Hawks and Full grown Chickens?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by TheDonger, Jun 16, 2011.

  1. TheDonger

    TheDonger Chirping

    Apr 28, 2011
    So Sunday we let our 8 week old chick out into the yard like we do lost of days. Well we got a little to relaxed and went inside to get ready for church and I look out the window to see a Hawk has one of the chicks (The kids and Wifes Favorite of course).

    So we learned a good life lesson about the circle of life, and are much more careful going forward.

    But my question is, Once the chickens are full grown how much danger does a Red Tail Hawk pose?

    Or yard is not large and in a city near the coast in California, some trees but none that are large enough to cover the whole yard. We do have lots of small trees and bushes and hedges for cover. The one that got caught was crossing the lawn.

    We were planning to let then out each day to have free run of the yard, but will they be safe?
    Li'lFlock likes this.
  2. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    A red tail poses a big threat, even to full grown chickens. He won't carry them away, but he will begin eating on the spot. All he has to do is dive and hit, then sit and feast.
  3. Mattemma

    Mattemma Crowing

    Aug 12, 2009
    I hear they just eat the breast part and then fly off.We have red shouldered hawks and they are HUGE. There is no way my girls will survive a dive bomb attack.And our roo Jack Sparrow will have a hard time saving the girls from an attack. I am nervous,because I know the day will come for us too.

    Sorry for your loss.
  4. my5hens

    my5hens Chirping

    Jan 17, 2011
    I am also in California and those redtails are awful arent they? Sadly they do go after my hefty rhode island reds even though they are full grown [​IMG]

    If it werent for them I would let them run free in the yard all day long.
  5. CluckyJay

    CluckyJay Songster

    Feb 23, 2011
    Crossville, Tennessee
    We've been fortunate with the hawks. We have so much thick cover that is easily accessible to the freerange birds that they're pretty safe. Never know though!
  6. TheDonger

    TheDonger Chirping

    Apr 28, 2011
    Thanks for the info all. I guess we don't know for sure if ti was a red tail or other kind of hawk, I was too shocked to notice.
  7. southerndesert

    southerndesert B & M Chicken Ranch

    Jun 17, 2011
    Morristown, AZ
    We have allot of hawk species here in AZ both full time resident and migratory and though I have never had a full grown hen killed or taken they will quickly snatch a young bird so we are very careful about letting young birds out of the run (which we cover with lose netting) to free range in the yard.

    Remember too that hawks are quite smart and will return to a good hunting area.
  8. baldessariclan

    baldessariclan Songster

    Aug 30, 2010
    Wichita, KS
    We let our hens run loose in the backyard, and lost one (full grown) to a hawk late last year. They can't carry them off, but will kill and eat them on the ground. We kept them locked up in the covered coop/run for a few weeks afterwards, until that particular hawk stopped hanging around. We've had a couple more close calls since then, but no more full-blown losses yet. Suspect that the hawks are more active/aggressive at certain times of the year than others, but they are always a threat -- keep an eye open for them.
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri

    The risk imposed by hawks on your chickens varies with several things. Size of chicken, available cover, breed of chicken and social structure of flock.

    Small chickens always vulnerable to a wider range of hawks since species that catch and carry immediately (Coopers hawk) can do a snatch and grab.

    In most instances the chicken sees hawk before contact made and most of time chicken has some time to at least attempt to evade capture. They small amount of time can make escape possible if cover present (location where hawk has difficulty following, especially while on wing). Close available cover increases odds of chicken avoiding capture. Tall trees not quality cover. Best cover provided by shrubs of varying height and density. In my area briars along fence row or around brush pile hard to beat.

    Larger means more difficult for hawk to dispatch although may slow reaction time.
    Heavily selected ornamental breeds may have feathering that compromises reaction time (poor flight feathering / too much feathering) or prevents detection of threat (Polish with feathers obstructing vision).
    Some breeds react more...or.....less appropriately by seeking closest proper cover (my red jungle fowl tend not to use closest available despite being my fastest birds).
    Some breeds fight back but this in my expereince works only in situations where hawk can not fly (as in cover).

    Social structure
    Hens will fight to defend chicks. This works in part because hawks typically targeting chicks freeing hen to confuse or attempt damage on hawk. Rooster will sometimes attack to protect chicks and hens and has same advantages has hens protecting chicks. Roosters seem only to protect hens they mated with and their chicks. Defensive behavior most successfull once hawk on ground. Hawks are very vulnerable to damage producing by a chickens flogging as can break feathers needed for subsequent hunts and even break bones. Hawks delicate. Hen only flocks have no defenders and seemingly only to protect their own butts.

    You can not beat hawk every time but you can shift odds to chicken's favor.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2011
  10. NHchicks

    NHchicks Songster

    May 13, 2010
    Oh great. Another predator to worry about. And here I thought my chickens were too big to carry, so no real threat... So far the hawks have left my girls alone thank goodness.

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