Advice on stopping hawk from killing chickens

romycatMay 31, 2008

I live on a beautiful homestead and had have free-ranging Bantam chickens and guineas for years. As expected, predators occasionally kill a chicken but the birth ratio has been much higher than the deaths. Until this spring.

A hawk or pair of hawks have begun targeting our Bantams. Repeatedly we have seen a hawk swoop down and take off with a half grown chick. Some of our hens have lost their entire brood to the hawks. Today I witnessed a hawk attacking a full grown hen. Yelling, I ran towards the hawk and it flew away empty taloned.

The whole flock is very nervous. All morning my chickens have been constantly sounding the hawk alarm call and the chickens stay in hiding under the house and in sheds. They now live in constant fear of death from the sky.

I would appreciate advice on what can I do to discourage visits from hawks. Is shooting the hawks the only option? I know the hawks probably have their own offspring to feed. I admire their hunting skills and know they are an important part of the food chain. I would freely give them all the mice and wild rabbits they could catch, but I don't enjoy losing dozens of my chickens to them.

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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Don't shoot the hawks, they are only doing what comes naturally. If you continue to supply a free and easy food supply, why shouldn't they eat them?

You need to protect your chickens better with an enclosure, then after a while the hawks will move on when the food supply is cut off.

Your chickens must be constantly terrified, and I'll bet you've seen a drastic reduction in their egg production because of this. :(

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 5:09PM
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It is illegal to shoot birds of prey but your frustration is warranted. I also have a problem with predators from the sky as well as the typical ground variety, raccoon, foxes, possums and coyotes. I was forced to pen my chickens who had previously free-ranged. I'm afraid it's the only sure way to protect them. My barred owls hang around hoping for a misstep. They've even perched on my fence ouside the kitchen window looking for some tasty snack. No mice at my house or in my feed shed! I also keep my bird feeders full year round which also provides a food source for them from time to time. Nature can be cruel.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 7:28AM
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We lost a few beloved hens to an enormous Bald Eagle before our rooster came of age and we expanded their pen to include forest cover. The rooster is always alert to movement in the sky (while the hens are busy scratching, pecking, and dirt bathing). He will herd the hens into the woods or coop at the least sign of danger (even an airplane) and keep them there as long as necessary. It has been a year now and though we often notice eagles and hawks circling overhead, they have never gotten one of our hens. Truly amazing!

Our present rooster is a standard Delaware breed, but we have had other breeds over the years (including banty) that took their job just as seriously. Can you employ the services of a rooster or two? The only other approach I know of is to provide an enclosed pen with wire roof.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 1:19PM
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At what age is it safe to the the chickens free range outside their fenced yard? Mine are approximately 10-12 weeks of age. I want to let them run in the yard/on the property, but am afraid I will have to chase them to get them in at night, or they will simply wander off and not return.
The fenced area is getting too small for them. I am getting ready to move them into a bigger coop and yard. They go into their little coop at night right now on their own, but they are fenced in....
Also I have 4 mallards and 2 pekings, I have a creek near the fowl yard, will the ducks return or will they just sail on away?
I have hawks too, I don't know if it will be any worse if they are loose.
I have read about getting the bird netting over the yard and will probably order that, but I wanted them to run freely during the day as much as possible.
I hate the idea of them being penned in all the time, I have no close neigbors, so there is nobody to bother.
Please let me know what you all think...
I am new to chicken, thanks!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 2:53PM
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I agree,,you need a safer place for your hens..otherwise you will lose your whole flock :(
I also had to redo a higher fence ect because of predators,,but that's what you get in the country and especially with keeping animals. we need to be the higher power sometimes and protect our animals from a certain death.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 3:49PM
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yes please don't shoot the hawk its against the law
if you get a few great horned owl statues this should stop them as one of the only few predators that hawks have

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 5:21PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Do not shoot hawks. That is not an option. If the pigeon fanciers who have been killing raptors for the last few years keep doing it I would imagine that conversationalist hunters are going to declare open season on all pigeons even those in cages, that is not an issue we want associated with chickens.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 7:21PM
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We free range most of our birds, waterfowl mainly, some chickens. Over the years we've always lost many to hawks, coyotes, & foxes. We really had a hard time keeping the females alive, as when they nested, they'd stay with the nest & become dinner (we assume, as it was always the females disappearing). We freerange the birds mainly for bug control.

