Even after seeing their sister snatched by a raptor, our two remaining hens continued to leave the relative safety of their run by flying over the electric fence. Many times each day we’d spot them strutting through the yard, half an acre from their coop. We’d herd them back in and they’d be out again within minutes. And really, we couldn’t blame them: an electric fence doesn’t mean much to a hawk, so they probably figured they might as well live it up while awaiting their untimely deaths!
We needed a multi-pronged solution. First, we wanted to add more hens to the flock. We couldn’t just replace the one we’d lost, because adding a single bird to an established flock will result in henpecking. So we returned to the farm where we’d gotten our original hens, asked for two more, and ended up coming home with three. (I was out-maneuvered in that discussion.)
Second, we needed to keep our girls inside the fence—for their own protection and that of our newly planted fall garden. (Seeds and seedlings are much more vulnerable to hens than the tough old tomato and pepper plants that make up our now-elderly summer garden.) My husband googled wing-clipping and found that it involves cutting only feathers; it’s bloodless and painless, and was surprisingly easy to accomplish. We clipped the wings only of our two original hens, giving the new girls a pass since they haven’t yet learned the bad habit of escaping. If they ever figure it out, they too will get the scissor treatment.
Third, we wanted to do our best to keep the hawks away. We bought some monofilament fishing line and strung it from the tops of the electric fence stakes in a 3-foot grid. And we tied CDs to the lines to create a shimmery effect in the sunlight. This is all supposed to repel hawks, without harming them.
So far, so good! And it’s pretty neat to look outside and see a flock of five. We named the big red one Joan.