BackYard Chickens › Learning Center Articles › Red Tailed Hawk - Chicken Predators - How To Protect Your Chickens From Hawks

Red Tailed Hawk - Chicken Predators - How To Protect Your Chickens From Hawks



Red-Tailed HawkGeneral Information and Description

"Hawks" is the general term used to describe the 270 species of birds of prey that comprises the order Falconiformes. All hawks have basic similarities such as keen eyesight, said to be the best in the entire animal world, taloned feet and hooked beaks for capturing and eating prey. The different hawk species vary greatly in size, ranging from the 11" long sharp shinned hawk to the rough legged hawk, who measures 22", with a wingspan of over 55". Female hawks are nearly all larger than males. Hawks are strong, powerful birds and are all excellent hunters that preys on a wide variety of small animals and other birds. Chicks and smaller chicken breeds are sometimes preyed on. 




Hawks species can be found distributed widely across the world. They can easily mould into any surroundings, but prefer habitats such as deserts and fields, but can also be found in mountainous plains and tropical, moist areas. Red tailed hawks are the most widely distributed hawk in the Americas, with numbers ranging around 1 million.


Red-Tailed HawkMethod of Kill


Hawks have extremely keen eyesight and can often be seen scanning for prey from an elevated perch site. Once prey is spotted, the hawk will swoop down and pin it down with it's talons, often killing it on impact. They also watch for prey while flying, sometimes capturing a bird in flight. If their prey is too large to swallow whole, it is torn to bite-sized pieces with the hawk's beak.


Prevention and Treatment


Relentless hawks and how to deal with them is often a big concern for chicken keepers. The easiest way to protect your flock from hawks is by constructing a secure coop with a covered run. Roofing sheets, bird or deer nettinghardware cloth or chicken wire can be used. Make sure the cover is secure, without any loose or weak parts through which a hawk could gain access. Some popular hawk deterrents that people have had some success with is hanging old CD's and other shiny objects on string from trees around the chicken's coop and run, keeping a well trained dog with or near the chickens and strategically placed pallets and boards for chickens to duck under for shelter. Guinea fowl and alert roosters in your flock can be good, reliable "alarms" for when a hawk, or any other kind of predator, is spotted. Some roosters and fiercely protective broody hens may even attack or fight off hawks! 


Please note that hawks are protected by law and capturing and killing them may result in you getting a serious fine or even jail time. Questions concerning the protection or raptors and the legalities concerning them should be directed to your local state Conservation Officer, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


For more discussions on hawks and how to deter them see the predators and pests section of the forum.


Comments (28)

