How can I scare away starlings without scaring my chickens?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by CHICKEN BUFF, Jan 17, 2017.

  1. CHICKEN BUFF

    CHICKEN BUFF Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We've had a cold winter and suddenly been inundated with HUNDREDS of starlings. There is no food or water left outside --- the chickens are fed in their coop.

    But now the bold starlings are walking right in the front door of the coop. When I opened the back door of it this morning there were 20+ panicked starlings bashing into walls trying to get out. I found the heated water dish disgustingly full of starling poop, and we are going through layer feed and scratch grains faster than I can buy it.

    I'm disappointed that my rooster or my head hen don't chase out the intruders, but they pay them no notice. I'm worried about disease and mites too!

    My hubs wants to get some of those big round yellow balloons with the giant eye printed on them (we see them in local vineyards). But I don't know if they work for starlings, and I don't want to terrify my chickens!

    Should I get a starling trap? (And how do I dispose of them after I've caught them?) A cat? (not sure how to encourage it to guard the chicken yard...) A BB-gun?

    How is everyone else handling this situation?
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2017
  2. TomGallopavo

    TomGallopavo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    In MO it is open season on the European Starling. They are displacing our songbirds. Kill as many as you can with a shotgun, the chickens could care less. We shoot all the time around them...and I mean alot.
     
  3. CHICKEN BUFF

    CHICKEN BUFF Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'd definitely go after them with a shotgun, but unfortunately we're in town (I should have mentioned that). I agree, they've taken over from our native birds.
     
  4. Zoomie

    Zoomie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You can ask your local authorities (Game and Fish? not sure who would be in charge of this) to see what your laws are. So far all the states I've lived in consider starlings a pest to be eradicated, but I don't know where you live and don't want to give you suggestions without first saying, ask the local people in charge of this. They may have some really brilliant ideas.

    It is fairly easy to trap birds, as long as that is OK where you live. We had a nuisance amount of pigeons and I trapped them all out. After the trap is full, some people put the trap in water and drown them. I don't know that it's humane but it's effective. I learned to "pull" them (i.e., pull their heads off) which is how people who have to kill a lot of them do it. It is certainly very fast. Not fun, but fast.

    Maybe look online for "starling trap" - I've seen a bunch of different ones for sale - and see what they recommend. It seems to me that places like Stromberg's have a starling trap.

    Once you get the starlings under control I'd also treat your flock for coccidiosis. I remember reading a thread - probably somewhere on BYC - about some people who's turkeys kept coming up with coccidia and it was due to starlings roosting over the turkey yard and pooping on everything. As soon as they would treat their turkeys they would immediately get reinfected. As I recall they actually cut down the tree where the starlings were roosting to get them to go somewhere else.
     
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Shooting them will be impractical in most instances. When I get startling issues I switch over to feeding chickens restricted rations where the chickens consume all the feed within a few minutes leaving little or nothing for starlings. Restriction ration approach does compromise egg production and growth of young birds, at least when feed applied only once per day. Demand / treadle feeder might be worth exploring.
     
  6. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Switch to hanging nipple buckets and feeding meals only, just what they can clean up in a short time. I've been feeding flocks a single meal for 11 yrs now without any decrease in production or slow chick growth, so no worries there.

    The step on feeders sound like a likely suggestion...they have plans for making them online and they are fairly easy.

    You might also create a tunnel entrance to your coop with the use of wire so that the starlings would have to traverse a wire tunnel to enter and exit the coop. They may still try it, not sure, but the chickens coming and going down the tunnel may keep them from wanting to get caught there.

    A few of the fake owls or those balloons with the predator eyes, as you have mentioned, might work...I've seen them work very well for pigeons but not sure about starlings. Hanging the shiny CD discs around may work. Recordings of random loud noises are said to work and sometimes just talk radio. Everything I've read says to use multiple approaches to the problem, so using any or all or just a combination of things may work best.
     
  7. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My first encounter with starlings (BTW, the Internet suggest a group of starlings is known as a "filth"......seems appropriate) was nearly 40 years ago when I tried feeding wild birds for the first time. It was a suet ball......ground beef fat mixed with cheap bird seed. The song birds and woodpeckers had just found it and I enjoyed watching them.....until a few days later when about 100 starlings showed up and cleaned it up in about 30 seconds flat. As someone who grew up with a gun in his hand and would shoot just about anything, anywhere, anytime, anyplace, shooting them seemed like a good idea, so I did. The first couple dozen were easy, but they soon wised up. It soon became nearly impossible to get one. Turns out they are awfully smart and may be able to communicate on par with Western Union. Shortly after that I was driving down the road one day and noticed what must have been millions of them sitting on wires. It was about then I realized shooting them was futile. They truly are flying rats.