The killing sprees stopped cold when we bought our first livestock dog. She took to the birds naturally, with limited training. Now they (we bought more) patrol and keep everything at bay. They protect the pastures, barn, and house. The first trained the rest. Good fencing is needed.

Just having a few birds may not warrant the sole expense of a livestock dog for some people, but if you forego a house dog when the time is right, and get a livestock dog, it can protect where it is needed, and earn his keep by zero loss. We have a dual purpose male Pyr, and contrary to what one reads on the "official" websites, they can be trained as dual purpose, it just takes a little longer. Be sure to get one raised with livestock & fowl, because mama dog would have given the basic fowl training (a bird guardian can be hard to train).

I suggest this because today the issue is a hawk, tomorrow it may be a fox, possum, or raccoon. Brush won't help much with those predators.

Alternatively, unless you can lose a bird or 2 or 3 every once in a while, I'd suggest not freeranging, and build a coop. Cement floor, solid walls, and a wired door & window or two. Make a 2nd set of outside doors/windows solid for nightime/winter closure. Just be sure to use 2 kinds of wires, the hardwire cloth and the stronger 1x2 wire overlapping for the summertime/daytime door/windows. Works like a charm for a coop.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 8:05PM
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I'm sorry for your losses - it's heartbreaking.

I have a lot of chickens (at one time - 1,000 + - now about 750). Obviously, predators are a huge concern.

I have lots of bunch grass on my property. Although I hate it, I keep stands of it, for the chickens to hide under for protection against arial predators.

I have the majority of my flock within portable electric netting, which keeps out dogs/coyotes/raccoons, etc. INSIDE that fence, I have Great Pyrs to protect the chickens. However, these have been raised from birth to protect chickens. Mine are lousy with sheep (which I also have).

I've seen my male drive off a hawk attack while I was in the shelter area collecting eggs. The hawk stopped in mid-descent. Truly amazing.

HOWEVER.....I still sustain losses from Great Horned Owls. My theory is that as they fly silently, the dogs don't notice. They swoop down, and just eat the bird's head or part of the head - maybe the dogs interrupt?

I've noticed that the losses usually occur during moonlit nights. It's bright enough for the hens to walk out to the water area away from their shelter, and I think the owls take advantage.

I'm in the process of building a much bigger, more secure shelter area, and will put the water up close to the hoop house. Together with the dogs, I'm hoping that this will decrease attacks (just 2-3/month).

For your birds....I'd consider planting shrubs/long grasses, overhead enclosure, etc. to stop them getting picked off one-by-one AND a suitable dog, in the unlikely event you can find one.

Best of luck!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2009 at 9:35PM
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Get a dog...

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 6:17PM
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We had an Australian Sheperd that protected our chickens when we lived in Ill. He also kept the ground hog population under control! But NOTHING got near our livestock or chicks! And this was without was just natural for him.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 5:09PM
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Fence them in I use to let my chickens out every day till neighbors dogs killed all 2xs .no more.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 3:10PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Why are people suddenly dredging up and responding to threads that are years old lately...? Just curious, I keep seeing this. It's like a zombie attack. ^.^

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 4:10PM
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What are you talking about people are giving you good advice I dont see anybody attacking you???

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 10:43PM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

It keeps coming up because every year someone has a problem with how to protect their chickens.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 8:24PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

bulldinkie, that was a joke, hon. :) Attack of the dead threads! I didn't say anyone was attacking ME.

I just noticed lately that really old threads are being dredged up and answered, even though the questions are at least a year old and have been resolved already...

