The world of chickens also inevitably involves the world of predators. Our little feathered friends are great pets; they supply us with eggs and are super fun to watch and to interact with. But they are also, categorically, prey.
My husband and I took the predator factor into serious consideration when deciding to get chickens. Our block, within the Raleigh city limits, is chock filled with predators, including one of my two dogs! There are hawks, owls, foxes, raccoons, opossums, and snakes. (and my sweet Millie!)
We decided on an American Coop and it was placed on the side of our corner lot so our dogs wouldn’t be an issue to contend with. We also added a pergola and were careful to use the same care and materials used in our American Coop to keep out the predators — half-inch coated hardware cloth, predator apron, latches with carabiners and/or locks.
I know they are safe inside the henhouse and run. I just want to make sure they are safe when they free range. So the rule is, the chickens can only free range when either my husband and I (or both) are out there watching the skies, or are very close by — I mean, literally only feet away.
One day, my husband and I were busy and going in and out of the house all day. My neighbor left a message on my phone and when I listened to it a while later I was horrified.
A hawk landed and perched atop our pergola. He (or she) stayed there for about 30 minutes then landed in the fenced in area next to the coop. He stayed there for another 30 minutes. Apparently, scaring the living daylights out of my girls.
After hearing the message, I ran to check on them, and they were all huddled under the henhouse. All except Maude. I couldn’t find her.
I was in a panic! I scoured the coop inside and out. My logical head knew nothing could get in and no one could get out, but I was freaking out!
I then saw her smooshed in between the one side run and a battery box we have inside the coop. She had a little bloody spot on her head just above her beak. I grabbed her and comforted her. My husband brought out the Vetericyn spray and cotton balls and I started to clean her up.
After closer examination, all but one of my girls had little bloody marks on them in the same place. I carefully dabbed each one and comforted them. They must have been in quite a frenzy and got themselves banged up. Apparently, this is not uncommon.
I felt awful that they had to go through all that, but grateful that they were all safe inside the coop when the visitor came.
I feel I need to make this point: I love hawks (and all animals) and believe they are simply majestic and incredible birds that have every right to be here. I also strongly believe it’s my job to protect my flock, but in doing so to never bring harm to any of the predators out there.
And like chickens do, they healed up quickly, and I only had to reapply the antiseptic spray on a few of the hens the next day. They are such resilient little creatures. They were still kind of spooked for the next few days, but soon were back to normal.
They are instinctively aware of hawks and other predators. I will continue to be ever vigilant when they free range. And I will also explore many other ways to keep predators, especially hawks, away from my chickens, but don’t think I ever want to let my guard down when they are out free ranging.
I’ve been reading various techniques for keeping hawks away. An owl statue that you move around. Shiny pie tins or CDs hanging around. A sort of spider web of fishing line over the free range area. None seem fool proof. Some people have had success with all or none of these techniques.
I heard that feeding the crows helps with the hawk situation. I’ve seen crows go after hawks, (usually in the spring when they are nesting), and relentlessly drive the hawks away.
Crows are such intelligent birds and I love throwing out some cracked corn to them and then give some to my hens.
I hear the crows cawing back and forth to each other (or maybe they’re talking to me) and I tell them as I throw them food, ‘Here you go, please watch after my girls.’
Until next time,
Ingrid – Crazy Chicken Lady in Training