This is a sad blog post to write, because once again tragedy has struck here at Bumblebee.

Almost since our chickens arrived, we have been in the habit of letting them out of their Palazzo and fenced outdoor run to have a walkabout in the afternoons for a couple of hours.

T. Boone prior to the attack

Their habits are fairly predictable. Once the gate is opened allowing them the freedom of the yard, the hens immediately charge toward the compost bin closest to their Palazzo to see what goodies I have thoughtlessly thrown in there rather than giving to them. The two roosters follow. But having little patience for salad treats, the roosters soon grow tired of waiting for the hens to finish their first course and leave them to go to the bird feeders, where they hunt and peck at the seeds the birds drop.

Come rain, come shine, since last September that has been the routine. Only twice did we have alarms from predators. Once, I happened to see a fox in the Back Forty while the chickens were on their walkabout. Another time a large stray dog wandered down the driveway just after I had let them free.

Thankfully, the chickens are well-trained to come when I call and will follow me like I’m the Pied Piper. This visitor-pleasing trick was easily taught after I realized that my chickens are corn addicts. They will do anything or follow anyone they think has a can of corn. Apparently, when they see me, their first thought is “CORN!”

Last week while I was in Annapolis on errands, Ben freed the chickens as part of our regular routine. When I returned at sunset, though, it was clear that something very irregular had happened.

There was a large collection of white feathers in the middle of the front lawn—the kind of feather that could only belong to T. Boone Chickens.

T. Boone was always the odd chicken out in the pecking order.

Knowing something was wrong, I parked the car and yelled inside for Ben to come out. The chickens were not in the coop. The chickens didn’t come when I called.

We began circling the house and calling “Chickens! Chickens!”

In the back yard, there was another enormous collection of feathers—these blue-black, clearly belonging to Johnny Cash.

Soon after that, Maude, one of our little egg producers, came out of the woods looking frightened but otherwise unharmed. We guided her into the Palazzo and went off in search of the other chickens.

Ben found Myrtle in a state of panic. She had taken refuge high in a tulip tree at the edge of the Back Forty. Although she is a corn addict, she wouldn’t budge from her perch for even that tasty treat. We ended up gently nudging her down with a long stick, but then she couldn’t be enticed to leave the edge of the woods, which were on the opposite side of the house from the Palazzo. After several unsuccessful attempts at luring her and then trying to capture her, I ended up getting Maude, Myrtle’s best friend. I cradled Maude in my arms while she clucked and cooed. Myrtle followed us right to the Palazzo.

About that time Ben discovered a whole new area of white feathers at the end of the Back Forty. After some more calling, T. Boone came limping out of the woods. Clearly, he was injured. We guided him into the Palazzo where I found he had deep, bloody puncture wounds on both sides of his body, suggesting the culprit was either a hawk or an eagle—both of which routinely fly over the hay field in front of our house.

Judging from the massive feather patterns, I think that the predator started by attacking T. Boone in the front yard, picking him up and heading south toward the Back Forty. T. Boone is a huge rooster and, I expect, put up quite a fight. The predator probably dropped him, creating the second massive patch of feathers and allowing him to escape into the woods.

We never did find Johnny Cash. Since all the other chickens had scattered in different directions to find refuge in the woods, I kept hoping that JC would come storming out of the trees like one of those movie heroes, a little battered but defiant.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Although we called and searched for a couple of days, there was nothing left of Johnny Cash, the chicken in black, but a collection of black feathers.

Ironically, Johnny was carried away and on to chicken heaven on the singer’s birthday.

T. Boone Chickens was so critically wounded that I didn’t think he would make it through the night. He settled into the Palazzo and hunkered down, keeping his head low and refusing to walk, eat or drink. He, in fact, did make it through the night although the next day he was still immobile and seemed dazed.

Ben dug a hole for his grave and I discussed the possibility of putting T. Boone out of his misery with my husband. But since none of us have the stomach for performing the act, even in mercy, we settled for making T. Boone as comfortable as possible, watching and waiting.

