Dealing with a killer Great Horned Owl -- any tips?

Iain Utah

Crowing
Dec 17, 2011
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Thanks for the replies and words of sympathy. We have had the rare daytime hawk attack on a duckling or gosling, but usually the rodents, rabbits and snakes are plentiful enough for the birds of prey at my place. I'm very surprised after 10 years to have our first owl attack.

It was only the owl. We have fresh snow and no tracks. Plus, we have 8 muscovy babies and a broody chicken under trailers. A ground predator would have targeted these birds. I have searched high and low for the missing two birds, but there is nothing. It got away with a polish and a salmon favorelle, neither hen was very large. The owl left behind our polish rooster when my husband spooked it.

We have three dogs, but unfortunately they are getting too old to be effective beyond keeping the foxes and coyotes at bay. It's good to hear that the owl will move on if we keep everyone locked up at night for a time. That should not be a problem while it is still cold outside. But I also like the idea of netting with a doggie-type door for nicer evenings, to allow the geese/ducks ability to come and go.

This is such a bummer. They were all 4.5 years old and we've had them since day-old. Our polish rooster was super friendly and quite amusing. He, especially, will be missed.
 

Geena

Crowing
Aug 17, 2014
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It's good to hear that the owl will move on if we keep everyone locked up at night for a time.
I don't know about in Utah, but we've had a pair of GHO on our property that have stayed year round for many years now.
I'm amazed that you can get away with not locking your birds up at night! I have excellent protection/guardian dogs but they are in the house at night and my birds are locked up tight, otherwise every last one of them would be gone in no time.
 

Iain Utah

Crowing
Dec 17, 2011
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This evening, we locked everyone up, so we can all rest easy tonight. As we were finishing, my husband spotted the owl on our round pen, right beside the barn. We also found the two missing chickens, decapitated and stashed in dog houses next to barn by round pen. An hour later, my husband did a quick patrol around and again saw the owl next to the barn, not far from the dog houses. It really is quite bold! Feeling a little creeped out, but glad my critters are safe.
 

bobbi-j

Enabler
Mar 15, 2010
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This evening, we locked everyone up, so we can all rest easy tonight. As we were finishing, my husband spotted the owl on our round pen, right beside the barn. We also found the two missing chickens, decapitated and stashed in dog houses next to barn by round pen. An hour later, my husband did a quick patrol around and again saw the owl next to the barn, not far from the dog houses. It really is quite bold! Feeling a little creeped out, but glad my critters are safe.
He does seem to be quite comfortable there! I think locking them up at night is good. Hopefully your owl friend will eventually get discouraged and move on. We have a pair of GHO that live in our grove. At one time early on in my chicken keeping, I had chickens that liked to roost in trees. They didn't last long. I would go out to do chores and find decapitated chickens under the trees in the morning. I had no idea what it was until a friend told me that GHOs would do that to their ducks. I have cooped my chickens at night ever since.
 

cmom

Hilltop Farm
13 Years
Nov 18, 2007
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I had a persistent owl. I do have netting covering my pens but was short so bought some netting that turned out to be crappy that I should have returned but put it up anyway thinking it would deter any aerial predators, and it did for awhile. Then I found a dead bird one morning and noticed a hole in the netting. I did suspect an owl because several years earlier I had an issue with an owl so I covered the pens with netting. Problem solved and it was for several years. I did put up some deer netting over some pens where I ran short but it eventually deteriorated so I knew I had to replace that section and bought the netting that turned out to be crappy. The other netting is great and still up. After the owl went through the crappy netting I put another piece up and it went through again and killed another bird. This happened three times and each time I replaced that section and put it over the other crappy netting. I finally put a camera up and moved the birds to another pen and the owl came back and went through the netting again but this time I got it on video. In the meantime I had ordered some more good heavy duty netting and replaced the crappy netting with the good netting and the owl tried to go through it again but this time got caught. We managed to get it into a cage and called a wildlife rescue who came and got it. They said they had a release area so it shouldn't come back. Good luck...
 

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Iain Utah

Crowing
Dec 17, 2011
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Our birds slept well, safe in our barn. My husband had a total of 3 encounters with the owl last night, who was determined to stick around. We desperately wanted to set our live traps, using our poor chickens' remains, as we would do if we were targeting a different predator species, but fear getting in trouble if we somehow managed to trap the owl. . Assume it is ok to set traps, in case other predators are out there, and if we get lucky catching the owl, well then, the wildlife peeps can come and get the owl and ideally release him far away from our place. I have a call out to the wildlife official for clarification.
 

Iain Utah

Crowing
Dec 17, 2011
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I spoke again with federal wildlife official yesterday afternoon, who said I can set my live traps out, and on the long shot chance I trap the owl, he will come over, take the owl, and release far away from our place. He said owl will move on in about two weeks, but if we harass it, it will leave sooner. He strongly recommends using water guns or pyrotechnic pistols to harass them, but the only types of guns we have will harm or kill the owl.

We had a decent storm come through last night so do not think the owl was out and did not set traps, but we expect to see him once weather improves and will begin trapping program this weekend. In the meantime, we locked everyone up again overnight, and they are quickly figuring out the new routine.

Hope to have happy news to close this thread in the next week or two!
 

Iain Utah

Crowing
Dec 17, 2011
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We have locked up our birds for the past 5 nights. After the first night, we have not spotted the owl since. We also have two traps out but have caught nothing, not even a feral cat or magpie. We were told by wildlife official that the owl usually moves off after 7-10 days once food source gone and has been harassed, so we will continue our lock-up routine for at least another 5 days with traps out, and nightly patrols with dogs, as an extra precaution. We had a flock of Canada geese show up yesterday, so it is high migration time at our place. We are hopeful the owl was just passing through and is already gone.
 

Iain Utah

Crowing
Dec 17, 2011
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331
It has now been two full weeks of nightly lock-up. Have not seen the owl since. We don't feel the need to be on predator alert anymore, but our birds now go into barn after dark on their own, and it takes no time to close doors. So, we will probably continue routine until the birds start going into breeding season mode, and will likely no longer tolerate being confined as a group.

Thanks for everyone's support and helpful information. Happy holidays!
 

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