We’ve had this very persistent bird of prey that has been attacking and eating our chickens. I am sorry to announce that I have canceled the rooster giveaway because this eagle/falcon/hawk attacked and ate him. For purposes of this article, let’s call it Chester, the Chicken Hawk. In trying to identify the culprit, I have run a few google image searches and think it is indeed a hawk that preys on domesticated birds.
When I first got the chickens, I did not look forward to, but expected some hen losses due to nature. What I did not expect was my coop to be the bird equivalent of a KFC stand. We had approximately one chicken loss per week. The first couple, I was pretty excited (read: fresh organic chicken meat). The guinea hens would squawk like crazy during and immediately after an attack. I would go outside and see the chicken hawk departing. It would have enough time to attack and kill, but if I got to the kill fast enough, he it did not have enough time to dismantle the bird. So I did the natural thing, plucked, gutted and then put it in my handy dandy Ronco Rotesserie Oven. The fifth hen death, demoralized me. I could not bring myself to eat it. I plucked and gutted it and then gave it to Iris’ cousin Tanya to cook and eat.
Steps I Took to Prevent Further Chicken Losses.
Electric Fence. We installed an electric fence around the coop and run to give the chickens an area to free range. Initially we had it in open ground. Whenever a chicken would escape the fence, we noticed that the chickens liked to graze under thick shrubs beside our house. We moved the fence to enclose the bushes, thinking that the bushes would provide camouflage and shelter from the chicken hawk. Did not work. Chester would hang out in a tree directly above the shrubs and attack on its time.
Fishing Line. Remembering a visit to City Island Bronx, New York, the outdoor restaurant at the end of the pier had thousands of gulls around it. Amazingly, the gulls would not enter into the seating and eating area. After asking a staff member what prevents the gulls from coming down and eating human food, they replied that the entire outdoor area had a few strands of fishing line strung across it. Apparently, the birds see the fishing line glinting in the sunlight and do not venture into this area because they believe that they only see part of the roof, and believe that they will get caught up in the lines. I think you could count on one hand, the number of lines that crisscrossed the eating area. Encouraged, I bought some 20 lb. test fishing line and strung a dozen or so lines crisscrossing the open area. Did not work AT ALL. The day after hanging the lines, a chicken was killed in an open area right below a fishing line.
Mirrored Bid Deterrents. I bought aluminum streamers, a mirrored windpowered spinner and hung CDs everywhere in our yard. I think these work by reflecting sunlight and blinding the hawks. Another fail. A day or two after hanging these reflective items, Chester killed another chicken.
Roof Net v.1. Finally, we gave in and realized that we needed to net the entire free range area with a bird net that is designed to keep birds off of crops. After installing, I neglected to zip tie the circumference of the fence to the roof netting. Next day, I caught the hawk inside the free range area and watched him as he left from a small hole between the fence and the netting roof.
Roof Net v.2. I carefully went around the circumference of the fence and zip tied the roof netting to the fence. I tied all holes larger than a tennis ball. This worked for a while, but then we got another killed chicken. Apparently, Chester now waited for a chicken to venture close to the perimeter of the fence, and then would attack THROUGH the fence. Dead chicken on the inside, Chester eating on the outside. We had turned our chicken coop from an eat in KFC to a drive through!
Branch blockers. We lined the inside perimeter of the free range area with branches to prevent the chickens from venturing close to the edge of the fence. This also worked for a while, but just yesterday, Chester killed another chicken. Inexplicably, this chicken died about two feet from the edge of the fence. I am unsure how Chester got to this chicken, but after the customary squawking, this time I saw TWO chicken hawks fly away. Great, now Chester is telling his friends about the great eats at our coop!
Most recently, I bought bird spike strips. You see these everywhere in a city where people do not want birds (read: pigeons) to roost and poop underneath. I lined the inside two feet of the coop with these spiky strips, hoping that this will further deter chickens from venturing too close to the edge of the fence.
Wifey has wanted to buy a fenced in free range area for about two months now (think fenced dog pen but larger and with a roof). I want to avoid this. Not only expensive, these pens are large, cumbersome, hard to move and do not look great. If we get another chicken kill, I fear that we will have little choice but to get one of these.
If ANYONE has any advice or suggestions (at this point, I’d settle on encouragement) in deterring chicken hawks, please feel free to comment below.