How Can I Protect My Free-Range Chickens From Predators?


HawkWe are new to the free-range chicken world, and had 12 chickens that were very happily ranging about the yard. The eggs were delicious! I say “had” 12 chickens, because a hawk recently killed two of our chickens (including one of my best layers). Now the 10 remaining birds are not-so-happily fenced in. Do you have any helpful hints about flying predators? Or do we just have to expect either to pen our chickens in or have some lost to predators once in a while?

Hawks are a tough problem. We lose a few chickens a year to them. I think cover — bushes, picnic tables, shade arbors — really helps the chickens out. I have open fields around my home, and I can go out on the deck and make a red-tailed hawk whistle and the hens all charge over to the garden and hide in the asparagus patch.

— Bryan Welch, farmer and publisher

I think it is impossible to raise chickens on range without incurring some loss to predation. My only aerial losses came from night attacks by an owl — we tended to lose white chickens that way. Hawks are thick here in Kansas, but we have lots of trees and shrubs. Our birds head for cover whenever a hawk is overhead, and to my knowledge they have never been attacked by one.

Having written that, I think that pasture pens and the presence of dogs, humans or other large creatures in the area will deter the hawks. I suggest you let your birds range again after about a week to see whether the predator is still around or has moved on.

— Oscar H. Will III, editor, Grit magazine

10/14/2020 12:34:03 AM

Our first year, last year, we lost over half our flock including to roosters. The last remaining rooster to a beat down but survived. We went to the barn one morning and Victor was hiding in the hay his entire left breast ripped down beyond the skin. We didn't think he would survive, but we gathered him and the 4 remaining hens up and they remained in the coop for weeks. He did heal up and we purchased 10 additional chicks, but this purchase also included a goose "Gilbert". He thinks he's a Livestock Guardian Dog and it took some time but the goose and rooster have become quite the team.

2/12/2014 9:58:30 AM

My chickens received some unexpected guardians from hawks, I went out one day to see the 3 crows that had adopt ed us chasing the hawk away. Now I am happy to see them lounging around the pond with the ducks and chickens.

7/11/2013 4:17:22 AM

I'm going with what bellfas posted below: A Livestock Guardian Dog is the only thing that has worked for us in over twenty years of keeping poultry.

Many years ago, before we discovered LGDs, we lost a lot of chickens to hawks and even owls.

One time, we even came home to a horned owl inside of a wire kennel (we had a broody hen in there sitting on eggs) the chickens were gone and we had a lot of fun trying to figure out how to deal with the owl - he was trapped inside.  When this happened, there was a dog (but not a Livestock Guardian Dog) about 50 feet away.

As soon as hawks see an LGD with the flock, they shy away.  If they dare make a swoop where an Anatolian Shepherd is nearby - they never do it again.  Anatolians are fast and run like a greyhound.

Jeremy Smith posted a comment about an automatic chicken door which is pretty neat.  I'm sure that helps at night if you're cooping your birds, but it doesn't help when you let them free-range.  Besides, I love the dogs and it's so much easier than gadgetry.

I noticed comments (joking and non-joking) about shooting predators that are attacking your stock.  If you're hesitant to do this because you don't want to kill them, or because you're worried about getting in trouble for it, these dogs are your answer.  I'm not just talking about hawks and owls; this goes for cougars and bears, foxes, and whatever else you may be dealing with.

If you're interested in the dogs that we've had the greatest succes with half Anatolian & half Pyr), you can visit us at:

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