Have you lost a chicken or two to predatory hawks? Does it seem like your poultry’s sole purpose is to provide food for birds of prey? Have you searched desperately for ways to protect your chickens from hawks?
Four years ago, I would’ve screamed ‘YES!’ to any of these questions because hawks were the bane of our poultry, and I had no idea how to protect chickens from hawks.
If you own a farm, you’d want to do everything to keep your chickens safe from predators. Not only do you have to worry about chicken hawks, but also about other predators such as dogs, foxes, raccoons, owls, and fisher cats that want to prey on your poultry.
Chicken hawks are predatory birds renowned for hunting down chickens and other poultry. Seeing a hawk swooping down and snatching your precious chickens is appalling. It’s no less disheartening when you find your chicken’s feathers littered on the farm in the wake of a hawk’s predatory activity.
So, how do you stop these hawks from wreaking havoc on your poultry? Before we answer that, let’s take a closer look at the Chicken Hawk and their predatory tactics.
North America has over 23 species of hawks, and you’d be lucky not to have one as a neighbor. The red-tailed hawk is particularly notorious for preying on chickens, earning it the nickname ‘chicken hawk.’
The hawk and other raptors are legally protected, so you can’t shoot one down. As such, you’ll need to look for different ways to protect your chickens from hawks.
The Hawk’s Predatory Tactics
If you’re ever going to get hawks off your chickens, it’s essential to understand their predatory behavior. Knowing their attack tactics will enable you to develop an efficient defense mechanism.
First, hawks don’t care where they go hunting as long as they’d find food there. Hawks were designed by nature for hunting in dense woods, around ponds, on the roadside, and just about anywhere. So, building a long, narrow enclosed area or “run” for your chickens doesn’t guarantee that hawks won’t be able to prey on them.
Furthermore, hawks prefer to hunt easy targets in open fields. So leaving your chickens to forage in the open without any form of protection makes them vulnerable to a hawk attack.
Additionally, hawks are prey for other predators, like eagles and owls. This relationship explains why hawks don’t eat their prey in the open but would instead drag them to a secret place.
Finally, hawks are intelligent birds and can quickly learn the patterns of your activities. That’s why changing your routine could prove helpful in outsmarting them.
How to Protect Your Chickens from Predatory Hawks
When we moved to our new property years ago, we decided to start a poultry farm. But it quickly seemed like a terrible idea because we suffered hawk attacks every other week until all our chickens were gone.
In my desperation, I went investigating, asking our new neighbors, who also happened to own poultry farms, how the hawks seemed not to see their chickens.
From research and years of running our hawk-attack-free poultry, we’ve put together methods that worked for us and that you can use to protect your chickens. Protecting chickens from hawks mainly involves using time-tested tactics to secure your runs and deter hawks from preying on your birds.
Depending on how large your poultry is and how much you’re willing to spend, you can try a combination of the following:
1. Secure the Coop
Whether you build the chicken coop from scratch or buy one, securing it is the first step to protecting your chickens from hawks. If your coop is too narrow, your chickens can’t escape the edge, making them easy prey for the hawks.
With a broader coop, however, your chickens will have a bigger space to move about and a better chance of escaping the hawks.
Remember to incorporate a hardware mesh to keep the hawks out when building your coop. Bury the hardware mesh 6 inches deep in the ground to create some security for your chickens.
2. Install a Roof
Another vital step is covering the coop. Most people would want to have a solid roof on the chicken coop. You can use chicken wires to cover the run to prevent the hawk from attacking your chickens. Another alternative is the tarp sheet, which provides shade and protection.
Before deciding on the type of roof to install, consider answering the following questions: “Do I want a temporary or permanent solution?” “How much am I willing to spend?” “Do I want to provide protection and shade, or just protection?”
The chicken wire makes a secure permanent roof for your coop. Any hawk attempting to dive through it will get entangled, giving your chickens enough time to run safely.
To completely deter the hawk, use a brightly-colored wire, preferably orange, which the hawk sees perfectly well.
3. Secure the Feeding Area
Most birds of prey, including the hawk, target the feeding area not because of the food but for the chickens. The birds are most vulnerable when feeding, as they’re relaxed and not so alert. Thus, protecting their feeding area from predators is essential by putting a piece of chicken wire over it.
4. Add a Black Chicken to the Flock
Incorporating a black chicken into the flock will keep hawks away. When we first learned of this, we laughed it off – a black chicken was just like every other chicken. So we felt they’d be hunted just like every other bird.
But, after we learned that the crow is a natural enemy of the hawk, we understood why we needed a black chicken. With a black chicken in the run, the hawk will mistake it for a crow and keep its distance. No hawk enjoys a hot pursuit by a flock of crows.
