Predators and Prey and your Flock!
We moved to the country four years ago, and we have been super lucky. We have not lost one animal to predators. Coyotes, raccoons, foxes, and snakes have made their presence known, as well as our resident abandoned barn-owl, but no attacks whatsoever. Until last week.
Upon doing his daily chores, our ten-year old son found his favorite chicken dead. It was a bird-of-prey that got her. The day before I saw a red-tailed hawk fly overhead, so I'm pretty sure that's the culprit.
Our sweet Chocolate Orpington Bantam was the only one among our flocks who liked to be held. She was also the slowest and the smallest; perfect for a mama hawk and her babies. I know it's the circle of life and because I'm Native American I get that and I honor that, but it's still hard to lose an animal that's under your protection. So, time to armor up and build some defenses. Four years with zero attacks we are super duper lucky. Here are a few simple items to look over so you can make your flock safer. We had these checked off already except for one, which I will cover later. For you, go through and check these off, it will save you heartache later. SHELTER: Provide shelter for your flock to hide underneath. Dense trees, brush, shrubbery, patio covers, awnings, and deck cover. We planted nut & fruit trees so that the chickens will be provided with cover as well as treats. Providing natural cover for small birds is the best way to protect them from hawk attacks. SHIELD FEEDERS: Place any feeders in covered areas such as under an awning or the shelters listed above, better yet place them inside of your coop pen if you have one (we recommend). If you have small bird feeders out for wild birds, you'll want to keep those away from your chicken flock because small wild birds attract birds of prey. Here's the one I thought we had covered but we did not. Hawks and birds of prey need to have "runways" and clear vantage ways to stake out. I thought all of our forest cover and awnings were plenty...nope. Add this to your list!
REMOVE BIRD OF PREY VANTAGE POINTS: Hawks will often stake out suitable hunting grounds and wait for unwary prey to approach. To make your backyard less inviting, Birds of prey rely heavily on their eye sight. Shiny objects, flashing lights, reflective objects, or bright cordage can break up their line of sight which makes it very difficult for them to not only see your birds but to also line up for an attack. What we did: Who really uses CDs anymore? We don't because everything is digital nowadays. I had a tower of blank CD's that are obsolete as well as music CD's I don't listen to anymore (sorry Men at Work).
We hung the CD's from super bright pink para cord and lined them up on several different lengths along another super bright pink paracord. My husband, Gorgeous George, then was able to get his tree climbing skills checked off for the day and we strung these lovely decorations in a zig-zag across our front and back free range areas. FUN! The ranch looks a bit like a disco, but that's great. Plus, I have not seen any sign of the hawk since and I'm watching closely.
I will keep y'all posted.