Hawks? (sigh)

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by laurenjane85, Nov 30, 2016.

  1. laurenjane85

    laurenjane85 Out Of The Brooder

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    May 13, 2016
    So I'm pretty sure I lost a hen to a hawk last week.

    I've lost two hens to coyotes in the past, but they were the super adventurous girls who'd find a way out of my yard (they have a coop and pen, but I free-range them in my yard, which is probably about 1000-1500sq ft) and I'd always find a pile of feathers or something (found a foot the first time [​IMG]) and it was usually around dawn or dusk. I've since put up more chicken fencing and haven't seen anybody out lately. Anyway, this time, I let the chickens out to roam in the morning and when I went out at about noon one of the hens was missing. No sign of her or feathers anywhere. I had heard some clucking earlier in the day but hadn't thought anything of it, cause it wasn't a huge ruckus or anything, and they quieted pretty quickly. Now I'm thinking that must've been when she was taken by something.

    What makes me think it was a hawk is that the VERY NEXT DAY I looked out and saw that there was a hawk perched on a jungle gym in my yard. I banged on my kitchen window and it flew away, and I immediately went out to check on the chickens, only to find them all huddled under my front deck, with the two roosters blocking the "entrance" (what good boys!). I spent a few minutes out there collecting eggs and such and the roosters slowly came out, then the hens ran full tilt from the deck to their pen (which has low branches over it so a hawk couldn't easily fly in) and I locked everyone safely inside. I've seen this hawk in the area and kind of kept an eye on it, but the chickens have lots of things to run under in my yard, and I thought surely a hawk wouldn't be able to take one of my fat hens, but now I'm pretty sure that's not the case. I'm now wishing I'd had the presence of mind to take a photo of it while it was perched there so prettily so that I could identify it- I don't even know what's common in my area. From my poor memory and a quick google search, I'm guessing it's either a Ferruginous Hawk or Red-tailed Hawk, both of which seem to have a typical diet of rabbit-sized mammals and birds. So, still, I would think my chickens would be bigger than their usual, but maybe this one is just ambitious? Like I said, I didn't find any sign of my chicken, so whatever snatched her, got away with her without a fight.

    The whole point in my sharing this, is that I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas for protecting my chickens, other than leaving a dog out with them all the time, or netting my whole yard (obviously not possible). I'm planning to fence a smaller area and put some net up over at least part of it (to break up a potential flight path), but I don't want to take space away from my dogs or make my life harder by creating more obstacles for me to go around or under while completing daily tasks in the yard. My first thought was a fake owl, but I don't suppose hawks are bothered by those, since they don't even always work with pigeons...
     
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Hawk should not be able to fly off with normal sized chicken and would leave lots of feather sign at kill site. What breeds and size of chickens? Species of hawk? Cover / vegetation you may be able to enhance?

    Thus far everything you post indicates pen the chickens up allowing free-range only when you are present at end of day.
     
  3. laurenjane85

    laurenjane85 Out Of The Brooder

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    The hen who is now gone was a Barred Rock, 7 or 8 months old. The rest are all roughly the same age and size, with my RIR hen being slightly smaller than the rest. The roosters are a RIR and a White Cochin.

    Like I said, I'm not sure about the species of hawk, but maybe a Ferruginous or Red-tailed? But really, so many look so similar, I can't be sure.

    I live in the high desert, so there is very little in the way of vegetation in my yard. It's pretty much just dirt, with a tree on each side, so not much to enhance.
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Hawk not your taker of chickens.
     
  5. TeeMom

    TeeMom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've lost 2 chickens to hawks in the past and one of them was a young scrawny cockerel that was still too large for the hawk to carry off. We found the regal bird perched on and devouring our beloved Bluey, scared him off and then he returned for several days. Unless you have eagles in your area, birds of prey are not your culprit. We have a pair of Redtails that regularly patrol our area, but never seem interested in the flock. Both times an immature Coopers hawk was our villain and our redtails seem to do a pretty good job of keeping them out of their territory. Rabbits are plentiful and seem to be the mature, skilled hawks' choice of prey.
     
  6. GingersHuman

    GingersHuman Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Probably not a hawk. I've unfortunately had many killed by hawks over the years and all but one time the hawk has killed the chicken, pulled a bunch of feathers out (all dry, not slobbery looking) and started eating it where it was. Only once did I have one carried off, and it was a tiny bantam pullet.
     
  7. Zoomie

    Zoomie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mora, NM USA
    Sounds like a dog, fox or coyote to me. They are big and strong enough to carry off a bird with no sign at all. They can be pretty amazing at climbing fences and are very quick.

    A red-tailed hawk weighs about 3 pounds. I can't see one becoming airborne again carrying off a hen like that; they would sit on the ground to eat it if they had killed it.
     
  8. laurenjane85

    laurenjane85 Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks all. My girl must've found a way out of the yard I guess and gotten snatched by a coyote (no foxes or roaming dogs here). I just figured I'd have found some sign as I have before. And it was super weird that none of the neighbor dogs (all fenced) didn't bark at all... While in the yard, coyotes can't get them, as my fence is high and I've got electric wire all around (due to my very athletic dog being able to bound right over when I first got him). Sounds like the hawk is still a source of danger though. I'm planning to do some pen construction this weekend, so I'll be investigating and securing the yard again.
     

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