5. Get a Rooster
Getting a rooster was one of the first things we did to protect our chickens. While we expect our chickens to run when they see a hawk, we know they don’t fully possess the typical rooster behavior.
A rooster is a natural protector who’ll do everything possible to keep the chickens out of harm’s way.
When the rooster sees a hawk, he sounds an alarm and gathers the chickens in a safe place. He moves before them, securing them till the bird is gone. Of course, not all roosters can do this. If, however, you find one that can do that, never let him go.
6. Increase the Visibility in the Area
Hawks usually perch on nearby trees, waiting patiently for an opportunity to swoop down on your chickens and immobilize them. As a result, detecting the bird becomes more difficult when you’ve got tall bushes and grass around your poultry.
Consider cutting the overgrown grass and bushes in your surroundings. This practice will reduce the cover the hawk has, thus mitigating their likelihood of attacking without being seen. The hawk is a smart bird that wouldn’t risk attacking when exposed.
However, planting bushes and shrubs in and around your backyard can help protect your chickens. When the chickens sight a hawk nearby, they can quickly take cover in the thickets, reducing their exposure.
So. while increasing visibility in the area, only clear out overgrown bushes that can protect a prowling hawk.
7. Use a Watchdog
Having a watchdog with your chickens when they roam outdoors is a great way to protect them. Predatory hawks will think twice about swooping down when the dog is nearby. Also, the hawk often finds the smell of a dog unpleasant, which serves as a deterrent.
Consider letting the dog out at different times of the day so the hawk doesn’t precisely pinpoint the dog’s schedule. Sometimes, I take a walk with my watchdog to remind the hawks that they’re prey too.
8. Get Scarecrows
The old trick of using scarecrows as a decoy to scare predatory birds away from the farm works perfectly in poultry. You can easily make scarecrows by hanging human clothes on nailed wood and placing them in the backyard or poultry farm.
To ensure the hawk doesn’t figure out your ruse, change the position of the scarecrow now and then.
You can also get an owl-shaped object to mount on the farm, and the hawk won’t dare come close to your chickens. Although this measure works well for me, there’s no guarantee it’d work for you, because some people have reported its ineffectiveness. However, consider giving it a try.
9. Hang Shiny Objects on the Farm
Hawks detest bright, blazing lights, and you can use this to your advantage. Hang your old CDs and other reflective objects around the farm. These objects will give off blinding reflections from the sun that’ll keep the hawks away.
Avoid putting up mirrors in the yard as they’re potentially harmful to chickens.
How to Maintain Hawks off Your Coop?
Now that we know how you can keep these pesky predators from your flock let’s talk about the tips you can do to keep them away from your chickens.
Monitor the Coop
To ensure that hawk activity is as low as possible on your farm, ensure that you monitor it regularly. As humans also pose a threat to them, these birds tend not to go near the coop if they sense humans nearby. So, by being near the coop and maintaining the area, you can both clean and protect your flock.
Do Multiple Deterrent Methods at the Same Time
Many of these methods are good in themselves; however, do you know what can make them better? Doing multiple at the same time!
Mix and match multiple methods of keeping hawks away from your coop. This way, you can add layer-upon-layer security to the perimeters. It can strengthen the guard against these pesky prey.
Monitor Hawk Activity Regularly
Much like any animal, hawks have their own behavior and patterns. So, studying and monitoring
the hawk activity in your area would be best. You can rely on the time of the day, weather, and season if a hawk attack is more likely to happen.
This method can help keep the hawks from chickens by examining which areas of your property are frequented by the hawks. This can be on lush or high grounds, near poultry nests, or perching trees.
This knowledge might give you a clue of any patterns in their behavior towards your flock. You could use this data to consciously position your flock farther away from potential danger and specify the right method for you.
You can’t stop hawks from being predators, but you can prevent them from growing fat on your chickens. In the last couple of years, I’ve had to worry less about a hawk snatching my chicken. Instead, I’ve focused on rearing my chickens, improving their egg yield, and expanding the farm.
Here’s a review of the ways you can protect your chickens from hawks:
- Build a secure coop, with a roof
- Secure the feeding area
- Add a rooster to the chicken flock
- Get a watchdog
- Increase the visibility of the area
- Use decoys like black chickens, scarecrows, and shiny items
So, why don’t you go ahead and implement these techniques in protecting your chickens from hawks? With these measures, you’ll never have to worry about your chicken’s safety.
Do you have any questions, comments, or contributions? Feel free to drop them in the comment section, and I’ll be more than happy to reply.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.