Have you ever stepped out into your yard to admire your flock while sipping the morning coffee and scratching your butt only to hear that death scream from above and see a fattened hawk circling upon high? Your mind races as you try to figure out what you can do to protect your chickens while still observing state laws protecting these majestic raptors.
It was just such a scenario that took away my most prized and eldest hen, Piper the Silkie.
Something I still get sad about to this day. It was her passing that inspired me to find a way to once and for all find a solution to the death from above scenario.
Then one day as I was walking through Balboa Park I heard a kerfuffle above the trees a little ways off. There was a muster of crows (a muster mind you, not a murder. That would’ve been crazy) and they were repeatedly dive-bombing a dark form at the top of a tree. As I approached I could make out that there was a large something at the top that was most definitely their target. They chattered and cussed at this blob of brown as they swooped and barrel rolled in some ancient symphony of purposeful movements.
Then the brown something exploded in a smattering of wings, feathers and razor talons. It was a huge Redtail Hawk! The crows seemed dwarfed in size compared to this beast rising from the canopy like a phoenix from the ashes. The hawk headed in my direction in a low-angled dive trying desperately to get away from this mob of crows. And as she raced away, the crows followed in a dance of targeted rage. Dive-bombing one after the other. I could make out large tail feathers being plucked and gently wafting down to the ground as she pumped her wings faster and faster. It was truly a spectacle to witness.
It also gave me an idea. What if I began leaving out treats for my local crows to keep their watchful eyes ever upon my backyard!? They’ll likely begin nesting nearby to a good food and water source and may even begin to trust this fuzzy lumbering bald ape-thing. So I began setting out peanuts and various fatty nuts in a little tray on top of a dormant water fountain.
It took about two days before I began seeing an empty tray in the backyard. After that, the tray would be emptied within the hour. I sometimes wouldn’t fill it up fast enough and the unseen diners would knock the tray over like so many mysterious Karens wishing to speak to secret managers. But were these the crows I was seeking? I had no way of knowing because they were rather crafty and would only strike if I was long gone.
So I set up a video camera to try to confirm I was actually building my crow army after all. Here’s a few videos from my little experiment.
So I was indeed well underway to establishing my sweet crow army after all!! I began dreaming of the inevitable future of me perched upon the roof of my house in billowing wizard robes as hundreds of crows circled my upstretched arms in a cacophony of exultation and praise. All would fear and love me. Mwahahaha!!! Oh, sorry. Got carried away again.
About a month after this I was able to see the fruits of my labors. From inside my lil happy home I heard the distant scream of a hawk. I quickly ran outside to make sure it wasn’t my sweet hens the beast was circling above. I peered towards the heavens using my hand as a shield from the intense California sun. Hawks have a way of using the sun as a visual blocker from their prey before the attack. Clever beasts.
By the time I was able to see the intruder, there was a second cry from above. And then another. And another. Four smaller black silhouettes appeared in the distance. My eyes strained against the bright morning sky. It was my army!! Death from above was replaced with caws and chattering of four enraged hired goons!! The hawk immediately made a bee line away from my now protected lands! And again, small patches of feathers began gently raining down to earth as the crows literally began nipping my problems in the bud.
Talk about legal and organic pest management! And they literally work for peanuts! So, dear gentle reader, if you’ve come here for tips on protecting your flock, look no further than you own personal crow army.
The next year and change I spent trying my damnedest to provide you with actual video of this action. It’s always either been too far away to film, or I haven’t had a camera ready when the attacks happen. I couldn’t really write this post until I had SOME kind of video and I didn’t want to use someone else’s video either. Well, the other day finally provided me the opportunity to capture this miracle of backyard flock protection in action. Observe.
My local tribe has even occasionally followed my car when running local errands. It’s not love though, they only want an explanation as to why the hairless ape thinks he can stop placing peanuts upon the alter. They yell at me a lot too.
After almost a year and a half, I am no closer to my rooftop wizardry dream. I blame the out-of-town work load.
However, the hawks in my neighborhood are now nervous and jittery. Always looking over their shoulder and quivering in fear in dark nests as they try to sleep with an empty and chicken-free stomach. In the quiet of the night, you can barely make out the sounds of their tired weeping. Piper will not have died in vain.
And when she leaves her nest in the morning, if she dare come to my hen house, dark silhouettes will appear above her. First one or two. Then many. Blocking out the very sun on a wind of caws and beaky vengeance. The Mind Your Dirt Goon Squad. Working for peanuts.
Post post script:
You may have been wondering what the hell I’ve been up to this past year. Or maybe you’ve simply forgotten me altogether. This pandemic year has been such an amazing personal journey for me. I spent the beginning of it just hunkering down, and like so many of you, began learning how to bake sourdough bread. And then eating all my bread. I got fat and happy real quick. Having nothing to do for the first time since I was a little kid on summer vacation was possibly one of the best experiences of my life. In lieu of fear and panic, I decided to simply breathe and reflect. Having nothing to do for so long was EXACTLY how I imagined it would be all those years of morning alarms ripping me away from pleasant dreams. I just existed.
The weird thing was, I did SO MUCH in that backyard. I had about 500 posts to share in my head, but my soul just wanted to live in the moment and not stop to document it. Does that make sense? It was part of some weird therapy that had my heart singing for months and months. I woke up as excited as I ever get for no reason whatsoever. Just another day to do whatever the hell I wanted. So I grew my own wheat and watched turn golden brown. I shared the harvest with local birds and hand-ground the rest with rocks from the yard. I used my sourdough starter, aptly named Pam Demic, with the fresh flour and made some of the tastiest breads and hot pretzels ever.
I also FINALLY installed this turn of the century lamp post from the Panama-California Exposition that has been sitting back there waiting for years…
And my yard, my critters and house and soul were all singing.
The only real issue was that I had JUST started my own business. Contracting with museums is all well and good until they all shut down indefinitely due to the Covid19 pandemic. Yet, my soul was singing.
And then the phone began ringing. A lot.
The last year has been a whirlwind of traveling and billable hours. I’ve been working in Hollywood since October building mounts for The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. I can’t talk too much about this project until the exhibition opens unfortunately. But believe me when I say the collection is a movie nerd’s wet dream! I’ve been HEAVILY geeking out every single day since October. Keep an eye on my business social media for details when I can release them…www.sparkandanvil.com or @sparkandanvil.
I then drive down in my free time to tend to my garden and hens. Which have all been thriving since all those months of attention in the beginning of the pandemic. I’ve been super busy, yet full of so much energy and enthusiasm. I think I really just needed that total disconnection in the beginning of the year. It has seemed to reset something in my mind.
My only regret is that I all but abandoned my near decade-long Mind Your Dirt therapy session blog project. I abandoned you. Dear and precious reader. To the wolves of uncertainty in a world seemingly gone mad. And I did it JUST when you all needed content like this the most as you are walled into your homes. We should’ve been breaking bread together and laughing and sharing. I will say this though, there is still no email or comment unanswered on this entire website. Or on the MYD social media platforms.
I will ALWAYS be here for anyone, anytime.
So drop me a line or a comment and let me know how you’re doing! What you’re growing or crafting. Who in your house is driving you crazy? Anything. Until then, I will continue striving for awesome and nuzzling all the critters. No big whoop.