T. Boone following the attack. He is still recovering.

Never underestimate the regenerative powers of a rooster. Although we had given up T. Boone for dead, he continues to rally and improve daily. He is still slumped and is limping badly. But he is eating and drinking. As perhaps an even more encouraging sign that he is on the mend, he has taken over the roosterly duties with the hens previously performed by Johnny Cash (if you get my drift). Perhaps in this new pecking order, T. Boone will not be the odd chicken out that he has always been.

T. Boone Chickens may never regain his full strength and, in fact, may become our resident handicapped, or differently-abled, chicken.

I haven’t yet allowed the chickens out for a walkabout. It will take some time and chicken sitting before I think I’ll ever be comfortable with that habit again. And though I had previously enjoyed the sight of the hawks circling above, their presence now takes on a whole new meaning for me. I believe the whole Circle of Life thing is vastly overrated.

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  • Well told. Direct, simple, moving. I hope T Boone has a long, satisfying life. So sorry about Johnny Cash.

  • Nat says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your rooster! Traumatic to be sure. I hope that he pulls through. I am going to be getting a couple hens in May and I must admit that I am a little nervous. There a huge population of birds of prey in our valley. While most in our area are just small kestrels, the bald eagle population here is beginning to explode. I’ll have to keep my eye on them.
    I wish Mr. Boone well.

  • MA says:

    Glad to hear T Boone is still on the mend!

  • Racquel says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your poor Roosters & Chickens. I would love to have some Chickens in my yard but with the dogs & constant visits from the Hawks I’m alittle leary. I wish Mr. Boone a speedy recovery.

  • commonweeder says:

    Your chicken story is a reminder that nature is red in tooth and claw. My neighbor gave me her last four hens last week because ALL the others had been killed by a weasel . . . she thought it was a weasel anyway. They settled in well with my 16 chickens and everyone was laying like crazy, blue, beige and beautiful brown eggs. THen yesterday I went out and found three chickens dead and partly eaten and one big rooster severely damaged. He died later in the day. MY husband checked and found weasel tracks in the snow. He fixed what we assume was the weasel’s entry hole and set a trap in the shed. This morning my husband went out to check trap and chickens. The trap was spring, but spun around and turned over. We’ll try again, but weight the trap this time. The chickens were fine, but one of the other roosters who had seemed fine, now seems to be fading, although I cannot see any wounds.

  • What a terrifying experience for your poor chickens. T. Boone is one tough bird. I hope he enjoys his new position. I’m sorry you lost Johnny Cash.

  • Diana says:

    Losing an animal of any kind that’s a part of your family, be it chicken or gold fish is hard by and stretch of the emagination. I have had many animals that I have lost from sickness to old age and I still morn them. So sorry for your loss and in such a way that’s out of your control.

  • Gail says:

    Robin, I am so very sorry you lost Johnny Cash..He was a beauty. It is completely understandable that the girls and T Boone (may he continue to heal) stay inside for as long as they need to…I am already imagining an over head netting system so they can be safe! gail

  • El says:

    Oh Robin! Poor you!

    I do know how hard this is for you. Unfortunately with chickens (who’re everyone’s favorite meal) it takes “testing episodes” like this one to really see what the threats are out there. Their home and run is fabulous, I must tell you, but, as you have learned, they are oh-so-happier with a little yard tour. We regularly release ours from their pen for “happy hour,” as it usually corresponds with my garden time, but I do leave the dog outside with them to guard them if I step into the house. But still, my heart leaps every time an airborne shadow flies by.

    I hope T. Boone continues to heal. Limited and supervised releases might be the key.

    All the best. Poor birdies.

  • sarahliz says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. The one plus side to this is that as T. Boone heals he may become more of a people-chicken than he would have otherwise been. Plus he’ll be even more vigilant over his girls than an unattacked chicken would be.

