How to Protect Chickens from Hawks
5 Ways to Keep Backyard Chickens Safe From Aerial Predators
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When I walked out to the chicken coop and looked up, I was horrified to see a red-tailed hawk calmly eating one of my White Leghorns. When the hawk spotted me, it flew off and dropped the Leghorn’s body. As a lifelong birdwatcher, I was thrilled at the hawk sighting. But, as a backyard chicken owner, I hated to see my chicken killed. Of course, I then wanted to know exactly how to protect chickens from hawks. The red-tailed hawk is one of three species in the United States known as a chicken hawk. The other two are sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks.
Fast forward a few months later, and I came across the scene in the snow pictured below. It’s clear that a hawk or owl tried to attack one of my Leghorns. Lucky for the Leghorn, the hawk or owl missed; all were accounted for after I took a quick head count. If you have been wondering do owls eat chickens, now you have your answer.
The reality of my situation is that my chickens free range during the day. I live right next to the woods and we do have nesting hawks. It is illegal to kill birds of prey and I would never want to do that. So, here are my top five ways to learn how to protect chickens from hawks and other aerial predators.
Roosters Make Great Hen Protectors
My hens were always pretty good at protecting themselves. But adding a rooster stepped up the protection. Many times I’ve watched our rooster, Hank, scanning the skies for flying predators. If he sees something, he’s quick to let out his alarm call and gather the hens in a protected spot. Then, he’ll walk back and forth in front of them, keeping them together until danger has passed. Now I know that not every rooster is great at protecting his flock. But if you find a good one, keep him! It’s a highly desirable rooster behavior.
Get A Watchdog
Our dog, Sophie, is great with our chickens and when she’s out with them, she is wonderful at protecting chickens from predators. So I make sure to let her out at various times throughout the day. This way predators don’t catch onto her schedule. If they don’t know when she’ll be out, then they are extra cautious.
Make A Scarecrow & Hang Shiny Objects
I like to put my Halloween scarecrows to good use year-round by mounting them around the chicken yard. Just make sure to move them every few days so the hawks don’t figure out your tricks. Also, shiny, hanging objects can confuse flying predators. I like to use pie tins. I punch a hole in each tin and tie them from random tree branches. Here’s another interesting idea for how to make a scarecrow out of old garden hoses.
Predator vs. Predator
Hawks don’t like owls and vice versa. So head to your local farm supply store and pick up a fake owl. (Mine has been around for a while, so please excuse his missing eye!) Mount him in your chicken yard and watch the hawks scatter. Just make sure to move him around to get the full effect. One word of advice, this has worked well for me, but I’ve seen reports where it didn’t work well for others. So don’t make this your only form of defense.
Plant For Cover
When chickens spot an aerial predator, they need a place to hide. Our chicken coop is off the ground so our chickens often hide underneath it. Plus, they love to go under our deck and the overhang of the house. In addition, I have lots of shrubs and bushes planted throughout my yard that are favorite hangouts for my birds.
Unfortunately, aerial predators are not the only predators you have to worry about. Here are some additional articles to help you tackle a range of four-legged predators. Do raccoons eat chickens? Yup, and it’s important to learn how to raccoon-proof your coop and run. Do foxes eat chickens? Yes, they do. Tell-tale signs are missing birds, piles of features and a panic-stricken remaining flock (if any). The good news is you can learn how to keep foxes away from chickens as well as other predators like coyotes, skunks, dogs, weasels and more.
Good luck predator-proofing your flock!
5 thoughts on “How to Protect Chickens from Hawks”
I use old beach and patio umbrellas as a deterrent. Some I paint large pairs of “eyes” on them. Prior to doing this, I had a hawk attack on one of my favorite bantam hens on a very warm January afternoon as I was cooking for dinner guests. She was saved by my mixed RIR/Silkie hen when she began flogging the hawk, causing it to drop her. She suffered an artery puncture but survived and was up hobbling around the next day. She passed about a year ago at almost 5 years old. She was one of my best broodies, raising several clutches of chicks and ducks. None since using umbrellas.
Also, if you have crows around, then hawks tend to stay away. I never shoo crows away even from my bird feeders.
We had problems with Hawks, which someone passed on the thing of stringing aluminum pie pans on line every 5′-10′ or such over them. I do not remember details, just the fact a few rows were made making maybe a 15′ overhead of nylon string with pie pans strung on them. It worked a 100%.
Where it’s good to get input from others that actually found resolve.
Then we had turtles that’d come up and get our baby ducks. Which gave me the opportunity to get good at shooting a .22 rifle.. But always be careful as if you miss and the bullet clips the water, it’ll ricochet off and keep flying.
Be careful covering a run also, diligence is key to protection. We have an 80 ft run with ground cover and completely netted. Came out one morning to a Cooper Hawk inside the run on a large tree branch. Listening to my roos in two adjoining pens lead me to take a closer look, finding to bugger had invaded the hen run. The hens were just let out and had immediately ran for cover. Discovered a small gap at the top of the fence where several wire ties had been damaged by out Fl sun. Evidence of the hawk sitting along the 8 ft fence top. Game wardens removed him and we released on site. Said they will scope out an area for weaknesses. Needless to say, a daily inspection of entire runs and closer attention to maintenance is always a necessity.
Thank you for your article on hawk intervention. I have seen references to scarecrows, but not the point about moving them around. We have considered bringing a dog onto our homestead for alarm and flock protection, but wonder how to train dogs to not harm the flock. We have no rooster, and I have a feeling having a rooster might complicate having a dog, so tips on a canine/rooster peace protocols would be helpful, tool. We have many species of predatory birds in our area including bald eagles. We used to graze our hens in an open patch in our garden, but on our first day there, a bald eagle made a practice dive at the flock just as I walked back into the garden to check on them. We now move our hens around the zones nearer to our home to graze so we can hear tehm if they get spooked,, and hit on creating long stakes with long, heavy barn roof nails bracketed to one end. The bracket is bent at right angles to provided a small section that can be stepped on to set it into our soil, which can be rocky or just hard and dry. We space several spikes around the area where we graze the girls. We have never lost a hen using these, but we noticed when we are not right with them, they remain near where bushes overhand their mobile pen. I now set a lightweight shelter made with a 2×4 frame and corrugated steel roof big enough for all of them, or our 3’x4′ garden cart in the mobile pen with them. If they see anything flying overhead they duck for cover under there. I will try a scarecrow on a spike, too. Maybe it will have an umbrella as a skirt for the girls to cluster under.