Just mildy curious is all, it's been fooling some people who aren't looking at the date the questions were asked, I guess. This one, for example, had two years between the last post in 2009 and an answer in 2011. Just wondered if anyone else had noticed it...*shrug*

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 5:49AM
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YEP!YEP!YEP! You are right! The dead thread lives! You newbies are reaching out for help and old timers sharing new and old tricks. That's the way it is supposed to be-help one another...we mostly due it for the fun of it but times are tough and times will get tougher so backyard flocks poking up all over is a reflection of the times. So we will try to leave a blanket of help here that will repeat some of what is above and newer techniques to try..

I am not a pro but I have had great success or just dam* lucky you be the judge! 26 years and I never lost a chicken to a predator until this week..lost the whole flock except for one and now she is named Lucky. Three things went wrong, 1. more than person was putting the birds to bed 2. as a result the coop door was not closed 3. the fence was left off around the coop and you could call this #4 we brought the dogs in that night to get them out of the heat(90 degrees and 85-90% humidity at night) and BAMM-in came one opportunistic coon. We were sick of course..:( Mistakes happen and sometimes you get lucky, but not this time..The dogs are our back up if we for get something.

Here are the items we have in place..

During the day we have three dogs, a Great Dane, Great Dane/lab mix, and an Australian Shepard who are very well trained in the natural way of Alpha order(natures pack order as mentioned above). They protect against all four leggers, including the neighbors dogs. Danes are used to hunt hogs and their technique is to grab around the neck and pin them down so one time of this and the dogs never come back after I release them upon command(heck I wouldn't either!). Cats for the rats and mice...yes they sleep beside/with and walk around with them-they could careless about chicken.

Now for the assassins of the sky we have Guineas air alarms..nothing escapes them, it only takes one and they all start going off. Due to the exited sound you have 400 pounds of dog coming for back a 30 pound feather ball(99%) heads off empty. Did have a Turkey Vulture(1%) fail to recognize the situation and be came the main course himself. Guineas are great for ticks and snake control and are self sufficient on feeding themselves until winter comes. Raise them with a batch of chicks and they will treat them as one of their own. I wouldn't put Guineas in as adults or introduce them into an established flock..chickens are the problem because they have a peaking order.
At night we put everyone in the coops, lock the door, electric fence on to keep them from trying to dig in or whatever, dogs loose, and RED electric eyes. You can get these on EBAY cheep-the red eyes mimic a predators eyes when light hits them and the eyes move. This works well but when things become 'a constant or norm' they get ignored so MOVE the eyes to different locations and have more than one. Four or five work best, place high, low, and around the perimeter not on one or two sides so the animal has a better chance of seeing it or it doesn't get out of sight and thinks it has pulled a fast one one the predator. FYI Guineas also work at night TOO! IF you do use dogs they will get the critter treed now and again so you will have to decide how you wish to deal with it...remember they will come back!
If you have a lot of land or you live in farm country, most farmers don't like coons either so talk to your friends and organize a coon hunt in the area. Especially the opening day/night by having a wiener roast or small event to entice them over.
Well I am sure this is enough reading for ya so good luck and keep the "DEAD THREAD ALIVE". No one knows everything and not everything works for everyone.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 11:51AM
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me and my family put up a giant bird netting that protects our chickens from hawks and other predictors. we also had set up an electric fence. then we bought a small airsoft gun so if a chicken gets out and the hawk goes after it than we can scare it with a small plastic bb that goes 300 fps and it doesn't hurt the hawk, just scares it. than we put up cement barriers that stop ground predators.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2012 at 7:20PM
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Yeah, Velvet, I noticed it was an old thread too, but I wanted to read it and see what others were doing. I had a rash of hawk attacks this year and lost three good hens in one month. My solution was to build a new enclosure that has a chicken wire roof. It's a grand structure and the perimeter is smaller than the old pen, but at least the chickens will be safer.

And yes, after a predator attack egg production falls to 0 for about a week. In the Spring it's snakes, so the new enclosure has a cinder block foundation and hardware cloth to the 4.5 foot level. In summer it was racoons and 'possums so the walls are 12' high. In late summer it was the hawks so the chicken wire extends all the way over the top. Trees have been cut away from the perimeter so tree-climbing snakes won't be able to get in above the hardware cloth. Small openings between the wooden structure above and the cinder block foundation are filled with expanding foam.

