Lost chicken to predator for the first time. How long should they stay penned up?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by kla37, Jan 18, 2012.

  1. kla37

    kla37 Songster

    Apr 18, 2010
    Hillsborough, NC USA
    I had my first hawk casualty today. [​IMG] My head hen, Professor McGonagall, was attacked. I had just come home from a family outing, and I went in the backyard, and the hawk flew away from her. She was a beautiful barred plymouth rock! She wasn't the friendliest bird I have, but she was in charge. Almost her entire head was eaten. The other 7 hens were hiding in various places in the yard, and I tempted them into their coop/run and locked them up. I don't know how long I should keep them there, to let that hawk know that free lunch is no longer available. Also, would it help to make sure the dog stays out with them when they free range in the future? I'm so upset about this, but I knew it would happen sooner or later, since they're outside during the day. I put a bunch of kale in their run for them to peck at, and I hung up a little flock block in there to keep them from getting too bored. I wish this wouldn't have happened!!! I also wish I could have a rooster here to help keep the girls a little safer. Just sad about it. [​IMG] Poor girl, she was a really great hen.

  2. Erica

    Erica Songster

    Dec 5, 2010
    Hi kla37,

    I'm so sorry about your hen. Hawks can be so difficult to deal with.

    I don't know if this helps, but here I've found I can free range a little more successfully if I do it just an hour before the birds go to bed. The hawks here come in the mornings usually. Another option might be to only free range every few days.

    Hawks can be very persistent. The goshawks that attack my birds took about 2 weeks to stop their daily flyovers. But if I ever have young chicks out in a tractor the haws return at once (so they must be doing aerial surveys fairly frequently).

    Lots of low shelters for the birds to get under can help. Since we installed a trampoline for the children the chickens have used it very successfully as a hide.

    Best of luck with this difficult problem,
  3. tgblldog70

    tgblldog70 Chirping

    Jul 20, 2011
    Fort Wayne, IN
    we had the same thing happen a week ago, our beautiful Henny was taken literally, gone! I made the rest 3 hens 1 roo a circular pen with burlap zip tied down, then just today I expanded it still with the burlap on top and when I went out to lock them up the ******* hawk popped out of the large bush right next to the coop. So even though its a makeshift pen with roof it has already deterred him. This spring we are going to make them a much larger shed/coop with a built in dog run. I am sorry for your loss it is a bummer, the thing that makes me so mad about the kills these predators do is they waste the body. I understand its a fact of life but seriously don't leave the whole thing. I am starting to think its a thrill kill for them.
  4. kla37

    kla37 Songster

    Apr 18, 2010
    Hillsborough, NC USA
    I'm just so sad about this! [​IMG] The really hard part is going to be telling my 9 yr old tomorrow. We have family visiting today so I haven't told him yet. Not looking forward to that. I also feel really guilty about letting them out in the first place, but it just didn't seem fair to keep them locked up for their entire lives.
  5. Vamvakas

    Vamvakas Songster

    Sep 30, 2011
    North Branford, CT
    Ever notice hawks always kill your favorite chicken?

  6. kla37

    kla37 Songster

    Apr 18, 2010
    Hillsborough, NC USA
    Well, she wasn't my favorite chicken, but she WAS the head hen in charge. I would have to say our favorite chicken is Sunny, our buff orpington. She's my 9yr old's special one, and I'm so glad that it wasn't her. But, McGonagall was a good head hen. Now it'll be interesting to see who's in charge now.
  7. amberflea

    amberflea Songster

    Jun 11, 2010
    Central WI
    YES! If you can keep your dog out there during free range please do sooo!!! (I assume your dog is completely trustworthy with your flock). The dog should deter any predators that come around... So wish I had a dog that I could trust with my chickens!
  8. Margitas

    Margitas Songster

    Jan 18, 2012
    Hudson NY
    I have the same problem before, and after i get the peacock with the chicken i have no more problem + the hawks move from the area.
    I hope thet help for you.
  9. DDRanch

    DDRanch Songster

    Feb 15, 2008
    I am so sorry. I have lost 2 hens to a hawk attack. I would definitely keep them penned for at least a week UNLESS YOU can be with them for short free range times. This is what I have learned from my experience with hawks. And we have many that live in my area, including migratory ones during the winter months.

    First, your flock has been traumatized by the attack and will need some extra TLC from you. Since you lost your head hen, they will work our a new hierarchy but that may take a few days. I would keep them locked up and safe while they readjust and get over the trauma. A flock without a head hen is uneasy so I would not add any extra stress by letting them out. Extra treats and things to do while cooped up is always a good idea.

    Second, that hawk had some part of a meal and will be back. Don't give him an easy opportunity to strike again.....sorry, but even the best guardian dog can't thwart a determined hawk.

    I have several small structures (dog houses) placed strategically around my coop and pen for my girls to "duck into" during a hawk strike. And I have placed several large planters with draping foliage for my hens to hide under should they need to. I let my girls free range when I am home, but I know I cannot get to them quick enough should a hawk strike. Those extra hding places and structures have proved to be invaluable.

    I am sorry for your loss. [​IMG]

  10. FireRooster

    FireRooster In the Brooder

    Apr 2, 2011
    I had this same problem, lost two to the same hawk.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2012

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