Big Red; A Free Range Chicken

Raising free range backyard chickens can be frustrating as they tend to wander everywhere, but Big Red, our friendly New Hampshire hen, provided some humor as she was spotted out my basement window digging through the herb garden for any goodies she could find. She especially likes to sit by my husband's office window, it's not far from this spot, and see if he'll give her some treats. Something tells me that's where she's headed next!

How to Stop Hawks and Owls from Attacking Your Backyard Chickens

Have you been experiencing a problem with flying predators like hawks and owls? This can be heartbreaking and frustrating, but there are ways to help combat it.

On a personal note, this has been a tough winter in my backyard when it comes to hawk attacks. My chickens have free ranged daily for almost a decade. Early on we had a hawk problem, but swiftly put some deterrents into place and haven't had a problem until a few weeks ago.

I heard a huge commotion coming from the backyard. From the intensity of squawking, I knew something was wrong and ran outside quickly. I found a hawk rolling down my hill with one of my Buff Brahmas tucked in its talons. They were in a mighty struggle! Luckily, my yelling and running at the hawk scared it away and my Buff Brahma wasn't hurt.

Things settled down until one evening the nightly head count was off by one Black Australorp. And I found our oldest Easter Egger with a horrific slash across her back. After some emergency first aid and time, our hen recovered but our Australorp was never found.

I originally posted this for Backyard Poultry Magazine and thought it might be helpful, especially since this winter's hawk activities have taught me never to become complacent when it comes to predator protection.

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. 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 missed; all were accounted for after I took a quick headcount.

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 thwart aerial backyard chicken predators.

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 the 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!

Get a Watchdog

Our dog, Sophie, is great with our chickens and when she's out with them, she is a wonderful deterrent. 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.

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.

Pam's Backyard Chickens Mentioned In Modern Farmer

A special thanks to author, Jason Price, for the mention in your piece for Modern Farmer, Raising Backyard Chickens For Dummies. It's funny how much research you end up putting into raising a flock of backyard chickens. I often find myself referring to chicken facts in normal, everyday conversation. That's when you know you're hooked!

Good luck with your human and chicken flock. It's all worth it when you get those yummy eggs and see those great smiles!

Fridays With Backyard Chickens At The Bird Feeder

Brown Leghorns are the best flyers in my flock and they take advantage of that! Today, I found one of them on my deck happily eating the black oil sunflower seed set out for the wild birds. You'll notice from the pictures, this Leghorn knew she was caught and quickly flew to the ground. So that's where all my bird seed has been going...Hmm!

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