    When I was a kid we had a rooster who was attached by a hawk when he was a bit younger (I think) than T. Boone. He was badly injured so my father brought him into the house to clean his wounds in the bathtub. But then, of course, he had a sopping wet rooster to deal with. So he did the only thing he could think of. He got out the blow dryer. Sadly my mother and I were out of town so neither of us got to see this spectacle. He kept the rooster in a box in our front entry way while he nursed him back to health. He recovered well and lived a long happy life. He was also the tamest rooster I’ve ever seen, which was a relief for me since I’d spent the earlier portion of my childhood trying to learn how to beat roosters off with a stick when they attacked me.

  • Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What a sad ending for the pampered flock. So sorry to hear that your chickens were taken. I can see how that would make you uneasy about having them outside without supervision. I wonder if they will even come out after such trama.

  • feralchick says:

    First, T. Boone is beautiful!

    Second: three things I’ve learned from living with chickens: 1) They have an L-shaped learning curve (i.e., they seem to not get it, and then suddenly they do), so they are very adaptable (after an initial fuss); 2) Chickens–especially roosters–are *very* careful (hence the term “chicken”), but they still get nailed by predators; 3) Given 1 and 2, it’s relatively easy to keep chickens more or less safe, but you have to get beyond what looks like “normal” chicken-keeping.

    After losing two very monitored and enclosed outdoor birds to raccoons (who figured out how to open their cage), my birds all stay inside–as in the house–in cages. (I actually started out this way with chickens because I lived in the suburbs at the time, and most of my rescues turned out to be roos.)

    They like it. I let them out in morning rotations, and if I leave them out too long, they come in on their own. In fact, if I don’t stay out with them, they’re unlikely to stay out either. (I’m fortunate right now to have a french door from “their room” to the yard.)

    But just like with kids, there’s always something new. I went back into the house yesterday morning to get a cup of coffee, and when I came back, I couldn’t find cockerel Sami. Finally figured out he was on the roof. An hour later, I had him down, but yeah, another lesson learned.

    For me, this is the challenge/frustration/joy of sharing life with chickens. It’s a whole other take on the world. . . .

  • Layanee says:

    The irony of the birth/death day! Sad news indeed and the other birds must need therapy. I always enjoy your chicken tales but this one had me riveted to the chair with a bit of fear. I am sure T. Boone’s recovery is partially due to his future expectations of husbandly duties. His injuries may seem a small price to pay (for him) the pleasure he will receive.

  • Diana says:

    Robin – I’m so sorry for your loss, and the horrific experience that you and your chickens went through. I’m glad that T. Boone i recovering — and I’m with you on the Circle of Life thing … it’s way over rated…

  • Pam/Digging says:

    It’s a dog-eat-dog—I mean, bird-eat-bird—world. Poor Johnny Cash!

  • Cindy, MCOK says:

    Here’s to T. Boone’s continued recovery and many happy moments in the performance of his duties!

  • Rick says:

    Here’s to Johnny Cash the rooster. A finer home no chicken would ever have found. RIP

  • It’s tough to be a chicken. We hope to get some girls next year, and this is my greatest fear. The heartbreak. I’m glad to hear T. Boone’s doing better.

  • Chiot's Run says:

    Always sad, but one of those things that happens when you have animals in the country. Glad to hear he’s on the mend.

  • MNGarden says:

    That is a heartbreaking lesson. We get so carried away with the beauty of nature, we forget it is one big food chain. I have the desire for some kind of birds in the garden. I have admired all the beautiful chickens. I was thinking of guinea hens. I want them to be free. We have wild turkeys. We also have wild everything else…foxes, hawks, owls. Perhaps that is why I haven’t gotten anythng yet. Here’s hoping your handsome TB recovers and your sanctuary returns to normal.

  • libby says:

    We had a banty attacked by an enormous hawk that had her pinned to the ground. He reluctantly surrendered his prey at the end of a long handled garden tool. Her tail was nearly severed, flesh and feathers missing, but miraculously she made a full recovery. Hoping yours mend well!

