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Hawks and Chickens

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  • Hawks and Chickens

    As you may guess from my title, I had an incident with a hawk today...a big Red Tail. I must have pulled in the driveway right after he killed one of my laying hens...a lovely young Welsummer hen. She was still warm and he'd just started to feed on her. He flew off as soon as I got out of my truck to the roof of my house and then left when I went to see to the chicken. Poor chook...I hope it was fast.

    The other hens were all in the coop and in a frenzy of fear...they were squawking and crowded into the back. I know there must have been terrified having that big raptor drop down on another hen. I closed them in for their protection and tried to regroup a bit on what to do.

    I wondered if any else has ever had any hawk predation issues and what you might have done to solve it or chase off the hawk. I realize they are protected and birdshot is not an option, but I sure was tempted.

    I moved the girls pen...they are inside electric poultry netting...to a new spot. I made the pen more narrow...having read somewhere that that can help deter the hawks from flying down into the pens. I also also put some strings across the top of the posts and across the pen in a zig zag pattern to kind of confuse it's vision as I read that can help also. It will make it hard to walk around in there without hooking myself in the neck but I'm sure he'll be back for more chicken.

    Any ideas anyone has is appreciated. I can't afford to feed the local hawks and unfortunately my girls are an easy target for a large bird of prey like that.

  • #2
    yes unfortunately

    I have the same issue. I hope to build a longer poultry yard this spring and cover it with the netting you use to keep deer off the shrubs. I hate restricting the fowl but the alternative is....

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      I thought about that too...but with pastured poultry and larger numbers of hens (about 60 now), it's so hard to move something like that once you put the netting up. Argh...what a PITA. Just what I need...another project!

      Half the girls are still too scared to come back outside. I guess I can't blame them.

      Comment


      • #4
        I have pheasant netting over my entire coop and run area. The chickens have a paddock which is about 14 x 14 and then they can go out into a larger area, which used to be my backyard. It's about 100 feet square. I use the poles that you prop up laundry lines to hold the netting up and in the winter with our Northern snows I take the poles down so the netting is on the ground.

        I've found this is the only way to keep the chickens safe. Occasionally a hawk will hit the pheasant netting to test it. That's amazing to see.

        Comment


        • #5
          The hens would do better in smaller flocks anyway, so how about three flocks of 20 in narrower pastures and you can put bird netting over each, from steel post to steel post, enough to discourage raptors.

          Something you may find somewhere here, a very light net that goes over trees to protect the fruit from birds:

          http://www.gemplers.com/icatalog/master/z/405

          Comment


          • #6
            I personally keep my chickens cooped up at night and out in an enclosed (including poultrynetting roof) area during the day.
            But did you happen to notice if the hawk actually had a red tail? I ask because a falconer could legally trap that bird for you if it was a juvenile and didn't have a fully red tail.
            Before you think about shooting (which as you already know is illegal) look into nuisance trapping. You may be able to get a permit from your local fish and game.
            Hawks are really quite easy to trap once you've got a permit.
            If you want, PM me your location and specifics and I'll post on the falconry forum and see if I can get you some help.
            "Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of passions." David Hume

            Comment


            • #7
              I think commercial outfits have areas with smallish shrubs for the chickens to run for cover to. it really has not to be very tall, a bit above knee hight.

              Also, I think lines strung criss cross above the runs are supposed to work.

              A friend of mine owns five acres on the side of a mountain. the previous owner said the hawks got all the chickens, but the area is wide open, bordered by trees which offer wonderful perch opportunities for predators...
              Originally posted by BigMama1
              Facts don't have versions. If they do, they are opinions
              GNU Terry Prachett

              Comment


              • #8
                I hate it when hawks kill hens. We dealt with that a lot- the hawks would take our ducks too. If the hens aren't under a net or wire there really isn't much you can do, legally.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Well your story confirms an alternate name I just learned from my old riding instructor (~85 years young) for red-tail hawks -- did you know they're also known as "chicken hawks"?

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    I had heard the name chicken hawk before. Funny but I never really made the connection until today. That's true indeed.

                    Yes, it definitely had a red tail. It was mature. Too bad on that. I'm sure there are more around though.

                    I did the crisscross thing for now with string and the girls went back out and were running around and scratching...the tragedy of the attack forgotten in their birdy brains. It must be nice to have such a short memory!

                    My husband and I both are ex military and we were just discussing running netting like camouflage netting the military uses. Instead of that, we could use the gamebird netting or shade cloth and that would give the hens more shade also which they will really appreciate when it gets hot.

                    I thing we are switching our broilers over to the chicken tractor model (bottomless pens) so they will be safe from a hawk at least.

                    Bluey, I had wondered about smaller groups also but we will probably run up to 200-300 hens eventually and our coops (we've built already) house about 60-80 easily...so it would add a major cost to build that many more movable coops as well as the cost of more poultry netting which is expensive. Good thought though and thanks for your idea. Thanks to all of you for your thoughts as well.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      There are some families from Mexico around here that have large chicken pens and have old barrels and half barrels all over there that have a place for their hens to get under them, like a small chicken door cut out of the bottom.
                      I thought they were for shade, but maybe they are also because chickens like a hiding place?

                      I wonder if those serve the same function of the low bushes and keep hawks from feeling safe swooping down and give the chickens a place to run under?

