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.
By BYC Support · Jan 10, 2012 · Updated Jul 12, 2013 · ·
  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 prey 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

    VHoff likes this.

Recent User Reviews

  1. alexa009
    "A Good Description Of Hawks."
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Nov 20, 2018
    A good article describing the Red Tailed Hawk but they do not get discouraged easily based on what I have seen. One had nerve to fly into the pen when I was in the yard. My 30 lb dog (mutt) started barking and went after it. The hawk got annoyed and started chasing after her then made a grab at my cockerel. Thank you so much for the rest of the information you provided. I had no idea capturing and killing a hawk was illegal. You saved my life from jail.:)
  2. LlamaGirl4
    "Good article."
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Nov 20, 2018
    I’ve had hawks around and this is a good article to read. My favorite hen was attacked and I had no idea what to do! Thanks to byc and these articles my hen survived!
  3. N F C
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Aug 7, 2018
    Some good general info. Based on personal experience, hanging shiny objects did not discourage the hawks I've encountered. A covered run is best with plenty of hiding places for the chickens to get under when free ranging. Another thing that worked well for me was to become aware of when hawks were most likely to be after my birds...early morning and late afternoon were hawk-intensive times for me so I only free ranged my birds at other times.


To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!
  1. Ducksandchickens
    I have had many losses by hawks. I use blue kote. It works so well!!!!
  2. 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?
  3. 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 thanks! :(

    Please note 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!
  4. 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! )
  5. 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 !!
  6. 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.)
  7. 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 can't chase her! Any ideas?
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. Summer Rose
    Oh, can understand that...Hope your Hens stay safe..
  11. risenshine
    The width we needed to cover our outdoor run was too expensive so we improvised. : )
  12. Summer Rose
    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???
  13. risenshine
    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. : )
  14. Summer Rose
    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.
  15. risenshine
    Has anyone tried using fishing line in a woven fashion over the top of their pens?
  16. Summer Rose
    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.
  17. risenshine
    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.
  18. ellend
    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.
  19. cutlerfam7
    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
  20. Summer Rose
    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
  21. CityGirl35
    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!
  22. Summer Rose
    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!!!
  23. chateau poulet
    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.
  24. bluejeans
    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.
  25. caddynana
    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..
  26. lorim
    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.
  27. PeepsAreForMe
    clgonsal, you should check out the Predators and Pests forum under Raising Backyard Chickens - it is extremely helpful.
  28. clgonsal
    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...
  29. RoaringBravado
    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.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: