Chickens are wonderful. They provide us with plenty of eggs, useful fertilizer and, of course, we eat them for food.
But plenty of other creatures also love to eat chickens, with hawks being one of the biggest threats to backyard and barnyard chickens alike.
If you’ve got a flock of chickens, you’ll want to do everything you can to protect them from predators.
Hawks are intelligent, common and persistent predators that can deplete your flock in just a couple of weeks, so it’s important to take any steps necessary to keep them safe.
In this article, we will discuss 10 ways that you can protect your chickens from hawks.
Some of these methods are simple and inexpensive, while others require a bit more investment. But all of them are effective in keeping your birds safe!
Understanding the Hawk Threat
As I mentioned above, plenty of animals would love to make a meal out of your chickens, including raccoons, possums, weasels snakes, foxes, coyotes, dogs and cats.
But of all these predators, hawks will likely be one of the most common, persistent and successful.
No matter where you live and no matter the climate, there will be at least a few species of hawk that will be around to torment you.
The ones that pose the biggest threat to chickens are generally larger birds, like the red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk and sharp-shinned hawk.
These birds can take down full-grown chickens with ease. The biggest challenge associated with deterring hawks is their hunting acumen.
Hawks are known for their keen eyesight and their ability to swoop down swiftly on their prey.
These birds of prey typically spot prey from a distance using their keen eyesight before maneuvering for a swift and sure kill.
Sometimes hawks will roost or perch and wait to spot prey while others spot in mid-flight.
However they acquire prey, hawks dispatch it with sharp talons and hooked beaks that tear into flesh with ease. Even a botched attack can severely maim one of your birds, or inflict fatal injuries.
They also tend to rely on silent flight when attacking, allowing them to close rapidly and undetected on unsuspecting chickens, striking before your poor birds can even react.
This ability to remain undetected until the last moment before inflicting grave injuries is undoubtedly one of the most impressive aspects of hawk hunting behavior.
But more than this, many hawk species also exhibit uncanny adaptiveness and intelligence in their attacks, making them highly successful in many environments and despite many challenges from man and other predators.
More than one farmer has learned the hard way you cannot simply shoo off a hawk and forget about it. They watch, try, adapt and try again.
They are cautious, however, and rarely storm into a novel or uncertain situation; a quirk we can use against them…
In short, hawks are truly formidable hunters, and one you’ll have to constantly work hard against if you want to protect your chickens.
Perhaps this is why these magnificent birds have been so revered by so many cultures across the world throughout history.
Caution: Hawks are Protected Wildlife
And there’s more. As if the actual, practical challenge of fending off hawks was not hard enough you’ll have legal elements to contend with.
Hawks are federal- and state-protected wildlife, meaning it is actually against the law to kill a hawk, no matter how much it threatens your flock or how much money it costs you.
You cannot simply blast one out of the sky with your shotgun or resort to other lethal means of defense.
You’ll need to take care not to break any laws as you work to protect your chickens from the flying menace.
All this is not to say that protecting your chickens from hawks is impossible. In fact, there are plenty of effective ways to do just that.
Read on for our top ten tips on how to keep your chickens safe from hawks, ways that won’t endanger the hawk even as it saves your chickens.
10 Surefire Ways to Protect Your Chickens from Hawks
Install a Coop or Covered Run
For many folks that keep chickens, “free-range” is all the rage.
Letting chickens roam around your yard or property gives them a sense of freedom, maximizes grazing opportunities and allows them to “fertilize” as they go, improving soil conditions.
In short, your birds will be happier and healthier as they provide you with fresh eggs…
That is, right up to the point a hawk dives in for an easy grab-and-go meal!
While chickens are generally safe from hawk attack when kept in a coop or covered run, those that are free-range are much more vulnerable to attack.
If hawks are a problem in your area, it’s best to keep your chickens cooped up when they’re not supervised.
A chicken coop will provide shelter and protection from the elements and also protection from predator attacks.
Hawks typically strike from above, so it is important to provide some sort of overhead protection for your chickens, whatever it is.
A proper coop is best, but even a simple tarp or colored plastic mesh can help to deter hawks, as well as other predators such as owls and eagles.
Conceal or Cover Feeding Points
Hawks are a serious threat to flocks of chickens, as these birds of prey typically strike at feeding time.
This means that it is crucial to conceal feeding points in order to prevent your chickens from being easily targeted by hawks.
There are a variety of different techniques you can use to conceal your flock’s feeding points, such as using hutches or raised platforms.
