Though we haven’t confirmed it, we think a hawk has discovered our chickens, and marked our back yard as a gold mine for a hungry stomach. This past summer a neighbor said he had seen a hawk hanging out in the tall trees in the neighborhood, and not long after, one of our younger chickens was attacked and killed – but not carried away, oddly.
This past month was an especially brutal one. We have lost two full-grown hens (though they are both part-bantam); one left a lot of feathers behind but the other could have been raptured in a chariot of fire for all the evidence left to us.
Our winter routine here in our little urban homestead has been to park our small tractor-coop in the garage once the nights get cold, then let the chickens out into the fenced yard during daylight hours. But with their coop in the garage, and an especially snowy winter this year, their options for shelter in the back yard have been severely limited.
This winter’s dilemma, then, has been whether to coop them up in the garage all winter, or turn them out to be easy targets during the day? (Only one of our chickens is a white Leghorn; the others are/were dark-colored and easily spotted against the snow.)
After winter is over, we’ll probably need to go the traditional route of building a larger permanent outdoor coop with a good-sized fenced run, complete with ceiling of chicken wire or hardware cloth. The tractor coop could still be a secondary shelter, maybe, or a separate coop for introducing new chickens to the flock.