    If you are living with a starling roost, I've heard you can move the roost by waiting until after dark and blaring a starling distress call at them after dark. They take to the air in the pitch black of night and a lot of them may die from either flying into stuff or from exhaustion.

    But short of that, very little is going to work to repel them. So like most predators and pests, one of the best solutions is to starve them out. Do not give them any access to feed.

    Products like this may work:

    http://ratproofchickenfeeder.net/feeders/

    Starlings are also drawn to water. I have seen them take baths in snow melt water......ice cold.......they didn't care. If fact, that may be the motto of the starling......."I don't care". They are tough, smart and mean, which is probably why there are so many of them. Buckets with horizontal nipples is probably the best plan to keep them out of the chicken's water.

    BTW, hawks will eat dead starlings. In fact, the best way I know to attract hawks in winter is with a pile of dead starlings. You can train hawks to hang around waiting for an easy meal. Just make sure that whatever you shot them with passed on through, so as to not have the hawks ingest the lead. But the flip side of that is if you shoot a bunch and leave them laying around, you attract hawks. NOT something I'd want to do with chickens around. Just saying.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2017
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  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    The hawk thing did work here where hawk (Cooper's Hawk, more than one but only one at a time) occupied poultry area targeting songbirds which starlings represented a big portion of. Even so starlings were still present at levels I consider to be a nuisance as they would come in during those intervals when no hawk present. Hawks were not hunting my starlings exclusively and when satiated on the one or two kills a hawk makes per day, the hawk would not hang around. When hunting these hawks had a launch point that is literally in barn and sometimes within a few feet of chickens. Same hawks made so young chickens could not be released to free-range. Cooper's Hawk activity this fall and winter has been exceptionally high. Starling abundadance is not what is was last winter when I probably lost close to $200 in feed to starlings, nearly doubled waterer issues and had to clean a lot of feces of stored equipment in the spring as the starlings would roost in numbers only inches above the ground.

    Another approach might be use of a trap. See link below.

    https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=straling traps

    I was on the verge of purchasing a trap until starling visits dropped because of change in chicken feeding and hawk visits. Will still get trap but expecting a lot of by-catch with all the other songbirds also present
     
  9. scooter147

    scooter147 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I believe that the Coopers Hawk population has gotten to the level it is due to the starling. I see them preying on them on a very regular basis, unfortunately the Coppers can't even make a dent in the starling population.

    I have had serious issues with starlings in my coop and almost exclusively in the winter. My coop is human size so I can walk in. The starlings were entering the pop door. What I do is watch and when I see a "good" amount enter I go out shut the door, go in and kill them. One Saturday last winter I killed 244 in about a 6 hour period. Last winter for some reason was my worst in recent memory. Like the one poster stated they are smart and after the one Saturday the problem basically stopped and so far (knock on wood) this winter very very few issues with starlings.

    Once suggestion I have is to hang strips of cloth over the door they are entering to see if that works. You may have to "train" the chickens to walk through it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2017
  10. bigoledude

    bigoledude Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Starlings are a scourge where ever they exist. When I was a kid we had thousands of cedar waxwings, purple martins and many other desirable birds. It's a rare treat to see any of these breeds any more. If we put up a bird house it fills up immediately with the vicious starlings!

    I ran into a wildlife biologist once near my duck hunting lease. We spoke for hours on various subjects. Turns out starlings will invade other bird's nests and break every egg and kill every chick. He said hardly any songbirds have a hard beak, but the starling has a stiletto-like beak. And, they're mean as hell.

    He told me to kill every one I can. I was on a mission for a while. I constructed a large rectangle trap with no bottom made of 1/2 inch hardware cloth. It was about 4 feet by 8 feet and a little over a foot tall. Just like the bird trap we made as a kid I propped it up with a stick. We set the trap and fed cracked corn, rice and milo under that trap for a week before we pulled the string on them. We caught and killed probably a couple hundred in one winter. I'd wait till the grandsons came over and let them pull the string and shoot them with their BB guns.
     
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