any owl experts? tips for keeping them away from chickens

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Saltysteele, Jun 20, 2011.

  1. Saltysteele

    Saltysteele Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 10, 2011
    i went out to get a receipt out of my truck last night, and heard some screeching that wasn't familiar to me. my young roosters' "balls are dropping," so they're pestering the tar out of the hens and each other, but it was about 10:30 p.m., just past dusk here. as i went over to their area, i saw a large bird (probably 3' wing tip to wing tip), light brown in color, fly away making a screeching sound. left behind the dead chicken [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    and, of course, the dead chicken was my daughter's favorite, brownie.

    through several hours of research this morning on the web, i've determined it was a juvenile great horned owl. they are a large bird and continue to make the screeching sound for quite a while after becoming independent, and are the light brown color. here is a link to an audio clip which contains great horned owl screechings exactly like i heard last night.

    there appeared to be a pair of them hunting together (probably siblings). there was the one that flew off to the west (probably went to sit in the trees in the woods several hundred yards away), and there was another in the woods to the north of us screeching. when going to bed at 11:30, i could hear them through the window. went out again, and the owl was once again in the area, flying directly overhead of where he left the chicken. i had, the first time i went out, closed them back in the covered run, but fully shut them in for overnight. i've only let them out to their covered run today.

    i was told that stringing fishing wire overhead will confuse them and they'll stay away. obviously, killing or trapping is out of the question, which makes it difficult to keep the chickens safe.

    anyone have experience with GHO's, or know if they will enter a coop? the chicken it killed last night, i think had gotten out of it's enclosed area, otherwise it most likely would have been in the coop with the rest. i just put up their fence so they could expand past the run this past week [​IMG] [​IMG]

    my grown chickens have been out totally free ranging for a while now, and i haven't even closed the door to their run for a while, and they've never been bothered.

    i don't know. could be just newly independent juveniles moved into the area after leaving mom and dad, but now that they know the chickens are here, they'll probably be here a while [​IMG] [​IMG]
  2. welasharon

    welasharon Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 28, 2010
    North Florida
    I have an owl here as well. I keep mine in their pen. It is hardware cloth and covered. They are only out to free range during the day when I am there with them. They can be bold. Someone on here posted a pic they took of the owl sitting on the fence post.
  3. dadof4

    dadof4 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 30, 2008
    If the coop is open they will fly right in and kill them. I just lost a steady stream of ducks to one. They are very patient. Move somethings around to throw it off a bit, and keep your chickens up at night. Short of the old SSS or a covered run, there isn't much you can do.
  4. kelar

    kelar Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 22, 2010
    The owls will be back since they now know there is a source of food. Cover the run or keep the chickens locked in their coop after dusk. Full time free ranging is like playing russian roulette - sooner or later you will lose one, some, or all of your birds.
  5. Lesa

    Lesa Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 28, 2008
    Upstate NY
    Since owls almost always hunt at night- the solution is to make sure all the chickens are safely locked in their coop at night.
  6. Lesa

    Lesa Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 28, 2008
    Upstate NY
    Since owls almost always hunt at night- the solution is to make sure all the chickens are safely locked in their coop at night.
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I have had some GHO problems as well, adults and juveniles. They will take my birds that roost in exposed locations where owl can approach from above or from side. They seem to be pretty consistent about working on smaller birds first with adult roosters the last to be targeted.

    They do not pose a threat to my birds until after dark, probably because the chickens are too evasive when they can see owl coming. GHO not as maneuverable as hawks.

    Stress - GHO like approach from above or the side. With bigger birds, they seem to want it on ground before attacking. My GHO pick out a bird and slowly push it off roost / limb and then attack it when on ground. They will also attempt to reach through cage material to grab bird and attempt to pull it out.

    Many of my birds free range and roost in coops remaining open 24 / 7. Two tricks I use although either alone would reduce losses to GHO. First, access to roost from bottom only with vertical flight required for entrance. GHO's have yet to figure out how to enter from below. Also made it so GHO has nowhere to stand on outside of roost where it can also see and potentially reach roosting chicken. Second, dog patrols area. GHO like many smaller predators does not like to hunt in area where larger predator is lurking. This also decreases investment GHO seems to make in figuring out how to defeat my coops.

    This system I have used because I sometimes forget to close coops before GHO comes calliing.
  8. Saltysteele

    Saltysteele Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 10, 2011
    thanks for the tips, everyone!

    their run is covered and enclosed, but i made a fenced in area to the side of it and cut a small square out for them at ground level to get out to the grassy area (they demolished the grass in their run).

    i'm thinking the one he got had gotten out of the fence and didn't know how to get back in. the others were all inside the coop, except for one young rooster who was roosted in the covered run and appeared to be on the lookout (had his neck straight out, head slightly lower than his body). he seems to be a fairly intelligent with some courage, so i'd like to keep him safe so he can protect his gals when older.

    it doesn't sound, from my research or what people say here, that owls will ever NOT pose a threat to chickens, despite how large the chickens get. we went many years without a bother from hawks or owls, but i believe that was because they were under trees before.

    i need to clip their wings and secure the bottom of the fence, to make sure they can't get out and not be able to get back in. i think that may have been the problem, as they're all pretty good at going back in the coop just before dark.

    hopefully we can get through without loosing anymore to these juvie owls, and they'll move on.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2011
  9. Betsy Bowers

    Betsy Bowers New Egg

    Mar 19, 2014
    So sorry about losing your chicken. Good thing you went out when you did. We lost 3 of our flock last night and found the GHO in the coop! He pulled on the chicken wire snd broke in. We had to chase him out with a broom. The hens were inclosed but tonight they are in there house with the door shut. :(
  10. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    I see that this thread is over 3 years old but this still may help someone.

    People use to put a small steel trap on a tall post and secure the trap chain to the post. But alas, this is now frowned on by the Fish and Game people. Instead run an electric fence hot wire and a ground wire up the post. Fix a small perch say a 6 inch long by 1 X 4 board on top of the post. Run the hot and ground wire across the flat side of the perch board, leaving about 2 inches between the hot wire and the ground wire. Make sure that the hot wire is insulated from the post and board. When your hoot owl returns and lands on the perching board to look over the menu before choosing a chicken, he will complete the electric circuit and be in for quite a shock. Not enough of a shock to kill him, but enough of a shock to make your hoot owl remember an important
    engagement somewhere else.

    A friend of mine almost got into trouble when a nosy neighbor turned him in for allegedly killing a hoot owl. He now uses this method but keeps the hot and ground wires on the opposite side of the tall post from the road. The Fish and Game officer kept a check on my friend for several years but despite glassing the post from the road numerous times Fish & Game never discovered the 2 electric fence wires running up the back side of the pole. If the post is in a strategic position near where your birds roost, 6 or 8 feet high is plenty high enough to attract every GHO that looks over your roosting birds. Turn the juice off during the day so that you don't shock a song bird needlessly.

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