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!