I’ve said it before and I said it again this past weekend to one of our neighbors – when you make the decision to free range your chickens, you have to accept the fact that some are going to be lost.
I’ve seen a large hawk in our yard twice this past summer, fortunately, none of our chickens were taken, but when I was talking to our neighbor she told me that another neighbor had seen an eagle flying away with a local cat.
“Eagle? Really, are you sure it wasn’t a hawk?”
She assured me that the woman who had seen the eagle clearly identified it as an eagle.
When another cat owner in our neighborhood went out to search for her cat that was missing, she found her cat’s carcass in pieces. She also believes that the eagle is to blame.
So whether it’s an eagle or a hawk, it doesn’t really make much difference. There is a large bird of prey in our neighborhood that is attacking our pets. Fortunately we have not lost a chicken to the predator… yet.
So if you let you chickens free range, how on earth can you protect your flock from the danger that is flying above?
The most important thing you can do is make sure the chickens have several places to hide. In our yard we have an overhang on the house that our chickens can duck under at a moment’s notice. We also have a storage area under the coop and our shed’s doors are kept open when the flock is out (and I know they go in there from the droppings that I find.) Lastly we have low bushes around the perimeter of our property that the entire flock will scurry under if they see a flying shadow or hear that very definitive shriek.
And with regard to that shriek, when the chickens are in alert mode, they call out to each other – it’s a very specific call that once you are a chicken owner, you learn to identify, just as a mother learns her baby’s hunger from a fussy cry. I’m fortunate enough to work from home so when I hear that cry of alert from our flock, I go out to the yard to check on them.
It hasn’t happened often and twice I ended shooing off a hawk, but it’s yet another tool in our flock’s arsenal.
When it comes to birds of prey, it’s basically a roll of the dice. If a hawk or eagle wants one of your chickens, they are going to take one of your chickens. The best you can do is make sure your chickens have the tools they need to hide and then hope for the best.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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