Chickens are easy to love. They cluck and scratch their way into our hearts and provide nourishment for our families. It is difficult to lose these feathered friends to predators, but unfortunately, it is a widespread problem shared among chicken owners.
Hawks can live in an urban or country environment, and they will prey on chickens. Guardian animals can help protect your chickens by either scaring them away or even fighting them off. There are many animals that will guard your chickens from predators, and some are better than others at deterring hawks.
If you are looking for alternate strategies to keep your brood safe, read on to learn more about incorporating animal husbandry into your chicken-raising adventures!
- Hawks are a major predator of chickens and can be difficult to repel with traditional deterrents like fencing.
- Guard animals work to protect your chickens by either being predators of hawks or fending them off from the flock.
- Chickens are most vulnerable when they are free-ranging during the day since hawks are most active during the day.
1. A Rooster Will Defend Hens From Hawks
Love him or hate him, a rooster takes his job as a protector seriously, but sometimes too seriously! Roosters attack animals, accost small children, and even boldly come after adults for coming near their flock!
While this aggressive trait is not attractive when applied to humans, it proves beneficial to keeping a chicken flock well-protected against predators.
Roosters Scan Both Sky And Ground
Roosters are surprisingly adept at identifying sky-bound predators like hawks. As they look over their flock, they are constantly scanning the skies for aerial predators.
Once a hawk is spotted, roosters will make a high-pitched alarm call that warns the hens to seek cover. The rooster will continue to make the call until the hawk has vacated the vicinity to find easier prey. If the hawk gets too close, the rooster will even fight it off to protect your hens!
You’d think chickens would just fly away from a predator, but this isn’t usually the case. You can read more about this in our article about the reasons why chickens won’t fly or run away.
You Only Need One Rooster
A good rooster stays alert, communicates often with his hens, and keeps the flock safe. He proudly struts around finding food for his hens and showing off his feathers to earn their loyalty. Roosters will even break up fights within the flock, protecting smaller hens from getting bullied.
It’s best to only have one rooster per flock of hens. If two roosters share the same flock, they may become aggressive towards each other and fight, distracting them from their guard duty.
2. Livestock Guardian Dogs Can Protect The Flock From Hawks
Dogs can be a threat in a chicken-raising endeavor or, if chosen carefully, can be your chicken’s protector. A heavy investment of time and training is needed to get a dog to protect the flock. But once your dog is invested in protection, nothing will stand in their way, not even a clever hawk!
Guardian dogs typically stay with the flock, walking the perimeter of their range or enclosure and looking for any signs of trouble.
Guardian Dogs Are Used More For Nighttime Protection
Guardian dogs are usually employed by chicken owners to protect their hens from predators at night, such as foxes and coyotes. However, they can also be employed to protect chickens during the day from critters like hawks and snakes.
It’s not a bad idea to have more than one guardian dog. Perhaps one that protects during the day and one at night. After all, two sets of eyes are better than one.
Head over to our article on when foxes hunt chickens to get a better understanding of these nighttime predators.
Some Breeds Are Better Than Others At Protecting
Imagine the difference between a 100-pound Anatolian shepherd guarding your chickens and a 15-pound dachshund. Which one would you rather have? Probably the shepherd, right?
Not any old dog can protect a flock of chickens. Certain breeds have protection ingrained in their genes from years and years spent as working dogs on farms.
Some of the best breeds of guardian dogs include:
- Great Pyranese
- Anatolian Shepherd
Training Is Crucial
It can’t be stressed enough how important training is. Without proper training and distancing, your dog may be more attached to you than the flock. The California Department of Food and Agriculture recommends minimal contact from 8-12 weeks of age.
This distancing will help your guardian dog bond with the flock rather than you. It may sound callous, but this is the best way to protect your chickens from hawks!
3. Turkeys are Intimidating to Hawks
Raising heritage turkeys on pastureland is a widespread practice after turkeys are 10-12 weeks of age. At this age and size, they are no longer attractive to birds of prey.
Similar to chickens, this poultry species needs nocturnal protection as well.
