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Hawk-Proofing: How to Keep Hawks Away From Chickens

Owning chickens is a rewarding experience from beginning to end. You get fresh eggs, companionship, and even meat for the table. However, there are times when keeping chickens can also be a bit of a hassle, especially when you start noticing hawks hovering overhead. Hawks and other aerial predators are majestic but also a nuisance. That is why this article was written: to help you outsmart these birds of prey by providing some practical tips and knowledge to keep your flock safe and sound.


Why Do Hawks Attack Chickens?

Let’s first discuss why hawks prey on chickens. Turns out, chickens are not a hawk’s primary target. Hawks would much rather go after small rodents, but, under special circumstances, these mighty predators may descend upon your chickens or chicks. Here are a couple of reasons why hawks go after your chickens:

  • Size and Vulnerability: Chickens are generally smaller in size compared to some other prey options available to hawks. Their relatively large bodies, combined with the fact that they spend a significant amount of time on the ground, can make them attractive targets for hawks.
  • Easy Availability: Domesticated chickens often live in enclosed spaces like chicken coops and runs, which may make them easier to access for hawks compared to their wild counterparts. The confined space and limited escape routes can give hawks an advantage when hunting chickens.
  • Opportunistic Behavior: Hawks are opportunistic predators, meaning they will take advantage of available food sources. If a hawk spots a potential meal in the form of a chicken, it may seize the opportunity, especially if it perceives the risk to be low.
  • Instinctual Hunting Patterns: Hawks have excellent vision and sharp talons that allow them to swoop down and capture prey. Chickens scratching the ground or making sudden movements can attract the attention of hawks, triggering their instinctual hunting behavior.

In short, hawks do not always target chickens, but when they do, it is because the chickens are vulnerable. By recognizing the factors that trigger a hawk’s hunting instinct, you can devise strategies to deter them.

How to Keep Hawks Away From Chickens

So, hawks see your chickens as an easy meal. How can you curtail their ability to swoop in and snag chicks and chickens with ease? Here are five ways to keep hawks away from chickens:

1. Add a Rooster to the Flock

Close up of a colorful rooster

Even if you have a sizable group of hens running around the yard, they are not equipped to deal with predators. Roosters, on the other hand, are built for protecting their family. If you don’t already have a rooster, get one. Roosters remain vigilant as the hens peck at the ground. They keep an eye on the skies, too. The moment they see a hawk overheard, they will raise a literal alarm that gets the hens running for cover. Furthermore, male chickens are fierce. If the hawk is not dissuaded by the sight of a rooster and the siren sound he’s making, they will be met with a flurry of talons and pecking.

In the event you already have a rooster and do not want another one, your next best option is a guard dog. Hawks do not like dogs and tend to avoid them. Some breeds, like the Great Pyrenees, have also been trained to bark and protect even at the faintest sign of danger.

2. Provide Ample Cover

Speaking of taking cover, you want to make sure that your chickens have plenty of choices. Hawks tend to avoid obstacles, so bring in some natural shields. Trees, shrubs, and even roofing over the chicken run will protect the flock from aerial bombardment. Plus, those plants and obstacles will also keep your flock out of sight.

If you plan on using material to shield your chickens, make sure that it is secure enough. You don’t want to leave gaps for the hawks to get through.

3. Coop Fortification

Hawks are incredibly intelligent birds. If you want to stay one step ahead of a wily hawk, you need to make the coop a fortress. You can do that with the following:

  • Hawk-Proof Enclosures: When constructing your chicken coop, choose sturdy materials such as hardware cloth or welded wire fencing with small openings. Ensure that the fencing extends underground to prevent hawks from digging their way in (yes, they will try, if they are hungry enough). The coop should also have a secure door and windows covered with strong mesh to prevent entry.
  • Netting and Coverings: Consider installing netting or chicken wire over the top of the chicken run. Make sure it’s taut and securely fastened to prevent hawks from flying in from above. The netting should be strong enough to withstand their talons.

