9 Ways to Protect Chickens from Hawks

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 go about protecting chickens from hawks.

If you own a farm, you’d want to do everything to keep your chickens safe from predators. Not only have you got chicken hawks to worry about, but there’re also 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. It’s appalling to see a hawk swooping down and snatching your precious chickens. 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.

The Hawk

how to protect chickens from hawks

There are over 23 species of hawks in North America, 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 protected by law, 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 run isn’t a guarantee that hawks won’t be able to prey on your chickens.

More so, 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 pick up your schedule. That’s why changing your routine could prove useful in outsmarting them.

How to Protect Your Chickens from Predatory Hawks

Years ago, when we’d just moved to our new property, 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 which 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

how to protect chickens from predators

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 get away from 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 at escaping the hawks.

When building your coop, remember to incorporate a hardware mesh that’ll keep the hawks out. 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 that attempts to dive through it will get entangled, giving your chickens enough time to run to safety.

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 they’re feeding, as they’re relaxed and not so alert. Thus, it’s essential to protect their feeding area from predators by putting a piece of chicken wire over it.

4. Add a Black Chicken to the Flock

protecting free range chickens from hawks

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’re aware 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 together in a safe place. He moves in front of 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

Protect Chickens from Hawk

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 to attack 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

how to protect chickens from coyotes

Having a watchdog out 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, and that 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.

safe chicken coop

Summary

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.

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19 thoughts on “9 Ways to Protect Chickens from Hawks”

  1. I had a hawk fly into my boxwoods and attack my large black hen. I was surprised to say the least. I’ve now got a fake owl with a turning head on a pole as a deterrent. I also had a scarecrow and foil tins hanging from my trees when it attacked. Now the hens are cooped up for a while in hopes that & the owl will deter it. It also clawed my large, 20 lb, black cat.

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  2. I have a black rooster and have lost 2 chickens to a predatory hawk. Of course the black rooster is on 4 months old. Think that could be the problem>

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  3. we have hawks and screech owls, havent lost a chicken yet. The hawk has been setting on the fence just above the chickens so my wife is getting nervous . Going to buy orange plastic snow fence at my favorite building supply , Menards for a roof for the run. It is an old dog kennel.

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  4. The reason I was reading this article is I had a hawk kill 2 of my chickens. ..all of my chickens are black. So saying a hawk won’t go after black chickens because they think it’s a crow or flock of crows is just speculation and shouldn’t be on this list.

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  5. I have several black chickens, well I had several and I have12 left out of 28. I have scarecrows, 4 dogs, 2 huge outside cats and fake owls and snakes. I also have 4 roosters. I am desperately trying to save my chickens but the only way to male sure it stops is with a bullet!

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    • 100% agree. It is ridiculous that these birds are protected while so many pet chickens are killed every day. Makes me sick. I have a huge black rooster and a black hen and that did not protect my most precious little beloved chicken.

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    • There is an old ranchers saying; If you’re gonna have livestock you’re gonna have deadstock. Killing predators is simply an act of revenge. It doesn’t prevent future attacks since there are always more predators around. For those of us raising livestock it is our job to do our due diligence and use as many non lethal tools and pro active husbandry methods as needed in order to minimize losses. If you can’t raise livestock without killing native predators you shouldn’t raise livestock.

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      • B.s.
        It’s up to man to take dominion over the animals. Animals, especially dangerous animals should fear man to the point they avoid humans and keep their distances. We can coexist with animals that do that. That means weeding out or putting fear of humans in problem animals which are normally the bolder of the species that you do not want to reproduce and pass the trait on and further the problem. Let the timid animals of those species keep their distances and reproduce and that will limit human – animal conflicts. Human life is #1 and domestic animals are not 2nd rate to predators or any other animal that poses a threat to our well being. To many laws have gotten extreme to the point they are against the victims, animal and human justice both. The laws protect the animals that harm humans and humans that harm humans. The speed limit is typically broken and not seen as a crime. I see it more reasonable to protect my pets and farm animals that are a part into sustaining human life.

