How to Protect Your Chickens From The Hawk
Well-fed chickens are a welcome meal for the chicken hawk. The hawks belong to the birds of prey. They catch and kill their prey with their feet. To protect your livestock from the hawk, you can do a few things. Here you can learn how to keep the chicken thieves away from your poultry.
Bird loss due to birds of prey
Losing animals is always sad. Four-legged predators such as foxes, martens and dogs are generally responsible for more bird losses, but birds of prey also pose a threat to your chickens. Open, upwardly unprotected runs offer the goshawk easy game. Especially if there are not enough hiding places for the flock of chickens. There are anecdotal reports of the birds of prey snatching a chicken a day until eventually there is nothing left.
The predators are smart and keep a close eye on the daily routines on the farm. They can literally fly in on a flock of unprotected chickens when conditions are favorable, and they don’t just attack once, but keep coming back. Especially old and sick chickens as well as offspring are at risk. You should pay special attention to these and take appropriate measures to keep the predators away and your losses as low as possible.
In our guide “Protecting chickens from foxes – this is how” you will learn which precautionary measures help to prevent the fox from grabbing your chickens.
What bird of prey besides the hawk strikes and eats chickens?
The most common aerial threat to chickens is probably the goshawk, also known as the chicken goshawk because of its preference for hen and rooster. The other birds of prey living in Germany do not come into question as chicken thieves.
The buzzard, for example, hunts mainly small mammals such as field mice, but also young birds and reptiles. Smaller owls also do not manage to kill chickens. Only the largest owl species, the eagle owl, is able to prey on chickens. However, eagle owls are rare and they are very shy. Local hawks are not a threat to your chickens either. They feed on small mammals, small birds, reptiles, amphibians or insects. Likewise, the red kite and the sparrow hawk do not usually hunt chickens.
Tips to protect your chickens from the hawk
Tip #1: Stretch the net from above
The most effective protection of your chickens from the birds of prey is a net that you stretch over the closed enclosure. This way you prevent attacks from above. To prevent the birds of prey from entering, the net should have a mesh size of less than 10 cm.
Tip #2: Do not leave gaps in the enclosure fence
Goshawks are clever and also hunt on the ground. It is not uncommon for the chicken thieves to circle the free-range enclosure on foot looking for loopholes. If the predator finds a gap, the cackling is great. Nevertheless, not all chickens usually make it back to the protective coop in time. So start looking for holes in the fence. There should also be no holes between the net at the top and the fence. Just a few centimeters is enough for a bird of prey to enter the enclosure. Much less than a fox or dog needs.
Tip #3: Double fence
If your existing fence has a fairly large mesh size, a bird of prey can prey on a chicken sitting too close to the fence from the ground, even if the fence itself has no holes. To protect against this, a double fence made of rabbit wire, for example, will help. Alternatively, you can seal the lower part of the enclosure with boards.
Tip #4: Create shelter
Chickens are flight animals. If the rooster or a hen gives the warning call, all the hens flee and hide. In modern chicken keeping, an open run with no hiding places is common, even though it is not really the nature of chickens. Especially in large areas that cannot be covered with netting, hiding places reduce the risk. To prevent birds of prey from attacking unhindered, roofs made of wooden boards mounted flat above the ground help. Other hiding places also help prevent major losses to your birds of prey attacks.
Tip #5: Make access to the chicken coop difficult
If you cannot completely secure the run, you should at least make access to the coop more difficult. A proven method is a textile curtain. Chickens learn very quickly to accept the new obstacle. Birds of prey, however, are deterred in the long term and will certainly not fly into the coop in pursuit of chickens.
Tip #6: Acquire four-legged helpers
There are chicken keepers who put donkeys, horses, goats or cattle with the chickens to scare away chicken thieves. Dwarf goats that walk among the chickens are said to be particularly successful. Dwarf goats are low maintenance, defensible, and can deter birds of prey with their predictable movements.
Alternative means of protection against the chicken goshawk
Supposedly, other means and tricks also protect chickens from the hawk. For example, colorful ribbons, reflective balls and CDs, or paint sprays to color the plumage have been discussed in this context. However, experience shows that these means are not successful: They do not deter the birds of prey. This is because the prey birds learn quickly. They understand that there is no danger to them from the inanimate repellents.
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