Hawks and Chickens Don’t Get Along
We have been raising chickens for over 15 years and have never had a problem with hawks. We have had the occasional fox, raccoon (he was more after the eggs), coyote, and local cat problem but never an issue with birds of prey.
Over the summer there was a beautiful hawk family that raised a chick. It was really neat to watch the parents teach the hawk to catch mice in the fields and we even spotted them fishing by the different ponds in the area. All summer, no problem.
A few weeks ago in early December we found a dead chicken out in the middle of the pen. It had been picked pretty badly but we had noticed it only because many of our own chickens were doing the picking….carnivorous little things…
We didn’t think much of it as it had been one of the older chickens and things happen. Then a few days later we found another dead chicken picked pretty clean over in the far corner of the outdoor run. Again, odd but not highly unusual with a cold winter. We hadn’t had much snow thus far but it has been pretty cold so we figured maybe another fluke.
Well, the other day we went out to the chicken coop and watched two hawks (one large and a younger one which makes us think it is that lovely family living nearby) fly off from the middle of the pen. Sure enough, we walked over and there was a dead chicken, freshly killed. We started watching the chickens a bit closer and noticed that they were acting odd, looking up at the sky, staying near the coop, and running inside whenever a shadow or another bird flew above them.
Watching them confirmed that a hawk (family) has decided that our chickens are an easy winter meal. Kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. I’ve been doing some research online and asking all of my chicken raising friends and it seems there are only a few options to take when working with a hawk as a predator.
One, keep your chickens inside a completely enclosed coop.
Two, get a rooster as they are the ones that keep watch for predators and alert the flock.
Three, get a guard dog for your chickens that will keep away predators.
And four, put up deterrents to either scare or keep the hawks away.
Since the first three options are kind of out of the question for us – we like our chickens to be free-range, we have had terrible luck with nasty roosters, there’s no way we would have enough time to train a guard dog – we decided that the fourth option was the best.
Off to Tractor Supply we went and opted for bird netting and stakes. We decided that during the summer our chickens were most likely safe from the hawks because of all the bushes and small trees near the coop that they could hide under. In the winter when all the bushes die back and the trees are bare, it is a lot easier to spot our birds. So we drove stakes into the (slightly frozen) ground all along the backside of the coop and strung the heavy duty bird netting from the roof of the coop to the stakes. This created a “roof” over a large part of their outdoor run which we hope will give them cover from a dive-bombing hawk. This way our chickens can get outside and be in the fresh air with some protection over their heads. Our hope is that by preventing the hawks from getting any more chickens, they may decide to move along and find different prey.
Will keep you all updated as time goes on!