Hawks Are After Our Free Range Chickens: Guilty Hawks Caught On Camera

Hawk with chicken prey 0206

Feb. 2006

Hawk hiding prey 0206

Feb. 2006

Our first experience with a hawk attack was a year or more after we first started raising chickens. A local farmer warned me that hawk(s) would eat my chickens like they eat all of his. I guess I thought he was being pessimistic. Our first spring summer and fall was free of predation of any kind. We were devastated when our first chicken, my children’s favorite chicken (named Duck) was killed by a hawk.

I heard the chickens squawking in panic so I ran outside to investigate. Sadly, the hawk had already killed our hen. I was surprised to find that the hawk did not fly away. Instead he held his ground not wanting to leave his prey behind. You see the chicken was too big for it to carry off. As I got closer, he opened a wing in an attempt to hide the prey. At least, that is what I think he was doing. Then it spread both wings to look bigger and to keep me away from the meal it hoped to eat. I was able to get very close to the hawk. After I determined that it was too late to save the chicken, I ran for my camera. I love nature so I was very excited to be able to observe a hawk so closely but I was heart broken because our chickens were like pets. Lesson learned.

This chicken was a Buff Orpington and was supper sweet. My daughters loved them the very best because of their sweet trusting manner.

Hawk protecting prey 0206

Feb. 2006   I believe this hawk is a red tailed hawk. Any experts out there? I noticed that he is banded.


Hawk in tree 0208

Feb. 2008

Hawk on chicken coop 0208

Feb. 2008

A year later I caught another hawk on camera.

We came home (Southern Maryland) one afternoon in Feb. and found our chickens again in a panic. I went in the hen yard and discovered this hawk under the hen house. I believe it is a Cooper’s hawk. (Does anyone know how I can tell for sure it isn’t a sharp-shinned hawk?) One of our chickens, Raven a black Australorp, (a sweet hen that does all the raising of the chicks) was trying to hide from the hawk but apparently the hawk went under there after it. The hawk had its talons securely attached to the side of the chicken’s head. Despite my screaming and crazy arm swinging, it didn’t fly away. I had to pry its talons, one by one off my chicken. Only then did it fly away. It didn’t go far; it didn’t even leave the hen yard until we chased it off; by then my kids were helping. These guys are persistent I tell you! Good news though, my chicken came out of it fine.

Hawk hungry for chicken 1209

Dec. 2009

Hungry Hawk back view1209

Dec. 2009

My daughter heard the chickens making a lot of noise and I ran out to find this guy had a buff Orpington. I thought she was dead but after scaring the hawk away, which isn’t easy, the hawk first tried to drag the hen away with him, the chicken than sprang back to life. She made a complete recovery. I think this is another red-tailed hawk.

Usually if a hawk comes around hunting and I know about it, I gather the chickens and lock them up in their henhouse/ run/ chicken shelter combo. Usually I let the chickens free range in a very large fenced in area. I use a fence because they dig up my landscaping and eat plants I don’t want them too etc.. Also, the fence keeps out the occasional stray dog. I usually keep them locked up for a day or two after because the hawk is sure to come back. I’ve seen them boldly strutting around the hen yard; looking for the prey it almost had.

We lose about one chicken a year to hawks and I thwart one or two more attempts each year. I know what to look for and listen for. I can tell by the way they act or by the sounds they make if a threat is around. Unless you are willing to completely cage your animals, and I’m not, you have to accept the possibility of loss.

We no longer name all our chickens. Also, we’ve decided against getting any more Buff Orpington chickens because they seem to be particularly vulnerable but if you have a large completely enclosed living area, they would be great. I think I’ll try hanging aluminum pie pans in the trees to help keep the hawks away. Maybe I’ll try putting out a fake owl too.

4 thoughts on “Hawks Are After Our Free Range Chickens: Guilty Hawks Caught On Camera

  1. Lee

    Does a fake owl keep the hawks away? Our hen yard is fully enclosed, but we like to let them free range for a few hours a day. We started with chickens and ducks this summer and until this morning have not seen any predators. I did suspect this could have been because the foliage in the area we keep them protected them from view. Now the leaves are off the trees, I looked out this morning and saw a hawk sitting on top of the chain link pen covering looking down at our chickens, who were looking up at it. Interestingly the ducks were no where in site, safe in their house I presume as their pen is covered too. I went out, called to my son to join me and the hawk flew away and then the chickens decided they should hide in their house too.

  2. jane Post author

    I think a fake owl might help but I don’t believe that solution can be trusted. Saw a hawk over my hen yard just today. My chickens were squeaking about it! It flew away when I came around to investigate. I still haven’t gotten an owl to try it out.

  3. Bill Turner

    Did you notice the metal band on the left leg of the hawk in the first picture? I wonder where’s he’s from and who is monitoring him?

    Did you ever come up with a successful solution?

  4. jane Post author

    I did notice the band on its leg but I couldn’t see the number so couldn’t report on it.
    I don’t have a 100% guarantee they will be safe from hawks when they are free-ranging. Unless I want to stand guard all day.

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