In my personal experience, there is NO, and I mean N.O. real deterrent for Red Tail hawks, except possibly a very large, obnoxious, harrassing murder of crows chasing them off. I think it's worse if:
- The local, natural prey population is low (rabbits, mice, voles, small songbirds)
- The Red Tails ever actually get a chicken ONCE. They learn it's easy prey!
- They raise their babies and teach them that chicken is easy prey
People who say they have Red Tails living on their property, and never a problem - well, I think there is most likely very abundant natural prey, and the hawks haven't caught a chicken yet so they just don't know how easy and tasty it is, and they weren't taught by their parents to hunt chickens.
The Red Tails on my property are vicious, undeterrable predators of my chickens. Over the years, I have lost count of how many chickens I've had killed. Finally we built the nice big covered run and the chickens are locked up 21-22 hours per day. I let them out 2-3 hours each evening right before bed. By that time the hawks have gone to roost, or otherwise left the area. But still, I stay out there with them CONSTANTLY. Constantly means I do not go in the house and watch TV for 30 minutes. I do not go make dinner. I do not walk the dogs. I do not take my eyes off those chickens, EVER. I will sit under a tree with my drink and snacks and read a magazine and keep watch on the sky every minute.
You have no idea how bold and vicious a mature pair of Red Tails can become if the conditions are right. They will perch directly on top of my silo, which is 5 feet away from my chicken run and stare down inside at the chickens.
When we built the run, we built it so that 50% of it is covered in solid, corrugated steel roofing. The other 50% is heavy duty plastic bird netting. If the chickens go under the steel roofing portion, they can go up the ladder into their house. And they DO if those hawks are circling close!
I am very fortunate that my super old EE (in my avatar - 7 years old) is THE most hawk savy, watchful bird I've ever seen. Over all the years since she was hatched her, she has been the only survivor of hawk attack after hawk attack after hawk attack..... She watches the sky constantly and will shriek and growl if she detects a hawk. She will run up that ladder and go into their house in a flash. The others are too young and dumb to list to her but they are "just" starting to pay attention and "get it." A few of them now will freeze and then bolt and run along behind her. It won't be long and they will all be conditioned to know what her alarm call means.
CDs, scarecrows, owls, barking dogs, NONE of that makes a danged bit of difference with a mature breeding pair of Red Tails determined to feed their family in a scarce food area. If you're relying on those things to protect your flock, you are sadly mistaken. Give it enough time, let some drought or extreme cold kill off your local rabbit population, and the CDs and fishing twine you thought worked, will do nothing. Been there, done that, got 14 t-shirts already. Those items are only a very mild deterrent that are somewhat "kind of" annoying to a Red Tail and if easy food is to be found outside the CDs and scare crows, they will pick that off first. But I'm not kidding, let all that food dry up, and they no longer care about your deterrent efforts. I have had one swoop down and near crash INTO ME as it tried to grab a chicken.
I am not deluded either into thinking that my flock is safe that 2-3 hours I'm out there watching them. They're not. I feel they are about 90% safe but only total lock up is almost 100% safe from hawks.
Edited by RaeRae2 - 8/8/12 at 6:54am