Hawk losses linked to season?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by baldessariclan, Jan 17, 2011.

  1. baldessariclan

    baldessariclan Songster

    Aug 30, 2010
    Wichita, KS
    Seems like a lot of people currently positng about losses to hawks over the past couple months. We lost one ourselves a couple month ago to a large red-tailed hawk. I am just curious if this is somewhat linked to the time of year, since I don't recall having / seeing so many problems with this over the spring and summer.

    Right now all the leaves are off the trees around here, and smaller birds/crows don't seem to be paying much attention to the hawks I can see in our neighborhood. But in spring and summer, there is definitely more cover, plus smaller birds are nesting then and seem to harrass the larger birds at that point. Lot's more baby bunnies and other prey animals running around as well.

    So is fall/winter the prime time for hawk-related chicken casualties? Does hunting pressure ease off any in the spring and summer? Or is this just wishful thinking? Have had our hens under "lockdown" for quite a while now, and hoping / looking forward to a time when we can let them out again...

  2. AlbionWood

    AlbionWood Songster

    May 24, 2010
    Albion, California
    Yes, hawk pressure is worst in fall and early winter. The very worst period is during migration, which is usually from September through November, peaking in October. At that time all the raptors are moving around, they are using up a lot of energy, and they are in unfamiliar territory... so they need to eat a lot and take whatever is easiest. Most of them are juvenile birds at that time, with less experience hunting, and are less selective about prey. All that adds up to enormous pressure on chickens. Also there are new birds coming past you every day, and any given bird doesn't usually stay for long, so it's impossible to control them. You just have to exclude them.

    In early winter you still have a lot of juveniles and the hunger problems get worse. But the number of hawks dwindles, as most migrate away and many of the young ones die. Red-tails though, can stay around all winter. They mostly go for rodents, but will take a chicken sometimes, and individual birds can specialize in them.

    In Spring they migrate again, but there are a lot fewer of them, and the pressure on chickens seems lower; I suspect perhaps because most of the hawks have become accustomed to hunting other prey. Cooper's Hawks however will take anything that looks like a bird.

    In Summer they are busy nesting and raising young. They want prey that can be carried back to the nest, so adult birds aren't a first choice, but chicks can really get hit hard (Ravens are worse than raptors at this). And many of the hawks nest in the far north or in areas remote from where most of us live. So the pressure is usually lower then, until the new fledglings start moving south and the whole cycle starts again.
  3. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Crowing

    May 8, 2007
    That was a very good description of what we see here seasonally.

    We normally free range from early spring until the fall migration. From the fall migration until snowfall, we only have the chickens out when we can keep an eye on them and the dogs are out. I keep an eye on the sky, too. The leaves falling makes it very hard, as the chickens are so exposed. Once the snow falls, we just keep them in the run most of the time, until it melts. Then we start free ranging again.

    This has been an especially hard year for us, as we have a hawk overwintering here that is hunting our woods for squirrels. I hope next year doesn't turn out to be a nightmare. We lost our protection dog to cancer last fall and our other dog is a wonderful lap dog but not too useful when it comes to hawks. He's happy to chase away any four legged predators, but doesn't chase hawks out of the trees. Maybe that's why we have the one we have now. Sigh...
  4. Chicken Boo

    Chicken Boo Songster

    Jul 16, 2008
    Glenn Dale, MD
    We just had a hawk attack one of my leghorns 2 days ago. Cumulus has a scratch on her back and is missing a few feathers but is otherwise OK. She has given me a couple of jumbo eggs since.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by