Feeding chickens near dense overhead foliage is also beneficial or locating their food near large obstacles that might impede or narrow a hawk’s angle of attack.
Now, hawks are incredibly agile and can make quick banking turns or graceful swoops while in pursuit of their prey, and this means that obstacles might or might not put them off an attack.
However, as mentioned before, hawks are also cautious and will typically only attack when they are sure of a successful outcome.
With the right obstacles in place, you can reduce the frequency or speed of their attacks, both of which will help your chickens.
Another thing to keep in mind is that hawks may begin to associate your feeder with their food- your chickens! In time, no matter where you move it you will likely see a hawk waiting around for dinner time.
You can spoof this behavior by changing feeder styles and colors periodically.
You can also purchase chicken feeders that are designed to be hawk-proof, with integrated screens or cages that will keep hawks from plunging straight in at your chickens.
Improve Visibility around Common Areas
Maintaining a safe environment for your birds is a multifaceted task.
This often means taking steps to deter predators from accessing the flock, such as by installing overhead cover or concealing feeding points.
But another critical factor in keeping your birds safe is their visibility to you.
Chickens love to congregate in certain areas, such as underneath shady trees or near their coop when they are just hanging out or exploring.
It’s important that you can see them at all times so that you can take action if a hawk or other predator strikes.
Most people like to think they would see something or hear a commotion, but that is just not always true.
You need to strike a balance between giving your birds cover from the hawk without concealing them from your sight.
One of the best ways to improve visibility in these resting and congregating areas is by trimming back grass, shrubs and other plants to provide better lines of sight to where you usually are.
With regular landscape maintenance, you can stay alert and keep your precious flock safe from harm at the end of a hawk’s talons.
Add Roosters to Your Flock
One way to help protect a flock from hawks is to give the flock protectors of its own. That means getting a few roosters.
One of the most important roles for a rooster, aside from fertilizing females, is to help protect the flock of hens and young from predators like hawks and other birds of prey.
You might think a rooster, being a chicken, is just as vulnerable to hawks as females and chicks, but think again.
Roosters have sharp eyesight and are often alert, usually spotting hawks on approach or at a distance.
When this happens, they sound a loud call that warns every chicken in the vicinity to take cover, or else directly counterattack the hawk, perhaps saving a chicken.
Roosters are better equipped to do this than hens, as they have stronger beaks and spurs on their legs that can inflict significant damage. Combined with their general ferocity, they can do a good job!
Keep in mind that not all roosters are created equal when it comes to protecting the flock.
Some chicken breeds have stronger, meaner roosters and are simply better at protection than others, such as the Brahma, Cochin or Rhode Island Red.
Regardless, the presence of a rooster alone is usually enough to give a hawk pause, so that is a win right out of the gate.
Ultimately, roosters play a crucial, active role in helping keep flocks safe from hawks, and are an invaluable defense so long as you can put up with their noise and mischief.
Hang Shiny Garden Spinners
Adding a few shiny garden spinners to your yard or chicken run is an inexpensive way to help keep hawks at bay.
Garden spinners are those whirly, spinning objects that catch the eye and are often used as decorations. But they can also serve a useful purpose in protecting your flock from predators like hawks.
The theory behind using garden spinners for hawk deterrence is that the spinning, glinting object confuses or startles the hawk, making it less likely to attack.
Remember that hawks are generally cautious, careful birds.
The more movement there is, the better, as it makes it harder for the hawk to feel confident in attacking despite the unknown factor in the area.
This type of visual distraction can be just enough to send a hawk looking elsewhere for its next meal.
You can find garden spinners at most hardware or home stores, and they are relatively inexpensive.
Alternately, you can make your own using a variety of plans on the internet. Just be sure to put them in strategic locations where they can do the best, such as near chicken coops or congregating areas.
One of the best and most traditional, if tacky, strategies for deterring hawk attacks is to use scarecrows.
Scarecrows work as a visual decoy, deterring hawks from coming too close to your property by tricking them into thinking a human is present and too close to their prey.
If a hawk shrewdly thinks there is danger present it will wait on attacking and may cause it to avoid your yard and flock altogether.
One of the most important factors for effectiveness is the type of clothing used.
Bright colors are more likely to catch a bird’s attention, while duller colors will be less noticeable until the hawk closes in.
Additionally, patterns can be helpful in making a scarecrow even more visible from a distance. The position is also important, as scarecrows should be placed in areas where your chickens are likely to eat or roam.