Give Turkeys Plenty Of Space
Turkeys are generally friendly and docile when given enough space. Even Tom turkeys can be friendly towards humans if hand-raised.
However, if you stick turkeys and chickens together in a small space, turkeys can become aggressive towards the chickens, each other, and humans. So, make sure there is wide open space for turkeys and chickens to coexist peacefully.
Like roosters, you should only keep one Tom turkey per flock. It’s a great idea to mix in some female turkey hens and jennies. This will encourage the Tom to protect the flock even more.
Turkeys Won’t Fight Off A Hawk
One thing to take into consideration for using turkeys to protect your chickens is the level of defense you get with turkeys. Unlike a guardian dog, turkeys will not usually attack a predator to defend chickens.
Turkeys give off an alarm call when they sense danger, which can warn hens to take cover, but there’s no real physical defense.
Instead, turkeys act as a deterrent because of their size. When a hawk sees a turkey from above, they’ll think twice about scoring a meal in the area.
4. Miniature Donkeys Can Scare Off Hawks
Miniature donkeys can scare off hawks in a similar way to turkeys. They are large and intimidating, and hawks don’t see them as prey. Just the presence of a donkey can be enough to make hawks think twice about attacking your chickens.
The Benefits Of Keeping Miniature Donkeys
Miniature donkeys have earned a reputation for being compared to guard dogs. They are strangely protective and can even be oddly possessive over territory. This could prove beneficial for keeping predatory animals away from the grazing area they share with chickens.
Unlike turkeys, donkeys can protect your chickens from predators at night as well, providing round-the-clock protection. They will fend off coyotes, strange dogs, foxes, raccoons, and any other nighttime prowler.
Donkeys Are Territorial
Donkeys aren’t normally used to protect chickens. They are more suited for livestock such as cows or sheep. However, these territorial animals can protect chickens if they are given time to bond with the flock.
The best scenario would be to raise your donkey with the chickens, helping it bond with the flock. When this is not possible, expect a few tussles between donkeys and chickens. This will normally subside after a while, so be patient with your new guardian.
Miniature donkeys are territorial. So, while they may not protect your chickens on purpose, they will protect their territory. If they sense a predator is nearby, like a hawk, they will alert everyone in the vicinity with their signature HEE-HAW.
5. Llamas & Alpacas Are Good Guardians For Chickens
Llamas and their smaller cousins, the alpaca, can be effective guardians for chickens against hawks. Llamas are more aggressive while alpacas are more docile. However, either one can be a deterrent for aerial predators.
There are some things to take into consideration before using llamas and alpacas to protect chickens
- Llamas: Takes 1-2 years to reach protective status. Can use males or females to protect chickens. Should only use one llama.
- Alpacas: Takes 18-24 months to reach protective status. More alpacas offer better protection.
By the way, if you want to learn more about chickens and their quirks, head over to our article on 30 incredible facts about chickens.
6. Geese Are Great Hawk Detectors
Geese might be the perfect chicken protectors. They’re naturally aggressive and may run your neighbor off as readily as a hawk. Like many guard animals, you only need to raise one goose to protect a flock of chickens.
Geese are more likely to protect against aerial predators because they are more aware of the dangers. This may make them one of the best-suited animals to protect your chickens from hawks. However, they’re not as good at protecting from other predators like coyotes and foxes.
If you decide to use a goose, check out the African goose and White Chinese goose. These two are the best at guarding chickens.
What About The Other Livestock?
Anytime you consider adopting new animals, be sure to consider their habitat, vet care, and socialization needs. Horses, goats, alpacas, and miniature donkeys are all very social animals and will require companionship themselves!
When considering animal husbandry, take great care as you determine which type of animal is the best companion guardian animal to live with your chicken flock and will fit in best with your lifestyle.
If the presence of an animal in the pasture is all you are looking for, consider adopting an older or retired animal. These animals could become a beacon of safety for your small flock of birds.
If you’re having problems with other predators like foxes, check out our article on the best animals to protect your chickens from foxes.
