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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37 Comments

  • 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!

    Shawna

  • […] 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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