                      I know that on size of flocks, Grandma used to get some 30 chicks every several springs, about half would end up male friers and the rest were layers.
                      She used to say that she didn't like more than around 20 in each group, cut down on any pecking and at one time we had three different chicken houses with around 20 layers in each.
                      I also saw a local farmer had a long chicken house, that was cut into three parts and three yards, I guess for the same idea.

                      I think that may have been a good management system for some, then maybe they just did it like that without really having tried much else.
                      He may have done it like that because Grandma said so, or her because he said so.

                      As long as the chickens are happy, whatever numbers you want to run will be fine.
                      No odd rule of thumb really needs to be followed on chicken raising.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                        There are some families from Mexico around here that have large chicken pens and have old barrels and half barrels all over there that have a place for their hens to get under them, like a small chicken door cut out of the bottom.
                        I thought they were for shade, but maybe they are also because chickens like a hiding place?

                        I wonder if those serve the same function of the low bushes and keep hawks from feeling safe swooping down and give the chickens a place to run under?

                        I know that on size of flocks, Grandma used to get some 30 chicks every several springs, about half would end up male friers and the rest were layers.
                        She used to say that she didn't like more than around 20 in each group, cut down on any pecking and at one time we had three different chicken houses with around 20 layers in each.
                        I also saw a local farmer had a long chicken house, that was cut into three parts and three yards, I guess for the same idea.

                        I think that may have been a good management system for some, then maybe they just did it like that without really having tried much else.
                        He may have done it like that because Grandma said so, or her because he said so.

                        As long as the chickens are happy, whatever numbers you want to run will be fine.
                        No odd rule of thumb really needs to be followed on chicken raising.

                        I think I heard about research some years back that stated that chickens can't recognize but about 10 other chickens. It was in regard to the cage/range discussion, to underscore that range chickens are not so much happier out of the cage in a huge flock as inside a cage. (meaning, the cage keeping chicken farmers could have sponsored the research)
                        Originally posted by BigMama1
                        Facts don't have versions. If they do, they are opinions
                        GNU Terry Prachett

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                          large chicken pens and have old barrels and half barrels all over there that have a place for their hens to get under them, like a small chicken door cut out of the bottom.
                          I thought they were for shade, but maybe they are also because chickens like a hiding place?
                          I think there's a reason those A-frame things we jump over are called "coops"... does anyone know the history of the name or am I just making that up?
                          --
                          Wendy
                          ... and Patrick

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by wsmoak View Post
                            I think there's a reason those A-frame things we jump over are called "coops"... does anyone know the history of the name or am I just making that up?
                            I googled chicken coop and seems that is just a name for a chicken house.
                            Wow, some fancy, pretty ones here:

                            http://www.horizonstructures.com/coop_landing.asp

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              One thing that falconers who also raise pigeons advise, in terms of pigeons, that might help, is to be sure that there are no trees around your "prey birds". If the hawk has to make in from a good distance the prey birds can often make it to cover before the hawk connects.
                              Something to keep in mind is that with the offending hawk being mature, he is most likely feeding his mate who is incubating their eggs right now. This will make a hawk bolder than normal.
                              Another thing to keep in mind is that RTs are very territorial and wont tolerate another pair in their area. So if you can find a way to foil this pair's predation of your chickens it is highly unlikely that other hawks will bother you.
                              Something that red tailed hawks hate and fear is great horned owls. You might try buying a couple cheap fake great horneds and placing them strategically around your chicken's area. It might help.
                              Good luck, and please don't resent the hawks for being opportunistic.
                              "Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of passions." David Hume

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                So far, I've had very little pecking or issues with the chickens. All my girls have their beaks too. I think keeping them out where they can move and engage in normal behaviors helps a lot...it keeps them content...and not overcrowding helps a lot too. It is a scream to watch them all laying out for dust baths in the sun.

                                I do occasionally have the hens pick on one that is younger or weaker, but it's not a major problem. I can tell you that the free range eggs are equal to none in taste. I can't keep them in stock now...I have a waiting list. I'd not want to do it any other way unless I had no choice.

                                Of course the free range model has it's problems with predation and exposure to the elements. We use the day range system where they have a coop that we can close up and keep them safe at night or move them as a flock from one place to another. Our poultry netting (electric) is highly effective against ground predators but as you know, cannot stop the raptors.

                                I do like the idea of the barrels too for shelter. I have a number that are laying around that I can put out. Good idea!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Here is an opportunistic hawk and he is welcome to his rattler catch:

                                  http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a2...g?t=1301448980

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Would a big herding/guarding dog deter hawks?
                                    Click here before you buy.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                                      Would a big herding/guarding dog deter hawks?
                                      If he was "on the ball", yes that would definitely help. Hawks avoid other predators, like the great horned owls I mentioned.
                                      "Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of passions." David Hume

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        In the last New Holland magazine I got (from the tractor company) it profiled a poultry farm. They stated a couple times in the article that they have quite a few miniature goats they turn out with their flocks specifically for raptor protection.
                                        Unfortunately they didn't elaborate on how/why that works. But maybe try a search on how this might work?
                                        You jump in the saddle,
                                        Hold onto the bridle!
                                        Jump in the line!
                                        ...Belefonte

                                        Comment

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