By varying the clothes and position of scarecrows, farmers can increase their chances of deterring hawks.
Additionally, placing several scarecrows in key positions around your property can help to create an unpredictable environment for hawks, further reducing their chances of successfully attacking your chickens.
So if you want to keep your flock safe from harm, it’s important to place a few well-chosen scarecrows around your property.
And don’t worry about your chickens being unsettled; they will be well used to people, even fake ones, by now.
Try Owl Decoys
The use of owl decoys as a means of deterring hawks is a controversial subject.
Some believe that the realistic appearance of the decoys will fool hawks into thinking there is an owl present, and they will avoid the area in order to avoid potential conflict.
Owls are known to prey on hawks, especially at night when they have a huge advantage in eyesight.
Others argue that hawks are not fooled by the decoys and that they actually provide a false sense of security for people who may be unaware of the actual presence of a hawk, un-fooled, in the area.
There is little truly scientific evidence to support either claim, and debate continues.
But I can say this: there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that seems to point toward the effectiveness of owl decoys as hawk defenses.
Considering that hawks are known to be cautious birds, it is possible that they may avoid an area entirely if they see an owl decoy.
If you plan on using owl decoys as a part of your flock defense plan, you should vary their placement, orientation and location like the scarecrows, above.
Use a “Guard” Dog
Dogs are truly man’s best friend, and they can also be a chicken’s best friend too. Dogs have been used to protect livestock for centuries, and there is good reason for it.
Their keen senses make them adept at detecting potential threats, such as hawks or other predators, long before most people can.
Many farmers have noticed that the presence of a dog on their property can help to deter predatory birds from attacking chickens, suggesting that either hawk won’t risk tangling with a canine or that dogs may have some innate ability to recognize the threat posed by hawks and posture accordingly.
While more research is needed to fully understand this phenomenon, it is already obvious that dogs often scare hawks away.
Thus, it seems clear that having a dog, any dog, near the flock may provide valuable protection for chickens against hawks and other dangerous birds.
But there is a catch.
Chickens are preyed upon by canines nearly as often as hawks, so it is important to ensure that the dog you choose to protect your flock is well-trained and trustworthy around chickens.
A guard dog that chases and kills chickens is not going to be much help! Furthermore, the dog cannot unduly stress out the chickens or you will be simply trading one hazard for another.
Incorporate a Few Black Chickens
It is a commonly held belief that crows actively seek to attack birds of prey in their territory.
This perception is reflected in folklore and myths, but scientific research has shown that the reality is not far off.
Crows may exhibit defensive or even territorial behaviors toward other large birds, such as jays or hawks, and there is evidence that they consistently target these birds specifically because they are perceived as threats.
You can employ a little bit of psychological warfare in defense of your flock by including a few jet black birds in the mix.
Many chicken farmers have observed hawks and other birds of prey acting more hesitant to attack flocks containing black chickens, and it is suspected that it’s because they are so conditioned to equate black plumage with their hated crow adversaries.
Ultimately, whether crows do in fact attack other birds of prey depends on the circumstances and context of their interactions, but hawks seem to give larger, all-black birds a wide berth at any rate.
Exploiting this quirk of their psychology is another great way to give yourself, and your chickens, an extra measure of protection against hawk attacks.
Add Turkeys or Geese to Your Flock
Another way to make your chickens less attractive to hawks is to add some larger birds, such as turkeys or geese, to the flock.
These much larger birds are simply not on the menu for most predators, including hawks.
As a result, having these big birds around may help to keep your chickens safe from harm by acting as a sort of living shield.
Not only will their size alone deter many would-be attackers, but they are also quite adept at spotting and sounding the alarm when predators are in the area.
This early warning system can give you precious time to round up your chickens and get them into a safe space before a hawk has a chance to strike.
Of course, adding turkeys or geese to your flock is not without its own set of challenges, so be sure to do your research before taking this step.
But if you are able to successfully integrate these larger birds into your existing chicken operation, you may find that they more than pay for themselves in peace of mind and protection from predators.
Keep Your Flock Safe from Hawks with These Tips
Hawks are a natural part of the environment, but one that regularly preys on chickens. Even so, there are many ways to protect your flock.
By using scarecrows and other decoys, shiny garden spinners, guard dogs, roosters, and covered coops and runs, you can make it difficult for hawks to successfully attack your birds.
Additionally, adding turkeys or geese to your flock or exploiting the hawk’s aversion to crows can provide extra protection. With these tips in mind, you can rest assured that your chickens will be safe from harm.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.