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    • Hawks just moved in next door to me. They attacked one chicken who was able to get away. I have 2 owls, useless, reflective tree ornaments, useless. A dog, useless and the have even tried to rip thru the mesh cloth on my run. They sit outside the run nearly every day just watching. I’m chasing them away all the time. Yesterday, one flew right between my wife, me and our dog trying to get one. JUST missed her. We were not 10 feet away. They don’t care about any of it. We have to leave them in the run. no free ranging until they migrate again.

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  6. I agree about the bird coloration. Perhaps her hawk had an issue with black in the past but I have lost 2 of my largest hens, both pitch black, that were so heavy the hawk couldn’t even lift them off the ground yet killed them anyway. My point is hawks need to eat and, if they aren’t finding easily caught smaller foods, anything is fair game. The hawks are doing what nature wants them to do, even when they sometimes take what we are attached to. The only things I have found that are guaranteed to work (if anything can be totally guaranteed) is to provide good roofed coops with wide runs, wrapped in 1/8 to 1/4” hardware cloth that is secured under the ground, stagger routines constantly because hawks are super-smart and they learn exactly when and where prey is going to be every day, and put out those hanging, flapping shiny tapes from branch to branch. The tape strings also need to be moved around frequently so the hawk doesn’t get used to them and stop “seeing” them as a threat. I have several waterproof radios set in different locations around the coops and I turn on a different one each day with different types of talk or music, particularly insane talk radio where everyone is screaming all the time. Roosters are a God-send and most do a decent job of protecting all of their hens. Just be aware that the more aggressively protective they are, the more you have to work to prevent being seen as a threat and being attacked… if you are willing to understand their natural behaviors and work with them, you will not have to worry much at all. This means keeping distance between yourself and the hens while he is around. Why would you be considered any less threatening than other animals when you are approaching his girls? Just don’t get one and think he is going to be a cuddly baby- he has his mission in life and he does it well. Many roosters are given away or killed because of people’s expectations that they will be enamored with humans and never bother them- if the rooster is seeing you as a threat, he’s doing a good job. If you can’t work around those behaviors, don’t get a rooster. Never let them out as the sun rises or at dusk… these are prime times for the hawks to show up. One thing that I heavily bought into when I first started with chickens was how they were my pets and I had to let them run around outside for hours each day for them to be happy. This is not so-while they enjoy being outside when the weather is decent, they usually will return to their coops within an hour or so of going out, after they get their quota of bugs. Free-ranging is dangerous for the chickens and you must be prepared to lose more than you can tolerate if you leave them out. My final step I take is to stay outside with them whenever they are out. Both of the hawk attacks that were successful involved my having gone inside for a few minutes and leaving them. If you are out there the hawks will not attack- you are way too big of a threat to them. I usually have something with me, like a bright rag or something shiny and flappy (those tapes again) to pull out and wave around if the hawk is moving in too close for comfort. I know most people don’t want to put quite so much effort into it but, if you want 100% success, it’s all I’ve found to be fool-proof. So, my hens live in airy roofed coops with wide hardware clothed enclosed runs, the rooster protects his ladies and never bothers me unless I start moving in like I’m going to pick one up, they go out in individual smaller groups for a hour each in decent weather, the radios play, the tapes flap, and I am there with my trusty rags and sheer presence. If you really observe what goes on, you might be entranced with the hawks effortless gliding, their intelligence and speed, and remember that your hens are really the least of their preferences, as mice and small creatures are so much easier prey. If you have lost hens it is crushing, because the damage is grotesque to us and no one wants to lose one of their animals, but you do the best you can and hopefully no further attacks will be successful. I also benefit from being outside more often, getting to know the hens’ unique personalities and quirks, and observing our larger birds in the sky. Mostly, I have loved watching my rooster strut and fluff so he looks dangerous, see him be selfless in always calling the hens to anything good he finds and letting them eat first, cooing to them, and become a grand protector as needed. He has probably been my favorite bird and he knows it! I had too many birds I hatched at the beginning, which left them more at risk for many things. Try to keep your numbers small at any one time, keep their stress level down by providing good protection, and you will be rewarded with really fresh and healthy eggs every time! Good luck to everyone!

