Red Tailed Hawks


In the Brooder
10 Years
Sep 21, 2009
I live in Southern California and have been reading some of the horror stories about hawks attacking free ranging chickens. Most of these people live in the South and are probably dealing with different kinds of hawks.

We mainly have Red Tailed Hawks here. Does anyone know if they are particularly dangerous or aggressive? We live in the foothills and the hawks are pretty numerous and active.

I have ten 5 month old hens and no rooster to protect them. I am scared to death that if i don't keep an eye on them when they are ranging in the backyard that i will lose one. They are just about full size now so i think a hawk would have a hard time carrying one off.
Red-tailed hawks are a danger year round, but especially dangerous as prey animals become scarce during the winter months. A hawk may not be able to carry off a full-grown chicken, but that won't stop them from killing and dining on the spot. If you free-range, you will lose birds to predation. Period. It may take a couple years, as it did in my case, but it will happen eventually. Hawks have been my most successful predators.

There are several posts about different deterrents on BYC. I have been using CD's and fishing line strung over my run for my ducks and geese. My chickens have a completely hardware cloth enclosed run. The only sure way to keep your birds safe is to do what I did with the chickens, but that is cost prohibitive if their run is sizable. I could not afford to do the same with my waterfowl, so I got 6-foot fiberglass rods and placed them every 4 feet along opposite sides of their fence. I then strung fishing line across their yard. So far, so good.

Good luck.
Let’s make it clear that Red Tail Hawks or any hawk are only dangerous to chickens and not people. If captured you watch the talons. Eagles will use their talons and their beak to defend themselves. If captured throw a towel over the hawk’s head and body and wrap it but not so firm that it is suffocated. The bird needs to expand its rib cage to breathe. If it is injured, put in a box and take it to the animal shelter.

I know some of you may not agree. However, for the novice who wants some information this is what needs to be done.
The last thing i would want to do would be to hurt a hawk. They are beautiful birds.

My hens are safe in their covered yard but they live for roaming free in the backyard. I'm going to keep an eye on them.
I'm in Northern CA and I lost a chicken to a hawk. (although it wasn't a red tailed hawk, it was greyish in color with spots on it's wings)

She was a full grown red sex link and the hawk couldn't carry her off, but it did kill her. And it came back the next day and tried again on one of my other chickens. (luckily I saw it swoop down, and I ran out like a crazy person, screaming)

We have since added some deterrants which include t-posts, scare tape, and a windmill. We haven't had any more issues.
I put the young chickens in the run maybe a little to early. The run had 2x3 welded wire for the walls. I had a hawk land next to the pen and one of the chicks put her head out of the wire to see the hawk. The hawk grabed her, pulled her through the fence and flew off...
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I have one very nervy, rude, obnoxious, "I don't care your standing there" red tail in my neighborhood.
This thing has figured out that about 6 in the evening I let my chickens free range and he comes and perches himself in the oak tree, on the electric pole or of all nervy places the top of the coop and just watches. Needless to say as he swoops to his perch the chickens spot him and the noise and the panic is on. They generally run for the honeysuckle hedge row or their coop unless the arogant bugger has landed on top of it.
The hawk has absolutely no fear of me, I can get within a couple feet of him as he sits on the edge of his prospective dining table before he flies off. I have tossed my dogs ball at him and all he does is watch it sail by. (I can't hit the broad side of a barn).
My chickens are protected in their covered run and I suspect this is a juvenile and is having a hard time catching prey.
I see Red Tail Hawks just about every other day around me here in the South. They have never bothered my chickens nor shown any interest in them (so I don't think it has anything to do with region). I have seen them catch squirrels within sight of my chickens and probably that is their choice prey around me (and we have plenty of squirrels-- so no shortage of hawk food!). If you have large, standard size chickens, then a hawk cannot carry them off. They will have to eat them first where they kill them; after eating them down, they can lift off with the remains to finish it in a tree or post. I have always thought that having a large, brave rooster made a impression on the Red Tail Hawks that being on the ground for any length of time would not make for easy hunting. In fact, my brother told me he was at a friend's and saw a OEG Rooster kill a young Red Tail Hawk that was after a hen. I have seen my own rooster chase a Cooper's Hawk out of the run & flog a stray cat as well.

On the other hand, Bantam & small breeds are vulnerable to being taken off by Red Tailed Hawks, Cooper's Hawks, probably Sharp-shinned Hawks, Red Shouldered Hawks, Broad Wing Hawks, etc. A Cooper's Hawk is actually known as a "Chicken Hawk" and aka "Blue Darter." When I had Bantams as a kid, I would have an occasional Bantam hen killed by a Cooper's.

You will read on here about hawks killing chickens but not all will. I think it is whatever the hawk learns or how hungry it is.

I have Barred Owls around too, and they are not a threat to my birds. My run has always been open; heck my roost is an open roost with a roof. On the other hand, a Great Horned Owl would be a threat-- haven't seen on of those in my neighborhood & don't want to.

Also, one more point: if a Red Tailed does go after prey, they will not mind you being right there. I've seen them catch & eat a squirrel on the ground while I moved to within a few feet and watched them. Neighbors came out and crowded around and the Red Tail acted as if we were invisible-- this has happened twice in 2 completely different places so not just a freak phenomenon. On one of those occasions, people stopped in their cars & asked me if that was my pet hawk-- not kidding.
I see red tailed hawks alllll the time. Often times when I go out to feed my chickens I see them perched and staring at my chickens. Just today I went for a walk down my road and I see this huge hawk fly accross the road and land on a nearby tree. While it was flying I saw a dead squirrel hanging from its left talon! After it had landed I saw it tearing the squirrel apart and eating it!
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I just got my first batch of chicks but have been raising ducks for ten years now. I have at least six red tailed hawks that live in my back yard in the woods. I have never lost a duck to them ever even when I was raising mallards which are smaller then my usual rouen and pekin but they leave them alone when I free range my ducks. If you know they're is enough small prey (mice, rats, small song bird, etc) in the area I wouldn't worry to much about the hawks getting at the chickens or ducks in my manner. They do sell those gaint plastic owls that you can put in your yard to scare away unwanted creatures. Never tried them but since I'm now raising chickens and i want to let them free range I might get a few to place around my yard. Still have a safe secure run for your poultry and make sure to check on them once and awhile to make sure they are staying out of trouble.

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