How Else Can I Protect My Chickens?
If you want additional protection from hawks, there are a few things you can do to either scare them off or confuse them. Guard animals and hawk deterrents can work in tandem to keep your flock safe.
Flashy Objects Confuse Hawks
Shiny, flashy objects that reflect off the sun can confuse birds of prey like hawks. The reflection may disorient them, making them hesitant to get any closer. Keep in mind that this may scare your chickens as well, so it might be a good idea to hang these items in your chicken coop first to let your birds get used to it.
Homescape Creation’s Large 15-Inch Bird Repellent Reflective Scare Rods can be hung from a tree branch where your flock hangs out. Or, you can create your own perch to hang these from in areas where you want to protect from hawks.
You can also try setting out Hausse Reflective Pinwheels. These may be easier to place in your chicken’s area since they do not need to be hung from anything.
Our final shiny recommendation is scare tape. OFFO Bird Reflective Tape is double-sided and can be wrapped around, hung, cut into strips, or staked to the ground to ward off hawks.
Use Predator Decoys
Despite being a large, winged predator, hawks have to contend with their own predators. Eagles and owls will target hawks, and you can use this to your advantage to protect your chickens.
HiAnifri Owl Decoys have a rotating, spring-loaded head that moves with the wind, creating a lifelike appearance. The decoy resembles a great horned owl, which is one of the main predators of hawks.
As with the shiny objects, chickens can be perturbed by an owl decoy as well. Allow your chickens to get used to the device before placing it outside.
Chickens aren’t completely oblivious to their surroundings. When they spot a hawk, they will want to run for cover to avoid becoming a meal.
Here are some ways you can provide your chickens with cover, even if they are free-range chickens.
- Raised chicken coop: Raise your chicken coop off the ground so that the chickens can run underneath it when they spot an aerial predator.
- Bushes: bushes and shrubs can provide protection from hawks. Try to keep the bottom of the bushes trimmed to make it easier for your chickens to escape beneath.
- Build shelters: If you have a large flock, consider building shelters throughout their range that they can run under or into when hawks are present.
Using brightly-colored paint or netting can help further deter hawks. Or better yet, coat the shelters with reflective tape!
That’s a Wrap!
There is not a one-size-fits-all answer for keeping chickens safe from predators, since there are so many animals that have chicken on the menu. However, some guardians are better at protecting from nighttime prowlers or daytime aerial predators, which is something to take into consideration.
To recap, here are the 6 main guardian animals that can protect your chickens from hawks:
|Ways of Guarding Chickens
|Different Sustenance Required
|Predators Best Suited to Protect Against
|Alerting with crowing, chasing away predators
|Small mammals, birds, snakes
|Patrolling the perimeter, barking at intruders
|Foxes, coyotes, raccoons, birds of prey
|Kicking and chasing predators
|Coyotes, dogs, foxes, bobcats
|Alerting with loud alarm calls, kicking
|Coyotes, foxes, dogs, wolves
|Loud gobbling, chasing away predators
|Small mammals, birds, snakes
|Loud honking, aggressive behavior towards predators
|Foxes, raccoons, birds of prey
If you can’t seem to stop losing chickens, you can always reach out to a professional to help you identify what is nabbing your chickens. Use our nationwide pest control finder to connect with a professional in your area.
Restrepo-Cardona, J. S., Echeverry-Galvis, M. Á., Maya, D. L., Vargas, F. H., Tapasco, O., & Renjifo, L. M. (2020). Human-raptor conflict in rural settlements of Colombia. PLOS ONE, 15(1), e0227704.
van Bommel, L., & Johnson, C. N. (2014). How guardian dogs protect livestock from predators: territorial enforcement by Maremma sheepdogs. Wildlife Research, 41(8), 662.
Bestman, M., & Bikker-Ouwejan, J. (2020). Predation in Organic and Free-Range Egg Production. Animals, 10(2), 177.
LEONARD, M. L., & HORN, A. G. (1995). Crowing in relation to status in roosters. Animal Behaviour, 49(5), 1283–1290.
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