Thursday, September 14, 2017

The young and the dangerous

The other evening, the chickens -- who were just starting to settle down in their coop for the evening -- started clucking in alarm. It went on and on. Don and I scanned the area for coyotes but saw nothing. The birds weren't quite settled in, so we couldn't close the coop door. But why were they cackling? Who could tell?

It wasn't until a few minutes later, while escorting Mr. Darcy out in the yard, that I saw the source of their discomfort.

Yeah, if I was a chicken, I'd cackle too.

This is one of two juvenile great horned owls that hangs around here. He's clearly growing up in size, though he still has the juvenile screech-call rather than the majestic hooting of his parents. This is what he looked like a month ago:

He may be young, but he's still dangerous (if you're a chicken), and he was brazenly sitting on the garden post a short distance from the coop.

And he was quite fearless. I kept moving closer, taking photos, and he didn't seem particularly alarmed.

I imagine it's tough for a young bird to make a living. The other night I heard him screech down in the woods, then a clatter of falling branches. I could only guess what was going on, but I imagine it had something to do with missing his chance for dinner. Still, that doesn't mean I'm going to sacrifice our chickens for his appetite -- or his blundering hunting attempts.

Interestingly, while he was sitting on this post...

...I noticed this chipmunk right beneath him. Probably he was frozen in fear, though since he was underneath a piece of fencing, he was likely safe.

After sitting there looking majestic for about ten minutes...

...he flew off to a more distant perch.

By this point it was getting too difficult to get a clear photo in the dim light, so I went back into the house.

But first I buttoned up the chickens. This owl may be young and blundering, but he's still dangerous.

If you're a chicken, that is.


  1. Chickens sense danger, yet most people these days do not. I guess that tells you who's the smartest! - lol

  2. Yup still dangerous and always will be. No not really. He'll no doubt move away before he starts taking your chickens.
    Color me doubtful. Does help with the crows though.

  3. Not so dangerous, you say? Wellllll.... Some years ago, the local ski slope in Girdwood, Alaska, had to stop people who were attempting to ski while wearing a fur hat (especially the kind with tails).

    A large owl (don't remember the species) was attacking those hats as folks skied past. Several hats were lost and some minor lacerations were endured.

    Steve Davis
    Anchorage, Alaska

  4. This is sort of off the subject but has to do with these birds of prey and others.These young birds are clumsy and it is hard for them to find food for that first year and if they make it through the winter they'll be lucky, so they say, but you sure don't want your chickens to be their meals. Had a young red tailed hawk here on the farm acting strangely and what I would consider too brave and didn't seem to mind us being close or our herd of alpaca charging up to him. I figured he had West Nile or starving. It was the latter. It took over five days to finally get him because it wasn't until the last day that he was so weak he couldn't fly up onto anything. Got him quickly into a large box and took him immediately to a wildlife center who deals with this and he was indeed starving. She said he wasn't quite two as his eyes had not turned dark. They were still light in color and that tells them he was still a youngster. Here in Michigan it has been really dry and I believe a plentiful food source for them is lacking and I think that played a big part of the problem. He did make it through the winter so that was good, but if he makes it now, which he has so far since I called on him last, they will get him back on his feet and they will release him back into the wild next spring. Putting him out into the winter coming up probably wouldn't do him well, so he'll stay with four others that had come in recently to the center from starvation. I'm very happy to know that there are people and organizations to help with these kind of problems with wildlife. By law, also in case someone doesn't know, unless you are licensed you are not to keep any wild animal. And you know what....that's a good thing. These people know exactly what they need and can provide the proper treatment and medication, food, etc. they need that we couldn't give. I love the wildlife, but we do need to be mindful and protective of our pets and livestock from the harm they can cause. Guess we all need to eat, but we sure don't want it to be our livestock or pets. Anyone who is concerned or needs help with wildlife can contact their state licensed rehabbers by putting into the search engine such as Michigan Wildlife Rehabilitators (Your state), and it will list all the licensed people and who and where they are located at and phone numbers. Great source of help I've found so far. Good luck with your chickens.

  5. Beautiful pictures.