How to Protect Chickens from Hawks

5 Ways to Keep Backyard Chickens Safe From Aerial Predators

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 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.

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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.

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You can see the wing imprints left in the snow and a pile of White Leghorn feathers from a failed attack.

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.

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Get A Watchdog

Our dog, Sophie, is great with our chickens and when she’s out with them, she is a wonderful deterrent. 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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

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Comments
  • We have our hens out every sunny day. We noticed that the crows hated the hawks. So we developed a friendship of sorts with the crows. We find them some dried cat kibble once a day and they protect our hens. One time their baby fell out the nest too soon and we helped it. That cemented our friendship. So we named our crows Mutt & Jeff and we call them when we see a hawk. In six years we have only lost one hen. When our hens hear a hawk cry they run for cover too. Crows are the best protection!

    Reply
  • I string lightweight twine over the chicken yard, like an umbrella without the fabric. The hawks/owls can’t get in (won’t try) because they know they can’t get their wings through the strings. It is not a physical barrier but it works.

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    • Yesterday I was out in the back with the chickens and the crows started making their alarm. The hens didn’t hesitate, they ran for cover before I looked up to see a pair or hawks cruising overhead.

      Reply
  • My wife and I love our chickens, but ultimately, they are just food for somebody (or some thing). Planting grasses and low shrubs is the best thing to do and keep food and water in protected areas to encourage them stay out of the open fields.

    Reply
  • my chicken yard is covered with mesh their house a is a gate house with widows and door a hawk flew in the door that was partially closed and knocked over a basket that my hen was hiding under and killed her i was sick i don’t know what more i could have done to protect them

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    • That is actually quite rare. Most hawks or falcons will not go into an area they cant swoop through, in and out. Sounds like if your door was shut then that would help too. Good Luck

      Reply
  • Hawk netting, cover your coop with it, it will keep the coons and possums out too.

    Reply
  • Pati F.

    I have a small orchard, and I let my chickens free range during the day. I have hawks and ravens that hunt in my pasture right beside the orchard, but have never had a problem.

    Reply
  • Thank you everyone that shared a post, as I am new to owning chickens. Your information is very informative.

    Reply
  • Another HUGE predator is the Opossum. All the chickens I have lost have either been from birds of prey or Opossum.

    Reply
  • I bought my first chickens in May. Some are not laying eggs. I love having them and my dog, a Golden retriever just loves them and really watches out for them when she is out. Just had a hawk swoop down and flew off when I waved my arms and yelled. Four of the chickens were under the trailer all but the banty who was out in the corner of the yard and on her way back. That is the one the hawk was headed for. Good I was there. Now I will have to make arrangements to keep them in the coop if I am not home as the dog would also be inside. I just put up a scarecrow. And I will look for a realistic owl.

    Reply

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