I have heard that giving your chickens places to hide, like bushes or human-made hides, can be effective. Also, hawks need a bit of space to swoop in, so levels of trapping objects - small trees, wire, fences, netting - things that could deter the hawk from trying to swoop down, or make it think it doesn't have enough open space to try.
Thanks. I was talking to someone I know who has chickens, and also has hawks that live near his property. He said that hawks don't bother full grown chickens, as they like to be able to carry their meals to a safe place, and full-grown chickens are too big. Perhaps if they got desperate they might go after the chickens, but with an ample supply of squirrels it sounds like that is unlikely...
clgonsal, you should check out the Predators and Pests forum under Raising Backyard Chickens - it is extremely helpful.
Just yesterday while the chickens were roaming free a Coopers Hawk flew through the door in the run and killed two younger chickens (about 7 weeks old). Then the hawk couldn't get out of the run. It was poring outside, seems even the rain isn't a deterrent to the hawks. From here on out they will only free range while I am outside too.
I had a Hawk kill one of my chickens last week.. I would also like to know how it keep Hawks away. I keep my pink 22 handy to scare them off..My chicken was full grown..
just had a red tail hawk trying to get my young cayagu ducks .. im glad i put my hound on a rope run above his head and he almost caught that hawk and killed it,, next time it tries it he just may get it and kill it . the ducks stay fairly close to him since his rope run is next to their housing .the hound feels very protective of them as they are his only company most of the time.
I had a hawk kill my pullet. I ran outside and the hawk couldn't get off the ground with her after several tries, readjusting his feet. Finally I got close enough that he gave up and flew away. He had broken her neck so she couldn't struggle. Very sad. 5-yr old son was right behind me and started screaming to get the other 2 chickens into the house... Sigh. I now have 4 hens and they still free-range, but they are pretty wiley. They spend most of their time digging around under bushes - we have bushes and trees around the entire perimeter of their grassy free-range space (50x100 feet). They are very alert for any flying shadow. Wild raspberry brambles make an awesome shelter, impenetrable! I tied the branches up onto stakes, and they roll in the dirt underneath. When they hear any warning calls from wild birds or squirrels, they duck for cover. They can also go under a deck. I think the hawk needs to be able to swoop and grab while still in the air to take a bigger bird. Both of my pens have covering over the top. Deer netting or chicken wire, so if the chickens are confined, they are also protected. A hawk was once looking into the pen through the chicken wire. The deer netting is less visible so I used to tie pieces of plastic sheeting, or twigs, etc. to make it more visible. I've heard of hawks crashing into deer netting because they didn't see it - dangerous for the hawk and the chickens. Now leaves have fallen onto the top so a hawk would know it's covered. A friend ties long (2-3 feet) shiny metallic strips to the tops of bamboo poles, and sticks them around the yard where they flap in the wind, and it seems to deter the hawks.
I lost two of my girls this week, one was a Bantam Roo and the other a full grown Cornish:>( I went out today and bought pie plates to hang and clang around the yard. Also bought two Plastic Owls that Tractor Supply sells for that purpose. Also found some Jingle bells on strips at the Dollar store and bought some bright colored scarves. Trying every thing I have read on a lot of sites including Barnyard Chickens. I do want the girls to free-range both because I like animals born in freedom to live that way as well as I've heard that their eggs will be much more tasty. Here is another thing I have heard from Raisers that I am going to do for a least a few weeks hoping that the Hawk will move on.....Only let them out about an hour or so before they go into roost..I can stay outside and watch them for that long. Also thinking of making a scarecrow that looks like a person out there. Good luck to all of us!!!
I have five full-grown hens in my urban backyard, and there is ahawk, or more than one, that just bedevils them. We have strung fishing line back and forth from my tall wooden fences, but they will come and perch on the fence, trying to figure out how to get in, and my gals just freak out and run for cover. I really think a small-time chickener needs constant vigilance. I can't afford--financially or emotionally--to lose one of these chickens, as they are both pets and providers of really high-quality eggs. So my advice is to read everything, try what will work in your situation, and pay attention. The ladies will let you know if a hawk has been visiting--even when I can't see one, if I see the chickens standing stock still, bunched up together, I know they've spotted one. Give them plenty of cover or only let them free-range when you or a good dog are out there. Think of various physical barriers. Respect the hawk; if in spite of your very best efforts, a red-tail takes one of your chickens, try not to be mad at it; it's just wanting to eat and feed its young. Just redouble your efforts to protect your birds. Good luck!
Well, everything that I tried hasn't worked. Hawk not afraid of Owls, nor the shiny tin foil, nor the scarecrow, nothing worked. I will do as I posted just let them out while I am down there, it's a bummer but don't want them to be dinner. Have already has a Bear tear the door off of the Coop, Hawk got three Chickens and last night there was a Coyote in the yard, scared him off with a BB Gun. Geez
I lost one full grown 29 week old chicken to a Hawk. It then came back and tried to kill another one but I dad scared it away in the process. Now my chickens are no longer allowed to free range without someone outside with them. However, this past saturday I came inside my house for literally 15 mins but I was standing by my front door and I looked up and saw the hawk flying over my front yard. My mom and I ran out screaming but thankfully two crows live in the trees near my house and they came out and chased the hawk away. However, my chickens were hiding in the woods underneath the thick thorn bushes and the other were under the butterfly bushes. ( i have 28 in total all are 25 weeks and older) Hawks are dangerous and it is my biggest issue! I hate that **** thing. It killed my best chicken. RIP buttercup
Raptors assess their target areas thoroughly; they quickly recognize things that do not constantly change position as no threat. I know of a kitten being taken three feet from the toes of a seated person playing with him. They MUST be intelligent and fast to survive and to feed their young. Coopers and Sharp-Shinned, especially, will go after birds; usually bantams and young. Don't count on anything except a physical barrier to protect your flock. If you feed local wild birds in winter, your place becomes a hunting ground when the migrating birds leave and the food supply drops. My birds are "safe" (-er) only during summer, and I live in a major city. I was so sad to lose a lovely and sweet young hen this spring to a hawk, but...they can't buy dinner at the take-out, so it was MY fault, not the hawks.
We have found that placing shiny Christmas tree ornaments on our tree branches helps deter flying predators. We also place mirrors on the top of wooden fence posts. Anything moving or shiny helps.
I mentioned above that nothing works and that is still true..shiny objects, Owls, moving shiny things, scarecrow, and now I find that the Hawk will even come get one when I am down there. And, found that he CAN get a full grown Dominique. I'm left with no other choice but to have a fenced and covered Run if I want to have any Hens. I'm quite sure it is a Red Tail that has gotten them but it could be another kind because I haven't seen him up close to determine that. Trust all of us who have said that nothing but an enclosure will work. Other things might Help but your taking a Huge chance.
Has anyone tried using fishing line in a woven fashion over the top of their pens?
Not using it but heard that it works. But, I went to Home Depot and they have a plastic fencing that comes in a roll, it is flexable and looks like it will be really easy to use. I got a roll not positive on the size but think it was 36 X 25ft. and only cost me ten dollars. You might want to look into it before you spend the time it would take to do the fish line.
We used the role you are speaking of around the sides to heighten our outdoor enclosure. We had to add wood braces to attach it. Then we added the crisscross pattern of fishing wire. The only downfall is that after the PA winter snows, it had to be constantly repaired. I also like pastured chickens but then again the predators are always an issue. Oh, to live in a perfect world. : )
Hahaha on the Perfect world...I don't live in a heavy snow area so I might survive that one..but why the fishing wire? I thought this plastic wire would be enough???
The width we needed to cover our outdoor run was too expensive so we improvised. : )
Oh, can understand that...Hope your Hens stay safe..
BackYard Chickens › Learning Center Articles › Red Tailed Hawk - Chicken Predators - How To Protect Your Chickens From Hawks