Chicken Hawk Deterrents

These "eye balloons" are designed to scare off birds of prey. From
We had an unfortunate hawk attack the other day at Better Farm, and sadly lost one of the Rapunzels, whom we rescued last summer from certain death at an egg factory. The tragedy caused us to do a bunch of research on chicken hawks and deterrents for birds of prey. Here's a quick rundown of what we found out, and the steps we took to ensure the Better Farm chickens can enjoy a predator-free, free-range life. (Note: These deterrents will work for most birds, so feel free to use these ideas near fruit trees or anywhere you have problems with birds.)

A shiny, fluttery scarecrow strategically placed (and moved every few days) will ward off flying predators.
Better Farm's terrifying new scarecrow. Fluttering pieces of bright fabric and shimmering CDs helped our scarecrow become more ferocious.
The Problem at Hand
Everyone's got to eat! For hawks, food is scarce in the early spring, winter, and late fall. So if the bird is lucky enough to come upon a property with dozens of grazing, slow-moving prey like chickens, you can bet the hawk (or any other bird of prey) is going to check out what's available—and come back for seconds. A chicken coop can quickly become a delicious buffet for a predator, so if you've got backyard chickens in an uncovered run (or free range), chances are you'll need to take some basic steps to protect your birds.

A Few Solutions
Hawks will be scared off by a few things, but it's important to remember that whatever you do, you'll have to continuously reinvent yourself so the hawk doesn't grow accustomed to your decoys. Here are a few ways people in the backyard birding community have protected their ranging hens during the day:
  • Fluttering CDs—If you take some old, scratched-up CDs you're not using anymore and hang them around your coop or chicken run (or from trees throughout your yard), the reflecting light will frighten away birds of prey.
  • Mirrors—Hang mirrors at an angle facing upwards around where your chickens like to spend time. Hang them facing all four directions. An easy way to hang the mirrors is to place them, face-up, in the bottom of a plant basket with handle. Hang the basket from a clothesline, fence, tree limb, swing set, or even a trampoline. Or, simply set the basket on the ground.
  • Gazing Balls—Gazing balls put out throughout where your chickens hang out will work the same way CDs and mirrors do.
  • Scarecrow—A scarecrow decked out in fluttery strips of mylar or shiny fabric and holding dangling CDs will scare away predatory birds—but be aware that you'll need to move the scarecrow every few days so the hawks don't get used to him (or her).
  • Mylar—Whether you buy balloons or strips made out of mylar, you can fashion your own shimmery bird deterrent. Hang mylar strips on fence posts, tree branches, or anywhere else you choose.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.