Watch how the rooster, together with the hens, bravely protects the flock from the hawk:

4. Visual Deterrents

Being that hawks are birds of prey, they tend to keep a watch out for other, larger predators. In the same way scarecrows are effective at scaring off crows from crops, you can make a scare-hawk figure to dissuade hawks from coming too close to your chickens. For example, you can take a mannequin and dress it up like a person. Add some shiny, reflective objects, like tinfoil strips, old CDs and DVDs (you don’t use them anymore, right?), and even sequins. The shape of a person, alongside the glimmering will give the illusion of a predator.

If dressing up a mannequin doesn’t seem like it would work, consider balloons. Large balloons often look like other birds of prey. As such, owls, falcons, and hawks tend to steer clear of them. Secure balloons to the corners of the chicken run. Inflatable lawn ornaments, like a wacky, arm-waving person, are also an option if you are letting your chickens free range.

Lastly, you have probably seen those owl statues in farming supply stores. Pick some up and mount them to the roof of your home or even on the coop. Hawks are terrified of owls. If they notice that an owl is perched on the chicken coop, they will avoid the area entirely.

5. Noise-Makers

Another method at keeping hawks away from chickens is to make some noise. Consider hanging wind chimes, playing music, or doing things around the yard throughout the day. Hawks are driven off by commotion, especially when the sound is unfamiliar. Keep in mind that hawks, being intelligent, will begin to recognize which sounds are not a threat to them. Try switching up the noise once in a while or reposition the chimes in the yard. Adding sound and visual deterrents together will also multiply the effectiveness.

6. Conceal Feeding Locations

When you feed your chickens, they tend to cluster in one spot and make a lot of noise, right? Well, that behavior tends to attract hawks. Being that hawks are opportunistic, they will take the dive if they see dozens of chickens distracted by their food. The hawks that aren’t looking for an immediate meal may also stake out the area to see what time of day you feed the chickens. So how do you make meal time for your flock less dangerous? Cover their feeding stations.

By concealing feeding spots, you add cover, which you already know is a viable strategy for keeping hawks away from chickens. Plus, you make it harder for hawks to survey the area. Chickens also like being hidden from view when eating. If they feel safer while eating, their stress levels will drop.

When Are Hawks Most Active Throughout the Year?

red tailed hawk

Just because you no longer see hawks after implementing these strategies does not mean that they are no longer around. Knowing when hawks are coming through the area and when they are most hungry can also help you formulate plans to keep them away. After all, a hawk that is dealing with scarcity during the colder months is going to be far more bold in attacking your chickens than one that is well-fed in spring!

Here are some general hawk patterns to know:

  • Breeding Season: Hawks tend to be more active during their breeding season, which varies depending on the species and region. During this time, they are engaged in courtship displays, nest building, and raising their young, which can lead to increased hunting activity to provide food for their offspring.
  • Migratory Periods: Some hawk species are migratory and may exhibit heightened activity during their migration periods. These periods typically occur in spring and fall as hawks travel between their breeding and wintering grounds. During migration, hawks may be more visible as they traverse long distances in search of suitable habitats and food sources.
  • Winter Scarcity: In regions where prey availability decreases during the winter months, hawks may become more active and visible as they search for food. They may concentrate around areas with abundant prey, such as open fields or near water sources, where small mammals or birds are more easily accessible.
  • Daytime Hunters: Hawks are diurnal birds of prey, meaning they are primarily active during daylight hours. They rely on their keen eyesight to spot and pursue prey, taking advantage of optimal lighting conditions during the day.

It’s important to note that these patterns can vary among different hawk species and locations. Additionally, factors such as habitat changes, weather conditions, and food availability can influence the activity levels of hawks throughout the year.

Final Thoughts on Keeping Hawks Away From Chickens

Protecting your chickens from hawks requires a combination of wit, practical measures, and understanding hawk behavior. By fortifying coops, using visual deterrents, providing cover, and promoting safety in numbers, you can minimize the risk of hawk attacks. Remember, staying vigilant and adapting strategies to your specific circumstances will help ensure the safety and well-being of your feathered friends. With these tips in hand, you’re now equipped to keep those cunning hawks at bay and enjoy the rewarding journey of chicken keeping.