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Hawk decimating my flock, need to come up with a better coop solution

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by manicfarmer, Feb 4, 2016.

  1. manicfarmer

    manicfarmer Out Of The Brooder

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    I have recently moved my flock (couple months ago) out of mobile coops into a permanent coop I built that is 10x10. I had them in a half acre pasture which I built for them which was way too much space for such a small flock. Started with 50 but have culled males for food and had many losses to my dog. Down to 11 adult birds now and since I moved them losses have decreased. they used to see the gate so they would hop on it and then jump down on the wrong side making them lunch for my rottie. realizing that was a major problem I built the perm coop and moved them in there. No gate in the new area so they don't leave that cross fenced area inside of the half acre pasture. Things were great for a few months and I had my first predator strike (outside of my own dog). I wasn't sure what happened and since I found it in the morning I assumed it happened at night so I started locking the coop up which is something I only did in the beginning. I got lazy and never sustained any losses so the birds never got locked up at night. After I saw that bird, I started locking the coop up at night.
    A couple days later I saw the Hawk feeding on a bird in their pasture. Ran out to scare him off but obviously the bird was gone. I saw he was hanging out in front of the coop door so i thought he was raiding their home so they had no where to hide so I cut a hole in the coop creating a pop hole and started shutting the door. I also added some obstructions in the yard so they could hide and dust bathe under stuff whereas before it was wide open for a dive bombing from a bird. that seemed to help for a week and then today I came home and the hawk was in the coop eating one of my baby birds (6 weeks old). He panicked when he saw me and tried to fly out but he was trapped. My coop is extended from a shed I built years ago and never put soffits on. The hawk went through the soffit from the coop into the shed and out the soffit (or lack there of) on the other side. I obviously need to shore that up with hardware cloth. I am torn because I really loved the management plan I had in place with pasturing the birds. I am realizing I may need to go to the infamous chicken run that many have. I guess I could create multiple runs and rotate them so they could be on fresh grass everday. I have done some googling and reading on here and all I can come up with is I am going to have to create a smaller covered run. I wanted to make the run rather large but that gets expensive really fast. Any ideas on how to sway this bird to leave me alone? Am I just going to have to bite the bullet and build out covered chicken runs for my birds? Just wondering if anyone has any ideas. I know I probably didn't give enough information for my questions to be answered so let me know if you need anymore information. I have another batch of babies that are going in the coop in another week or so and I really don't want to keep losing birds. I have lost about 6 birds in the last 2 weeks. I won't have a flock to speak of at this rate in a very short period so hoping for some good idea. Thanks everyone in advance!
     
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Consider covering coop with deer netting possible reinforced with another heavier string so no more than 24" between reinforcements. Hawk ID not provided but I use roosters against those with success. Roosters must be fully adult standard sized and in good feather.
     
  3. manicfarmer

    manicfarmer Out Of The Brooder

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    I have heard and read many stories where cocks are great defense against hawks. I don't know the type of hawk as he caught me off guard and I didn't get a great look at him. How he is eating my birds is a tale tale sign of what he is. He removes the breast feathers and eats the breast and then leaves once he gets his fill. I saw some orange on him too. I have 2 cockerels in the flock, they aren't quite one year yet. March 2nd they will be a full year. They seem pretty full feathered but maybe they will fill out more as they mature. My white rock is very protective of the girls. If I pick one up and they yell he will bee line to me to make sure I am not hurting them. My other male is a barred rock and he isn't as protective. The white rock is really the leader of the flock. Would it be reasonable to think that my cockerels when they get a little more mature will be able to protect my flock better from hawks? I really love to pasture them and don't want to spend a bunch of money on a management plan that may not be necessary. I'll try and shore up the coop this weekend so there is no access through the shed. Maybe see if I can build a small temporary run to protect them until they get a little older. Would a hawk enter the coop by landing on the ground and walking in through the pop hole? Part of my plan is to always keep a good balance of males to females for breeding. So perhaps since this is my first year, my cockerels are still a little young to provide the kind of protection I need. I also heard hawks are more prevalent this time of year. I see them circling above all the time but they have never made an attempt at any of my birds until now that I am aware of. Maybe they usually have a larger food supply and the winter has them hungrier. If these assumptions are true then I may be able to make it through this winter by shoring things up with a small inexpensive temp run and hopefully next spring the hawks will have plenty of mice and other things to eat instead of my flock. If I needed to cover a large area I thought I could use some greenhouse purlins but to do anything of any magnitude it gets really expensive fast. I appreciate your suggestions.
     
  4. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    From my experience, it's not necessarily a good idea to be reliant on a roo to protect your flock against hawks. Sure, they may be good alarm callers for your girls, but my experience is that they do not adequately protect a flock against such predators. I let my flock free range in the garden and i take the odd loss to hawks on the chin, others construct elaborate runs and others somewhere in-between the two extremes.

    All the best
    CT
     
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    It is time you start adopting an integrated approach. I keep lots of chickens in predator rich environments and do very well. It is not just about the "roo", it also about "roo" quality and environmental factors such as cover and other manages.
     
  6. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    Is this directed at me personally? If so, I'm happy as i am thank you and don't need to be told by anyone what i should be doing. I was merely sharing my experience, not asking what i should or should not do.

    CT
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Just everyone that thinks one dimensionally and refuses to have an open mind.
     
  8. N F C

    N F C Home in WY Premium Member

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    @manicfarmer My chickens have a large covered run that is connected to their coop but I also let them out to run around 2-3 times a day while I am outside. I avoid letting them outside their run during the early morning and early evening hours as it seems that is when the hawks are most interested in the chickens.

    I know that's not the ideal situation for everyone but the point is, everyone has their own way of doing things. What works for me, won't necessarily work for you. Whether to free range or not (or something in between like I do) is a personal choice based on your willingness to lose an occasional bird vs. the benefits of free ranging.

    I like your thoughts on providing cover for your flock to duck & run under while they are out on their own. Roosters can be helpful in dissuading a predator but they can also fall victim to one. I would recommend you beef up your coop security because if something the size of a hawk can get in there, so could other predators.

    I'm sorry for your losses, good luck to you!
     
  9. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    Your flock needs some sort of protection from aerial predators. A covered run is one option. Planting large shrubs or putting a few berry patches in the pasture are good ideas too, but it takes time for them to get established, and you need to keep the birds away from them for at least a year so that they can get a good root system in place. Another option is building a few simple structures to give the flock places to take cover. Roosters will help alert the flock to dangers, but the flock needs places to hide, when the rooster gives the warning.
     
  10. manicfarmer

    manicfarmer Out Of The Brooder

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    The coop itself is fairly well covered. I had an 8x10 shed that I built years ago and never added soffits because it was just for dry storage. I extended a 10x10 section off of that for my coop. It has 3 sides and with one side covered with chicken wire (I didn't bother with hardware cloth because I haven't had any predators come around probably because of my dogs). My neighbor has pics of his flock eating with the raccoons although I have no such claims. I haven't had any coon issues though and I live in the middle of the woods. We get really hot summers in the south which stressed the flock last year so I put a good roof with techshield and shingles to keep the temperature cooler in the summer. The hawk clearly got out of the coop from the missing soffit in the shed after he spotted me checking on the birds in the evening. He panicked and escaped. I thought he was trapped in the shed but I couldn't find him in there so he must have exited from the other side. I can shore up that with hardware cloth today but if he will land on the ground and walk in, there isn't anything I can do about that unless cover the run. He seems pretty relentless, I suspect his every meal the past two weeks has been my birds.
     

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