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.

Be Socia­ble, Share!

37 Responses to “Bumblebee chickens attacked…news of an injury and a loss”

  1. Daniel (small kitchen garden) Says:

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

  2. 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.

  3. MA Says:

    Glad to hear T Boone is still on the mend!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Mr. McGregor's Daughter Says:

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.…

  13. 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.

  14. 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…

  15. Pam/Digging Says:

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

  16. Cindy, MCOK Says:

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

  17. Rick Says:

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

  18. Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence Says:

    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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. Shawna Coronado Says:

    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!


  27. Bumblebee Blog » Blog Archive » T. Boone Chickens is not a smart chicken Says:

    […] 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 […]

  28. 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.

  29. 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!)

  30. 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.

  31. 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!

  32. islandgardener Says:

    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!

  33. Bumblebee Blog » Blog Archive » Feathers and fur in the garden Says:

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

  34. Jayme aka The Coop Keeper Says:

    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!

  35. 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

  36. Garden Lily Says:

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

  37. Bumblebee Blog » Blog Archive » Update from The Chicken Garden Says:

    […] 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. […]

Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.


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