Free Ranging with Predators! Help!!


In the Brooder
6 Years
Sep 15, 2013
I need advice! We are so frustrated, here in Central FL, with trying to keep our sweet hens safe while free ranging. We have a very safe and secure Hen House built out in one of our horse pastures, alongside their lean-to shelters. We have never lost a hen at night or inside. But we started with 20 hens-a variety of breeds-and we are down to 3 now because of the darn hawks and VERY AGGRESSIVE OWL that I watched just pick up our favorite girl and take her away, feathers flying everywhere!

We know all the benefits to letting them free range--and they obviously love being turned loose everyday--but I want to know if there is any kind of "protector" I can get for them, other than a rooster? (And this darn Owl would take on a Rooster for sure.) We have turned our horses out in the same pasture with the hens, hoping that would deter the predators, but NOPE. It's happening about every other day now. How many chickens does an Owl need to eat before they are full?!!

Moving the Hen House closer to the Barn is not an option, and I really don't want roosters because I think my neighbors will complain about the noise. Is my only option, maybe getting only the biggest chicken breeds I can? We have an Orpington that got attacked by the Owl, but she put up a fight and is still with us. And the bigger breeds aren't the best egg layers, so I'm at a loss of what to do.

Anyone have any ideas of how to keep them safe? Any chicken-friendly farm animal that will chase off Owls and Hawks? Or do my girls just have to live indoors?

Thanks for your help!
Your only option may be to pen them up....a rooster does good for warning them, but if they have no place to hide real fast they easily become a meal, roosters included. You could make a movable pen out of an old trampoline frame if you could find one. I done this for my meat birds. Everyday I would put it some place different because it's just a hollow tubing frame, very easily shuffled around. Put fence around the side and just regular bird netting on the top and a piece of something over one part to give a little shade. They get a different location every so often so they're still getting grass and bugs. Another option would be a high powered pellet gun and use the SSS method. Shoot Shovel and Shut up.....that works well
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Having hawks as a predator is a tough one. Dogs can help, but even then, you can still lose a chicken here and there even with the best of dogs. I would find some way to pen them up until the hawks move on. Predators will typically choose the easiest meal, so the goal is to make wild animals, or your neighbor's chickens the easiest meal by protecting your chickens. The hawks and owls will move on to better hunting grounds.

I let my chickens out into a large fenced in chicken yard, and 80% of it is underneath large fruit trees, so the opportunity for hawk attack is limited. I have seen hawks perched on trees 50 yards away, but they can't seem to figure out how to get at my birds below the fruit trees. When I see the hawks, I put my chickens in for a day or two and let them out again once the hawks have moved on.
Too funny on your SSS idea...believe me, it's what my husband has been telling me since we lost the first one. But I know this **** Owl is probably "protected", although I'm not going to care when I'm out of hens...

But I am SO MAD AT MYSELF for not thinking of your other option. We JUST GAVE AWAY our children's trampoline three days ago!!!! It's been in the back yard for nine years, and I never, ever thought of that. I will be so mad at myself if I have to go buy one off Craig's List when I had one the whole time!

We are actually on ten acres, and there's lots of brush and woods out in the pasture the Hen House is in. But I guess that's part of the problem because I wouldn't have believed the camouflage capabilities of an Owl (or a hawk, for that matter), if I hadn't been out there and witnessed it myself. He/She is just coming and landing on a tree limb not even five feet off the ground. If I didn't have that "someone is watching me" feeling, I never would have even noticed the Owl. His giant eyes were looking right at me. It scared ME, so I can imagine how our poor hens feel!

The more I think about it, the more I think I might set out my husband's lawn chair and chilled cooler out back this weekend!

Thanks again. Oh, P.S. Do you think they won't mess with larger breeds? If so, what are some of the largest that are egg layers?
Thanks for that reply. Are Owls like Hawks in that they will "move on" after a few days? We've lived here 14 years and I never saw one...until last week, and now I've seen him three times this week. I hope he/she will move on before I'm out of hens!

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