1. If this is your first time on BYC, we suggest you start with one of these three options:
    Raising Chickens Chicken Coops Join BYC
    If you're already a member of our community, click here to login & click here to learn what's new!

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

"Hawks" is the general term used to describe the 270 species of birds of prey that comprises the order Falconiformes.
  1. BYC Support
    General 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.

    Method 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 netting, hardware 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.

    Share This Article


To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!
  1. Lisa Wood
    We bought avian netting, a huge roll, for $60 off Amazon. Just unfold it and cover desired area. Our r u n is maybe 20 by 70. It covered all that with extra netting to spare. I was letting my girls out on grass one at a time when I could be with them, and I stopped after seeing g hawks magically appear. O e second no hawks, the next they are above us. We seem to ways have two or three hunting at once. My aunt was traveling with a couple who had an African Grey. They stopped campers to get out and stretch their legs. This guy had his bird on his shoulder and a hawk took the Grey right off his shoulder. I would need sedatives.
    Not sure why supervising chicks while they free range would help. What can we do except yell and scream?
  2. Linda V
    We created a 30' by 40' free-roaming area in "the cove" which is part of our large, fenced-in back yard. The fence is a 5-foot privacy fence w/scalloped edges. We have a long coop with a door leading out the front into a 14-foot, galvanized steel run, which is covered 100% during the fall/winter but not during the spring/summer as it's in the shade then. The back door of the coop is opened each morning to allow them to exit into the cove.
    We put 4 rolls of KITE STRING across the top of the cove fencing and ran it around the tree trunks in the cove and from the fence top to the highest part of a tree we could rach on a ladder and when we were done, it looks like one huge WEB across the entire top of the cove! It was time-consuming but not difficult. A 5-ft ladder is all you need to reach the highest point you can on the trees.

    We also put a strong, secure, 4-foot green poultry fencing (not chicken wire) in front of the cove with the coop near the fence so I can get behind it to keep supplies, etc., so it's an ideal location. Shade in the summeer and the covered run in the fall & winter to keep it warmer in the run AND to prevent wild bird droppings out!

    The girls are only allowed into the cove, however during the daylight hours when we are home to secure them after dusk and release them around 7:30 am each day.

    So, to answer that question about creating a "web" over their pens, fenced in areas or free-roaming areas... we found that WHITE KITE STRING is fantastic! Fishing line can really hurt you and we'd rather it serve as a DETERRENT to hawks so if it's invisible - it could have a nasty ending for the hawk...no thanks! :(

    Please note however...you need to use at least 4 rolls of this stuff. We got ours at HD. :)

    Hope this lends some new ideas to someone out there!
  3. Cindi1972
    Ugh! All these stories are so sad. I have been raising week old babies for about 4 months now. I did loose one girl to hawk about a month ago. My boyfriend went out to mow the lawn and the tractor scared them.. so they took off... one of which ended up in my neighbors yard... and that is where the hawk got her. I stay out in the yard with them now when they are free ranging. During the work week we walk around for about 2 hours... on weekends they are out about three times a day for about 2 hours each time. Very time consuming..... but I will do anything I have to to make sure I don't lose one to a hawk again. They are really good about even seeing the hawk before I do and do take cover... that is when I know the hawk is around. Most times I see him first, and I get the girls to run for cover. We have been successful since the attack a month ago. I was glad to read that some of your chickens were able to survive the attacks..... my Hennrietta wasn't so lucky. I know have 1 Rooster and 4 gals who are 4 months old and I did just get two new chicks.. ( hopefully girls ) who are about 2 weeks now. Everyone is doing well... and the hawk is still seen on occasion.. hoping to have another meal. ( NOT ON MY WATCH HE WON'T! )
  4. Candida
    ~~ live in central mass and have had Cayuga and East Indie ducks for over 5 yrs. A HUGE red tail hawk almost got one of the east indies on Wed. I heard the chickens and ducks going crazy...went outside to find the hawk had brigette pinned to the ground....I ran over waving my arms and it didn't even flinch. it had its wings over her like Dracula I swear! it bent down and plucked some feathers from her neck. I grabbed a rake and started hitting it and it flew off into a nearby tree, where it sat and watched me. she had a little blood coming from her nostils but no other visible signs or injury. kept her in a crate for the night in the house, after swimming in the tub for a few hours. she is fine thank God. when I first got them I had netting over their pen for the first year. for the last 4 I had nothing covering them and they are fine. I figured the cayugas were too big to try to take. I went to home depot and bought a roll of bird netting for 20 bucks. I covered their pen with it. best 20 bucks I ever spent. and I still have enough to cover the chickens run too. I think its been so cold, and food is scarce, that the hawks are getting desperate. leaving them vulnerable in a pen is like serving the up for an easy kill. so glad it worked out for me. get the netting...its worth it !!
  5. ellend
    What worked for me in an identical situation (except small yard instead of big woods--I cannot to this day figure out where she was hiding!) was to bring the rest of the flock out with me, giving treats. When she heard their voices, maybe especially their "treat" voices, she came flying in. (OEG bantams fly well.)
  6. rascalman
    Had my five chickens out free ranging as they do most days when I am home to watch them. My husband and I were sitting at the table having lunch when he spotted at hawk that had one of the chickens pinned down under a pine tree. He ran out the door and scared the hawk away. The chicken lost some feathers and has a puncture wound and of course is pretty shaken up but otherwise seems to be okay. I separated her from the other chickens putting her in a dog crate with hay, water and feed to let her rest and to protect her in case the others want to peck at her wound. Scared the living daylights out of me! We were able to catch all but one of the other chickens as they scattered under the surrounded bushes, but one of them is still loose and hard as we try, we can't catch her. I know she is scared. We live on 7 acres, mostly cleared but with plenty of wooded areas and shrubs for her to hide under. I hope we can catch her before the hawk finds her! How do you catch a chicken that doesn't want to be caught? I know one thing....you can't chase her! Any ideas?
  7. ellend
    Nothing will stop them except a physical barrier; they are hungry. One chicken supplies a LOT more food than a sparrow. You're doing very well, providing lots of duck-and-cover places for your girls, but all "free-rangers" must accept a certain amount of risk. They WILL take some chickens. It's a trade-off. As mentioned on a previous post, they will take a chicken from in front of your nose if they can get in and out faster than you can move to stop them; it's the only way they can survive. Moveable tractors allow more grazing when your risk is high, but I know that's no substitute for a happy free-range flock. If you want your girls loose in the yard, raise extra chickens, and steel yourself. At least they always eat what they take, and they take only what they need; you'll never see a fat wild hawk.
  8. nicole63021
    Trying to figure out the best way to deal with the family here. 2 adults (pair) and a juvie (this seasons fledged) patrol our area. They have had a few goes at our girls, but none successful so far. We have more cover in the summer of course, but also have put 4 pallets side by side against the fence with the most plants. The girls all ran to that area when the hawks started swooping on them, and with a tree, plants and patio furniture (now pallets) the hawks don't seem to be able to get a good run at them. These are all pullets hatched June/July. We are adding a lot of plants this year to allow them to range, but otherwise they are confined to a run unless we are standing out with them. The hawks aren't even afraid of us or the dogs. Have hosed and hit the hawks with a rake and still they come!
  9. Summer Rose
    Oh, can understand that...Hope your Hens stay safe..
  10. risenshine
    The width we needed to cover our outdoor run was too expensive so we improvised. : )

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by