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Protecting Chickens from Hawks

Posted by Lexi Montgomery on

Hawks and Eagles scour the skies for small animals to prey upon. In hopes of finding a meal to devour, these larger birds of prey seem to have one objective in mind: hunting.

Through the course of evolution, they have developed a sweet tooth for defenseless and flightless poultry such as chickens. Smaller, fattier birds seem to be easy prey, and unlike rodents and small dogs (which hawks also prey upon), chickens are lightweight enough to carry back to the hawk's nest.

If you can't seem to catch a break, try these tips to protect your chickens from hawks.

How to Protect Chickens from Hawks

Armed with excellent eyesight, a pair of strong claws, or talons, hawks can easily lift more than their body weight. They also have a powerful sense of smell, making them the top of the bird food chain. Unfortunately, your chickens don’t stand a chance against these lightning-fast predators. That's where we humans have to step in and balance the food chain. Help your flock out by learning how to protect chickens from hawks with the following tips:

Use a chicken tractor.

Free-range chickens are easy targets for hawks, but you can get around that with a chicken tractor.

They call this style of coop/run a chicken “tractor” because chickens are able to scratch at the ground and loosen the top inch of soil.

This style of a chicken coop has wheels attached to it. You can move it around your property very easily, allowing you to fertilize your lawn. Each day, relocate the coop to a fresh patch of grass without every turning the ground underneath your coop into a dirt patch.

Since chickens love to rummage through the dirt seeking out fresh grass and insects, you can move them around within the safety of a chicken tractor. Hawks won’t be able to get to them. They can still satisfy their grazing nature, and live a basically free-range life in a tractor coop. Plus you can still let them roam outside the tractor when someone is able to watch over them. A spacious run-connected coop is also a good free-range alternative for your chickens.

Channel the power of old CDS.

Hawks and predatory birds, in general, are put off by glaring, shiny objects.

They hate the sight of their predatory reflection, just kidding. They actually have very sensitive eyesight which is affected by the slightest glare, and you can use this to your advantage. Hang onto your old CDs, or shards of reflective objects. Just be careful if you use sharp objects because they can be dangerous for your chickens or any children in the area.

If you have old CDs, place them around the coop, and the edges of your yard or compound to keep predatory birds at bay. This will also work to deflect eagles, raptors, owls, and falcons. Pie pans can also do the trick. Mirrors aren’t ideal because they are so strong, they could start a fire.

Tape works too.

Similar to CDS, a reflective tape looks like bright flashes of light that will terrify nearby hawks.

This also causes a bizarre sound, too high pitched for humans to hear. It scares birds out of a diving attempt, and will most likely be the only thing you need to keep predatory birds away. This sight and sound combination will ensure your chickens aren’t bothered by hawks or eagles.

You can hang the tape above and around the coop for maximum impact. The only issue is if you live somewhere like Seattle where it isn't very sunny. You need sunlight to reflect whatever material you're using. Consider this when setting up your coop with the intention to scare aerial predators away.

Get a guard dog.

Dogs like the Kuvasz, Akbash, and the Maremma Sheepdog, to name a few, make excellent guard dogs for poultry and livestock. 

They can protect the flock from aerial threats such as hawks. AND, they can ward off land predators like wolves and coyotes. Coyotes are a huge threat to backyard chickens, so even if you use CDS or reflective materials, there's still a ground predator threat that needs to be addressed.

The mere presence of a guard dog, however, is enough to keep opportunistic meat-eaters away, whether from the land or sky. They’ll not want to take their chances with the scent of a canine nearby. Read this article to learn more about the best dogs to watch over your brood.

Get a scarecrow or an owl decoy.

It may be the oldest trick in the book, but a scarecrow still works.

Unfamiliar shapes can make hawks think twice, but you’ll need to move the scarecrow around regularly so that they don’t figure it out. Owl decoys work even better to scare off hawks. These two birds usually fight over hunting grounds.

The hawk typically plays second fiddle because of the owl’s strength and flexibility. Hawks will usually leave rather than seek out a fight with an owl.

My parents actually had an owl decoy to protect our little Bichon from predators. We never had an issue with birds of prey, coyotes, etc.

Get a robust roof for your chicken run or coop.

This is recommended regardless of the kind of predators you want to protect chickens from. Along with protection from predators, a good roof will keep chickens safe in variable weather conditions. A well-built roof protects chickens from a host of additional scenarios you might not think of until they arise.

Just like the roof over your own head, it's a necessary expense if you want to keep your chickens safe and happy.

Additional tips...

Chicken wire is an excellent barrier, especially for hawks. It's cheap and provides that first line of defense against predators.

Hawks can get entangled in the wire, and your chickens can dash to safety while you are alerted to the noise. While the chicken wire is great against hawks and eagles, it won't work for the big guys.

You’ll need something a lot more durable to deter stronger predators like wolves that can make light work of flexible chicken wire.

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