How to Keep Hawks Away from Chickens

Top 5 Ways to Thwart Aerial Chicken Predators

Have you been experiencing a problem with flying predators like hawks and owls? This can be heartbreaking and frustrating and can make you feel helpless, but you're not. There are ways to help keep hawks away from backyard chickens.

On a personal note, this subject is near and dear to my heart. I have experienced one confirmed loss and a couple of close calls with hawks harassing my backyard chickens. Whether it's summer or you're in the midst of winter chicken keeping hawks are year-round predators. 

You can help keep hawks away from backyard chickens with these five simple steps.

To be fair, before we got chickens, we had been toying with naming our farm something like Hawk Ridge since we have so many hawks in the area on a regular basis. It's not uncommon to look up in the skies and see three or four hawks overhead. We also have nesting hawks each mating season.

At the same time, for numerous reasons, I firmly believe my chickens are better off free-ranging during the day. I work from home and can keep a close eye on my flock, but I'm not with them every second. Free-ranging chickens are savvy and if you use some different protection methods, you're likely to reduce or eliminate losses from hawks.

Do Hawks Attack Chickens?

Yes. I have personally seen a hawk attack and kill a chicken, but in my experience, the onslaught of ground-dwelling predators like raccoons and foxes is much worse and takes a greater toll on a flock. 

REMINDER: It is illegal to kill or harass birds of prey, including hawks and owls. 

Real-Life Example — 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.

You can help keep hawks away from backyard chickens with these five simple steps.

You can help keep hawks away from backyard chickens with these five simple steps.

Here are my top five ways to thwart aerial backyard chicken predators.

1. 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!

Real-Life Example — 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 the hawk away and my Buff Brahma wasn't hurt. When I looked up from checking my Buff Brahma, I realized, my rooster had the rest of the flock backed up against the house under an overhang. He had his wings spread over the hens and was poised to fight. He had acted quickly to save as many hens as he could.

You can help keep hawks away from backyard chickens with these five simple steps.

2. Get a Watchdog

Our dog, Sophie, was great with our chickens and when she was out with them, she was a wonderful deterrent. I would let her out at various times throughout the day so predators wouldn't catch onto her schedule. If they didn't know when she'd be out, then they were extra cautious.

You can help keep hawks away from backyard chickens with these five simple steps.

3. Make a Scarecrow and 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.

4. 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.

You can help keep hawks away from backyard chickens with these five simple steps.

5. 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.

Do you have tips and tricks that you use to keep your backyard chickens safe from hawks? 

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