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    • Have you ever thought about writing a book? You got a good start on it here, lol, And i had two really Good/nice roosters and both of them gave their lives yesterday protecting their hens!

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  7. I too had a black Bard Rock eaten and had another solid black hen in the mix when it happened. People don’t keep attacks from happening either. My neighbor’s rooster was picked up right in front of her. The hawk dropped it but not before decapitating it. Another friend had her chick scooped up right in front of her as she was getting them in for the night. I’m afraid my hens will never be able to free range again although they did so the past 6 months with no problem. The big yellow eye thingy isn’t doing anything either. The hawk is perched in the tree right above it with no problems. The bushes of protection wasn’t much protection as the hawk flew right out of the thicket when I went looking for my missing hen. So sad!!

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  8. Struggling with massive chicken loss. The attacks happen in the morning, lunch time, and early afternoon.
    I’ve got 2 coops……….a permanent one that is surrounded by large trees and good high fencing (along with a section of covered wire). The chickens in this area are well protected and I’ve only suffered 2 attacks in the last 2 years.
    The other coop was set up last spring, so it’s relatively new for the area. But, it is a mobile coop and is near our pasture in a 1500 square foot run………not a tree in sight (they’re tilling up and fertilizing a future garden expansion). I’ve got it surrounded by a 4′ fence and then a few elevated pallets for protection inside the perimeter, but nothing overhead. The hawks have found them recently, and I’ve lost 14 birds in 2 months………and 6 of them in the last week…..basically, it’s a bird day now. I’ve installed, recently, a grid work of string around some 8ft t-posts that crosses over the top of the enclosed run and then tied some shiny ribbon every couple of feet. My thought was that it would give the hawk less confidence in a full blown aerial attack. So far this hasn’t worked……I think they’re flying through the 4-ft exposed sides. I’m sure they just laugh at me! And, I’ve got an owl decoy I’ve been moving around and it has zero effect, obviously. I plan on tying some white flagging tape to create a visual barrier on the sides (which isn’t covered)……….. If this doesn’t work, then I’m throwing my hands in the air.
    However, I am intrigued about the scarecrow and the previous mention of a radio blaring in the background (although this takes some of the peacefulness away from our place).
    I am in complete awe of the hawk. They are beautiful, majestic, and an amazing hunter to watch……….if I could be a bird, I’d want to be a hawk. However, I’m down to my last straw of trying everything that is humane. I’m quite confident in my ability with a 12 gauge and some heavy load (and it’s the last thing I want to do). And I’m sure trying to lay in wait for a hawk is probably more difficult than deer hunting……their vision is so sharp, they would probably be watching me a mile away attempting to hide and never show up……….what a frickin’ dilemma.

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    • Throwing your hands in the air ain’t gonna help! Dem dang hawks will dodge them every timee! Lol, The 12 ga is the only thing that will work!! W/the exception of maybe a smaller ga. BTW wonder what hawk tastes like? Probably chicken,,,

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  9. So probably the most important things are to secure the coop, by aerial and ground ways, keep a lot of the ground clear, and have bushes or cover, so that the hawks can be seen, and the chickens have cover.

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  10. We are new to this chicken thing, we have 6 young hens. We have a secure coop and 60 sf of an enclosed in run. So when they are inside I’m not worried at all. But we fully intend to let them roam around the backyard at some point. We definitely have a lot of hawks in the area and know its a risk but not immediate. Today, that changed. My wife looked out the window this morning and there was a hawk sitting on top of the run. She chased it away. All six chickens were inside the coop in one of the nesting bins, scared shitless. They wouldn’t come out for hours. Needless to say their fear of a hawk is innate. So now I’m searching the good ole internet to give me some ideas. Sounds like nothing is a 100% protection guarantee, other than not letting them out of the run. Thanks for this article and all the great comments!

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