and you’ll also see her beautiful daffodil colored feet!
After a few days she was doing so well hanging out with her friends that I just let her follow everyone back to bed in the coop at dusk but once in the coop she couldn’t get onto the roost where she sleeps. She jumped a few times and missed and it was too distressing for Sienna and I to watch. Eventually I put her in one of the nesting boxes where she seemed very content.
The next morning I checked on her first thing and the other chickens seemed to be okay with her. They picked on her a little here and there but she held her own and she just stayed to herself and found some areas to protect herself. I filled the run with all kinds of entertainment (hanging treats, dust bath, scattered food) to keep everyone busy which also helped. I mean who doesn’t like pecking at cabbages?!
For a while, when night came, Popcorn didn’t even try to get on the roost, she just went straight to the safety of a low nesting box. That’s where I’d sleep anyway if I was a chicken…balancing on a bar all night sounds dreadful.
By New Years Eve Popcorn seemed to be back to her old self except for her balance issue but she was learning to readjust her movement as needed. She was even able to start sleeping on the roost again with her friends.
The crazy thing is that before Popcorn’s hawk attack she was mostly black…in fact it was often hard to tell her and our other Mottled Cochin apart! And now all of her new feathers have grown back in white! She’s has completely changed colors:
I’m glad we named her Popcorn and not Ink or Pepper:
The hawk is still around and I don’t think it’s going anywhere so the chickens have been staying in their run unless one of us is outside with them. They are pretty content with all the attention we give them. I’m just glad Popcorn is still here! It was the best Christmas present ever.
You can read more chicken stories here if you are interested in the personalities of chickens. They are pretty fascinating…at least I think so.