And finally, just to be on the safe side, the chickens are still locked into the coop as soon as they go to roost at night. My girls are safe now, I hope. Cheryl

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 2:28PM
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I feel guilty for keeping my chickens contained, but with a lot of predators out here, I figured it was the only way. They have a large insulated coop, and a fenced in outdoor enclosure, the top is fenced as well.

My neighbors also have chickens, and have, through time, lost two whole flocks, mostly to hawks. Each time they'd get new chickens, they kept a rooster too, but both roosters ended up chasing their kids, so each rooster was either given away or eaten. They never had a problem when they had a rooster...I've never had one, so I don't know, but they swear by protecting their flock with a roo...from past experiences. After all, their roosters would attack anything that moved!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 9:03PM
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Roosters don't help. I lost one yesterday. Have not free ranged my flock yet but have wanted to. Well the roosters have been a nuisance so we thought we would try with them first. After only 1 day we came home and caught the hawk in the act of eating one of the roosters. The other was hiding in a flower pot! That hawk is one bad bird!We currently have 2 baby ducks and 5 baby guineas that we were hoping to free range. Thinking about a border collie maybe. Will the hawk kill the guineas too? Guess a meal is a meal.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 11:57AM
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Look into chicken tractors, or put a "chicken moat" around your yard. And if you want to "free range" your birds, make sure the chickens have plenty of cover to duck into.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 2:05PM
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If a predator takes one of the extra roosters, that is one hen that is not lost....... But they do not offer protection. The dogs do that well, even against birds. They even chase away the crows. I was giving a farm tour one day to homeschoolers - about 60 folks total. An airplane flew low over the group and the dogs chased the airplane away. :) The visitors really got a kick out of that. It makes you wonder what the dogs would do if they ever actually caught a truck or airplane.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:02AM
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I, too, have found that roosters don't prevent hawk losses. They do provide warning and let me know when everybody is upset about a hawk, but they don't absolutely stop the kills. I've gone into the chicken pen three times in the last few months to see a hawk fly away from a hen it had just killed. Roosters were standing around sounding the warning, but not actually stopping the attack. And these are mean roosters. I have to carry a stick into the pen to gather eggs and feed/water. Apparently they are more afraid of a hawk than a 150lb human.
And, there isn't anything wrong with a 'dead' thread being revived. Its better for noobs to do a search and read what is already there on the topic than to constantly post new threads on the same topic that everyone gets tired of answering.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 3:10PM
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Hi! I am new to owning chicks and a runner duckling. I have three 3 week old chicks and one 3 week old runner duck. I was doing a search for help on preventing hawk attacks and found this. :)

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 10:25AM
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Thanks for all the great advice. First loss of the flock today - rather unexpected! - and it was great to find so much helpful info.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 4:09PM
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Those who say a rooster won't stop hawk attacks either don't have the right breed, or else didn't raise them to be flock protectors. I've had Sussex, RIR, Easter egger, and Brown leghorn roosters, and by far the leghorns are the best of their kind for repelling hawk attacks. Their reputation has only been beaten by either Black Australorp or Buff orpington roosters.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 7:23PM
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Thanks to all that have shared over the past. My 10 chicks just started laying about 3 weeks ago. When they began laying, they became much more more brave about ranging out in the open and have been roaming our 3 acres like never before. Up to the point of laying, they stayed within 25 yards of the coop and always under the trees.
I witnessed the first hawk attack yesterday. One of the hens had wandered off down near the wooded creek area and a broad-shouldered hawk hit her twice as she skedaddled for the coop with me hollern' and shouting the whole time. All the others ran for the shrubs around the house. Fortunately, she just lost a good size clump of feathers.

I'd seen another hawk doing reconnaissance a couple of months back and had strung two lines with some streamers from our 2nd story deck to near the coop about 10-20ft off the ground. Think I will add a couple of more today to other points at the edge of the woods to increase the coverage and maybe add an owl decoy.
I haven't given up on free-ranging yet, but I guess my next step would be to build a penned chicken run.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 1:43PM
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