Persistent Hawk

Surburban Homesteader

In the Brooder
8 Years
Apr 23, 2011
I got some half grown chickens a few weeks ago (my first). They are (or were) fully grown now. I grow lettuce in cold frames and thought the chickens would do a nice job of cleaning up a frame once I harvested it all out. I bought a small coop and put it at the end of the cold frame/chicken run. I read that hawks may go after small chickens and the remedy was to put a few strands of fishing line with some streamers above the run. I loosely covered the frame with chicken wire, mostly to keep the chickens in, I thought it would be more then enough to keep a hawk out.

As you may have guessed, it didn't. I went out to the coop yesterday to find a Red Tail gorging on my smallest leghorn. I shooed it off and it flew between the lengths of chicken wire. I set about wiring the lengths together and thought I fixed the problem.

When I went back in the afternoon, I found the end of the run pried open, and another half eaten chicken. I made the run a maximum security prison. Twice during the day, I had to chase the hawk off.

This morning, I found another decapitated chicken partly pulled though the wire. I don't think it pulled the chicken wire out from being tucked under the frame 3-4", and got in, but waited until she was near the edge and pounced. I didn't want to permently attach the wire to the frame, as my idea was to put the birds in the coop, close the door, and move them to the next frame, but I got the staple gun out and did it. Twice today, I had to chase the hawk off. My two remaining shell shocked hens spent the day in the coop. I thought it best to just shut them in there, both to give them a sense of security, but also to keep them out of sight and mind of the hawk, but it is still trying valiantly to find it's way in.

Does this shock anyone? These chicks are almost as large as the hawk! Any ideas what to do? I'd hate to kill the hawk, and wouldn't even know how! (bb gun?)
Oh, and I'd like feedback on if I should try to get some more birds - or will my two be happy enough all winter before I get some more chicks in the spring?
Harming hawk not a legal option, even use of a BB-gun.

Juveniles are particularly vulnerable to hawks as you already indicated awareness of. If no other options for protection available, then cover run and do not have free-ranging without supervision. I am not confident in the effectivenss of handing things that are shiny like CD's since some hawks make attack despite such but might still reduce frequency of attacks. No science to my knowledge to back it up. Fishing-line can work but requires more strands than often practical. Juveniles can be benefit from cover but hawk will still pursue and catch them although with more difficulty. With my free-ranging juveniles I employ multiple methods to reduce losses to hawks. First is to have adult birds in mix. Hawks tend to target smaller birds and larger adult chickens nearby seems to give hawks pause. I also include among those adults a rooster. Some roosters will attack a hawk once it is on ground, at least my games do consistently and repel Coopers Hawks with ease. Red-tails are more of a challenge but my games will attack such a bird already on ground that is going after a member of his harem (includes offspring). Hands down, the best system for me is a dog that likes going after whatever goes after his chickens. I always use a combination of methods. Birds have cover to hide and fight back from which buys crucial seconds for dog to get over and put hawk on run.
Thanks Centrachid. Hawks seem to be the thing on the fourm the last few days - It must be the season. As a "new egg" I must be mistaken about what a juveniles verses adults are, my barred rocks are almost as big as that hawk! To bad, thanks to childhood tramas, I really don't like dogs! I think I may cover my runs/cold frames with tarps and or shade cloth, it would be easier for me to put on and off when I move the chickens then all the stapled on chicken wire fence. I guess we are all on a learning curve!
You've got more than one predator. Hawks don't pry up wire and they don't pull heads through wire.

Hawks don't fly through small spaces, but they will walk through small spaces. So, if there are gaps in your wire, they can take advantage. Owls, on the other hand will fly though any space they can fit their body through.

Tightening up the wire will take care of owl and hawk issues. Poultry wire and staples might not stop whatever is prying up wire and pulling heads through the wire.

Best luck to you on figuring out how to keep your birds safely confined.
Thanks Oregon Blues - but that is why I posted here, both to find out if other had my problem, and to let people know that this is happening. I'm here to tell you that it was a hawk, it flew through a small space (it was in the enclosure, so I'm 100% sure) It flew (or crawled) through a MUCH smaller space to get the second one. I didn't see it that time, but..... it was later the same day, the kill looked exactly the same as the first one, and I had to shoo it away several times after that - and I watched it, taking allot of time and effort trying to pry up the chicken wire!
I'd contact the local wildlife authorities to see what they can do if the hawk is that destructive. I have had luck with that. I don't know where you live, but that may help. Me personally, if no one would help, I'd find SSS the option I'd use. And not with a bb gun. I don't mind hawks or any other predator for that matter, but when one starts freeloading and going to great lengths to be destructive, I WILL put a stop to it.
That's just my two cents.
Coopers and Sharpshinned Hawk will fly fast through tight spaces in pursuit of prey. Buteos like red-tails will try to hunt more open areas by air. If raptor can catch a prey item through fencing / wire, then it will have same problem as raccoon and solve problem in similar manner by pulling through and consuming parts it can. Owing to how raccoon and hawks must get close to fencing, you can defeat their efforts with a minimal amount of hardware cloth in addition to regular wiring. The hardware cloth need not be more than 12" high from ground level. I also use remants of wire fencing roll to make predators approach to fencing at ground level more difficult.

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