Chicken keeping can be fun and rewarding, as long as keepers’ efforts aren’t spoiled by predation. Aerial attacks from hawks seem to be the most difficult to avoid. Keeping hawks away from chickens takes more than any single effort. Rather, an array of tactics is required to keep chickens safe.
Harming Hawks is Illegal
First of all, understand that hawks are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, among other federal laws. If you are not a Native American, simply possessing hawk feathers is illegal. Hawks cannot be shot, trapped, or poisoned, no matter how many chickens they may have taken or how valuable your birds. If the need to preserve valuable migratory predators cuts zero ice, do keep in mind that the fine for harming these birds is steep, and jail time is a possibility. Efforts at keeping hawks away from chickens cannot include killing the hawk.
Keeping Hawks Away From Chickens Legally
One possible beginning is a secure coop with a fenced area. The top of the chicken run must be fenced as well as the sides. If you have a larger area set out for your chickens, try stringing fishing line back and forth across the fence tops. Hawks will see that they can fly in, but with no easy way out, they won’t make the attempt. No predator wants to get into a situation from which it can’t escape. This method, called a chicken pen cobweb, is described in greater detail on the Mother Earth News Web site.
If your chickens free range, place shelters in wide open areas. Thick cover gives chickens places to hide when the hawk’s telltale shadow passes overhead. Keeping hawks away from chickens becomes easier when the chickens can take part in their own salvation.
Props To Protect Your Chickens
Try hanging CDs from trees and bushes. Chickens don’t mind the flash, and will even chase the odd bright spots around the yard. Hawks, however, don’t seem to like that bright flash as they fly overhead.
Plastic owls have also been used in keeping hawks away from chickens. An owl that remains stationary, however, does the chickens no good. Move the owl every few days.
Use windsocks in the shape of rival birds, such as the ones sold at Aboveitallkites.com. These should be as convincing as possible to be of any use in keeping hawks away. Hang them high from long branches so that the boughs above do not conceal the decoy.
Assistance From Other Animals
Guinea hens may be noisy, but they are an excellent alarm system. Any predator that makes an appearance in your yard will be cause for a great deal of squawking. The guineas themselves are generally too large a target for most hawks, and so are not often taken.
Dogs can’t be everywhere at once, but they can help. Some say pot bellied pigs make decent deterrents as well.
Keep in mind that domestic animals used in keeping hawks away have their own needs that must be met. However, purple martins do not require our help and can be encouraged to stay in an area with gourd nests. These birds sometimes chase off hawks en masse in order to protect their young and have the added feature of eating mosquitoes.
Hawks Take Note of Habits
If your chickens free range at the same time every day, keep in mind that hawks take note of habitual foraging by prey. Keep your chickens penned for part of the day and let them range the rest of the day. Change the pattern from time to time.
If human activity takes place at the same time every day, hawks will hunt when the humans aren’t around. If possible, vary the routines so that hawks must be more wary.
No One Method Does the Trick
Keeping hawks away from chickens rarely means employing one particular method and sticking to it. Hawks are quite persistent once they’ve found an easy meal. For best results, rotate these methods. Take the owl in and try a scarecrow built to flop in the wind. Move the CDs to different locations so they flash in unpredictable ways. Hanging them from a long string should have a similar effect.
Chicken keeping can be a rewarding endeavor. Chickens provide eggs, meat, feathers, and entertainment as they wander hither and yon decreasing the bug population. When the chickens are too much temptation for resident hawks, try one or all of the above methods to send the hawks back to controlling wild populations of rodents.