At a time of year when so many of us have chicks to protect, hawk attacks are even higher than usual on our list of concerns. While the chicks are safe in the brooder, the concern of a hawk attack may only be lurking in the back of your mind. However, as the time comes to introduce growing chicks to the outside world, hawk threats need to move from the back of your mind to the forefront.
Hawks and other birds of prey are an unfortunate part of life with which chicken owners are forced to cope. It is not easy to face the losses of birds of any age, but it is especially sad to lose young lives. Supervised efforts at free ranging are useful as the likelihood of a bird of prey attacking your flock with you present is low, but it is simply not possible for many of us to pull chicken-sitting duty at all times. As a result, we are forced to find alternate means to protect our birds. In some cases, we employ roosters, while in other cases we provide shelter and cross our fingers that our chickens will utilize such shelter and the safety it provides. The problem with crossed fingers and good intentions is that those things are far from foolproof and many of us experience painful losses regardless.
In the face of flock losses, it may be tempting to put the reason behind such losses out of commission, but that is not an option as it is illegal to kill a bird of prey. That leaves us only with the option of outsmarting them, which is not always the easiest thing to do. Since they seem to have an uncanny sense of how, where, and when to strike unabated, people have historically turned to things such as chicken tractors to keep birds safe. While this is a great idea that does work, it is not always the most economical solution. Luckily, fishing line and bird scare tape are much cheaper.
With some strategically places stakes around the area where your chickens free range and some fishing line, you can create a barrier that will discourage hawks and other birds of prey that wish to dine on your chicks and chickens. Simply place the stakes a few feet apart and then take the fishing line, wrapping it around one stake then moving on to the next. The goal is to create a crisscross or grid type of pattern that will foil the plans of a hungry bird of prey that had plans to dine on your chickens. Once your lines are in place, you can enhance them with bird scare tape or scraps of colorful plastic to make the lines more highly visible, not only to hawks but to yourself.
If you feel that this method is inhumane and could injure or kill a hawk, worry not. The eyesight of birds of prey is excellent and far superior to the human eye to the point where a hawk circling above should not even attempt a dive as it will be able to see a fishing line obstacle in its intended path. Much like some of the other uncanny awareness hawks possess, the knowledge that they cannot navigate such lines is known to them and few, if any, will even attempt it. Instead, upon realizing they cannot fly in and out of the lines fast enough to make a kill, birds of prey move on to easier targets elsewhere. While advantageous in many ways, fishing line is not without drawbacks. For one, it can dry out and rot in the sunlight so it should be removed or changed periodically to prevent broken lines from falling and ensnaring your flock members. Even with that added bit of work and expense, keeping your chickens safe from aerial predators is worth it to give growing chicks the best shot at life possible and protect mature birds at the same time.