  • JeanAnnVK says:

    Poor Johnny…and poor T Boone. What a terrible thing to go through. I would have been completely freaking out.

    Sending TBC warm, healing wishes

  • RobinL says:

    Oh, the poor chickens. They must have been terrified! I’m sure T. Boone Chicken is enjoying his new status in the yard, despite his handicap!

  • eliz says:

    This is a very harrowing tale, but not surprising as even in the city there are predators and prey in the backyard animal kingdom. It’s just the way it is. I know someone whose large (and expensive) koi were routinely being decapitated by raccoons. I am glad your pretty hens were spared and that the white rooster is recovering.

  • Nancy Bond says:

    “differently-abled” = I really like that!

    Poor T. Boone – I do hope he makes a complete recovery. He’s a handsome fellow; all your chickens look healthy and well kept. Keep us posted.

  • Sorry to hear about the attack. I loved this story though – I wish I could have chickens in my garden.

    Let us know how the saga continues!


  • […] Boone, the critically injured chicken, is on the mend and being funny again. He still can’t make it onto the roost bar, so here is […]

  • cindee says:

    We have the same problem with our chickens. We put up netting recently and that has seemed to solve the problem for them. I use to let mine out too but the hawks sat and waited. It was really sad. So now they have a big huge pen they can run around in safely. I am sorry about JC and TBoone. I hope he recovers. Usually if they are not going to make it they don’t last the night so that is a good sign.

  • Bethany says:

    Sorry to hear about the loss and poor T. Boone’s inuries! Here’s to a cont’d recovery. (BTW He is so beautiful!)

  • rosemarie says:

    I’m sorry too – I always said I wanted to one day own chickens, but the thought of this happening breaks my heart.

  • stargardener says:

    I am just getting to my favorite blogs after being ill. Robin, I am so sorry about “whole circle of life” reality regarding The Bumblebee Chicken Fam.

    Please give T. Boone an extra snack of corn for me … Fortunately, he appears to take after his namesake: A tough ol’ bird!

  • Give T. Boone lots of kisses from me. I don’t have chickens, but have two geese. Sydney has had two injuries — the first of which was an attack by a hawk or other predator. I have written on my blog about how, just when she came back from that injury, she swallowed a nail. Many $$$ later, the nail was extracted and she is fine. However, they become your babies and they are so defenseless. It’s hard when things happen to them! LOL!

  • […] Boone Chickens has made an amazing recovery from the fateful attack that led to the loss of our beloved Johnny […]

  • Thank you for such a wonderful post. I found your blog by searching for ‘chicken attack’. Just last week I had a raccoon get in my coop. I’ve just two hens left now, one unscathed, and one on the mend. I almost put her down, but she is doing pretty good now. It was so touch and go there for a while.

    Glad to hear your rooster is doing well!

  • Melissa Stovall says:

    Hi, i too found your blog while searching chicken attack. i lost a banti frizzle last week and all that was missing was her head while out in the pasture. our hawks also circle over head all the time, plenty of field mice to hunt. yesterday an injured banti hen was found by my daughter, alive but with some of the back of her head and neck missing. she seems to be a fighter and hanging in there. i’m thinking about taking my 4 other remaining banti’s to the feed store today so they can find them new homes. i think this hawk is here to stay and i just cannot sit back and watch him pick them off one by one. so far none of our standard hens have been bothered, for that i am thankful.

    thank you for sharing your story. blessings to you and yours!
    melissa stovall

  • Garden Lily says:

    I am glad to see T. Boone has recovered so well.

  • […] Now that the Polish and Easter egg chickens are about 11 weeks old, it’s just a matter of days before we attempt the big move. Until then, they peck and scratch in the Chicken Garden under close supervision.  After all, we don’t want a repeat of the incident that took Johnny Cash. […]

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