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 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.


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.


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.

Protect Chickens

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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    • 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

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

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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.

  • I have three nanny goats and I think that’s why the Hawks have left the hens alone.

  • On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I laid down for a nap. When I awoke all of my chicken were missing from the yard. In all my years of free ranging my chickens, this is the first time in mid day I’ve had coyotes on my property. Lost all of them, had to start over this year, this year I bought plans from John Suscovich for chicken tractors, so have been busy making them. love you article, also just purchased a dog for protection of them, and also and installed field fencing around the perimeter of the property. I’ll also be putting up temp premier1 electric fencing around the chicken tractors. thanks for all you do.

  • I have a Border Collie/Aussie cross and I’ve seen him tackle a hawk in mid air when it was dive bombing a chicken. He is very protective of everything, including the chickens. Hawk escaped, lost a few feathers, but chicken was unscathed and hawk did not come back.

    • That’s a very good doggy you have! I have an Aussie/terrier mix who is also protective, but is very serious about being a herding dog, and chickens don’t seem really thrilled about being herded. She is a very good security system, though. If she’s outside and something or someone who doesn’t belong shows up, she lets us know. She’s small and sweet and gentle, but her bark and her growl are very convincing.

  • My pens are 7 ft high, the one that houses my 20 pullets has orange netting over it. My other pens did have deer netting over them till this past winter. 10.5 inches of heavy wet snow collapsed the netting during the night. I was just home from being in the hospital after two surgeries (1 was for a massive hernia) so I had to call a neighbor to help dig them out. I have thicker netting at the top of my pens – nothing has managed to climb and get in so far. I ran electric fence wire across the top pole to pole as a deterrent to hawks and owls. In the large common area, I only have a 4 ft fence but took an old patio umbrella and painted a large pair of eyes on it. I see hawks pass over my flocks heading for other neighbors that free range too. So far the umbrella works as a deterrent, plus gives shade from sun and shelter from rain. We have woods on three sides so we can get our share of unwanted predators. Now, I have in the past, had a hawk attack one time and nearly got my bantam, Gray Girl, but my Silkie/RIR cross saved her by attacking the hawk herself. I was inside cooking for company that was coming. My boyfriend and his cousin were taking advantage of a very warm Jan 2, 2017 day to work on mowers. They heard the commotion and as the went to look, they saw everything happen and yelled for me. She was alive but bleeding bad, I managed to get it to stop and put her in a quiet place. I periodically checked on her till nightfall. Next morning she was up and about with a slight limp. Now she’s 3 1/2 and is one of my natural brooders for my duck and standard chicken eggs. She still lays her own too. Oh, lastly, we have motion sensor lights around coops too for added protection.

  • My girls live in a large fenced yard at the edge of the pine woods that surrounds my property. Our town has an ordinance that prohibits free-ranging and bans roosters, so this is the best I can do. While the fence ensures that they are law-abiding citizens, keeps them safe from the neighbors’ dogs, and keeps my garden and landscaping intact, it also means that they don’t have all the hiding places they would have if they could range. After a hawk killed my Plymouth Rock this summer, I started looking into options for keeping the girls safe from above. I put a wooden pallet up on some cinder blocks to give them a little extra cover and to provide a little extra shade from the sun. But I also installed netting over the top of the chicken yard. I was able to find a piece big enough to easily cover the 15′ x 30′ yard on Amazon for a very reasonable price, and since I got it installed there have been no more incidents. Hawks still circle, but they don’t dive because they see the net. It’s a solution that has worked very well for me, and if you also have a small flock that you keep in an enclosed area, it’s an easy and inexpensive way to help keep your girls safe from above.

    • Can you tell me more about the netting you got from Amazon. Do you have a better description? I bought netting at Tractor Supply and covered my chickens but a hawk got in yesterday and killed one of them.

  • My chickens were attacked by a hawk recently and thank fully, I was right there in the house looking outside when it happened. The hawk came in and tried to slice through the wire of our chicken run. The younger juvenile chickens seeked shelter, while our older one lurked out watching. I came running and the hawk flew off. I comforted the chickens and made sure they were alright. They were fine, but very shaken.


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