Last night I saw something surprising that both horrified and thrilled me in equal parts. I was out collecting the eggs from my coop and run when I noticed my Welsummer hen, Beatrix behaving strangely. In the corner of the run she was shaking her head wildly back and forth. I then noticed that there was something held in her beak, something small, limp and not quite distinguishable in the fading light.
Curious, I moved closer for a better look, but this spooked the hen and she ran to a far corner under the coop. Several times I tried to get close enough to investigate what she was shaking and then beating against the ground. Each time, Beatrix would guardedly turn her back towards me or dash to the opposite end of the chicken run. Finally, I was able to make out the shape of a small (presumably) dead mouse in Beatrix mouth. I was shocked!
I continued to watch Beatrix thrash this poor mouse about, then drop the corpse on the ground, peck at it a couple times and then scoop the dead rodent back up and repeat the process. She seemed to be “playing” with the dead mouse, similar to how a cat enjoys its dead prey before devouring it.
Beatrix, indiscreet while relishing her dead mouse, was noticed by her flock mates. Frick and Frack (the matching Sumtaler hens) in particular were keen to steal her prize. At one point the duo worked in tandem to try to snatch the limp mouse body from Beatrix’s clenched mouth. Beatrix broke free of their organized attack and ran to the corner of the coop nearest me. With a flick of her head, Beatrix repositioned the corpse head first and swallowed it whole in just a couple of gulps.
Is it wrong that somewhere deep inside me I felt a swell of pride? My hen was a lethal mouse hunter! The flock had demonstrated that they could deal with small intruders in their house. My only regret is that I couldn’t catch the incident on film. I’ll have my camera ready for the next mouse hunt.
Photograph Credit: “Wood Mouse” – by Jans Cannon