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Chickens, a newbie, and a healthy redtail population (**caution, lengthy and opinionated essay**)

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Johnboy78, Apr 3, 2012.

  1. Johnboy78

    Johnboy78 Chirping

    May 16, 2011
    They circle a large area that includes my backyard.
    A few days ago I heard the girls doing the group cackle.
    They were up in the back, under a bush, screaming their heads off.
    I looked around and sure enough, a hawk sitting up in a neighbor's tree.
    A couple of rocks that missed by a mile actually motivated it to fly off.
    The girls stayed put though and a minute later another that I hadn't seen took off.
    Then they followed me down to the deck. The hawks circle and the chickens take cover.
    They even ducked under the deck and hung out there for awhile.
    The hawks are around every day, flying over landscaped suburban Long Island.
    Driving along the Sagtikos Parkway years ago I saw my first hawk strike on the center divider,
    BANG! and he's flapping off with a squirrel.
    Years before I even contemplated getting backyard chickens I saw one swooping past my yard
    with a squirrel clutched in one talon. I like that they are doing well in my area.

    I can't grow tomatos in my yard. Or flowers. Not enough sun.
    There are so many trees that no area gets sufficient daylight.
    And there are bushes around the deck, the perimeter of the yard.
    When I began my chicken experiment 11 months ago I did not realize that there was an advantage as well.
    The run attached to the coop is not large enough for 8 girls to hang out.
    (After seeing how they spend their days I'm now of the opinion that no run is actually large enough)
    We let them out when we get up in the morning and at dusk when they are ready to settle in
    I get them into the coop with some scratch, mainly to do a head count and lock them in.
    They hang out in the backyard, a fenced 1/4 acre. Some of them can fly over the fence but they fly back.

    Assuming that hawk incidents also occur when I'm not around to see them this is probably a daily event
    for the girls. Last summer I noticed that they preferred to be in areas of cover, under bushes and under the table and
    umbrella on the deck. They seem to prefer being in the bushes than out on the lawn.
    Looking out my office window right now they are all under a mass of forsythia, 2 are hopping
    up to get the yellow flowers one is digging around in a depression taking a dirt bath, the rest are just doing that scratch thing.
    There's no evidence that they see a hawk, but they like being under stuff.

    They know how to be wary, they've been swooped, so far they've been lucky.
    They are prey though and I've eaten my share. The hawks are entitled to eat.
    I'm lucky that my tomato-less back yard provides so much natural protection and
    that my girls, from the very first hawk attack the first month out of the brooder figured out how to duck and cover.
    I haven't lost a bird yet but there is a good chance I will eventually.
    Hawks are about the only predator chickens have in my neighborhood, no raccoons, no foxes, dogs don't come into a
    doberman's yard and cats get scared off by 8 birds screaming at them in unison. The sound scares me.

    If I had a yard open to the sky I certainly would not be as comfortable with the situation, but in a yard without
    enough cover my chickens would not be that comfortable either. They like being in the brush and their favorite spots
    are the worst overgrown corners of my yard. (I'm not a gardener and I'm lazy so there are several) The spot where
    the forsythia has tangled with the virginia creeper and is choking the rhododendron to death, a spot that would
    intimidate Bre'r Rabbit, is their numero uno. I've read that they've all descended from jungle fowl and that underbrush
    under the jungle canopy is their natural habitat. If hawks are the big worry their natural habitat should be protection enough.
    Anyhow it seems to be working that way for me.

  2. jmtcmkb

    jmtcmkb Songster

    Sep 2, 2011
    New Hampshire
    well I certainly feel better reading this! I just let my chickens out to free range sort of in a fenced area, while I dont have a lot of cover right now, I plan to begin planting much more than is there now. I have tons of brush I can move into their space right now.

    edited to say: I have a friend who says she hasnt lost a chicken in 30 years to a hawk. when I became concerned recently about hawks here in my area I recalled that her chickens are basically fenced into a wooded area off the side of a barn, plenty of cover, it's actually pretty dark. That will be my goal this summer to begin to provide plenty of cover for my girls. thanks for posting your opinion!
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2012

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