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Owls or hawks?  RSS feed

 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 295
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Friday I lost five hens to an aerial predator. Whatever it was was large enough to to fly over a five foot fence with the full grown australorps in toe. I have used fishing line over my run (the run is huge) with great success over the past three years. Some of it had recently fallen in a storm and I hadn't got around to fixing it.
My question is, will tightly woven fishing line keep owls out?
 
David Livingston
steward
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Where are you Scott as this will give some clue to the predator in question
I think any brightly coloured wire line might do . Have you a cock to warn the hens ?

David
 
Scott Stiller
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Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Central NC. I had a rooster but he died one month ago fending off some kind of aerial assault.
 
Liz Hoxie
Posts: 223
Location: Ellisforde, WA
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During the day, it was a hawk. At night, an owl. Dawn or dusk, either one. The fishing line will work. We have to use about 2' gaps because there's falcons here.
Get another roo SOON. Those boys earn their keep.
 
Travis Johnson
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Might also be a Crow. My only predator loss was a lamb to a crow.

Remember, you are allowed to protect your livestock!
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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The raptors that are capable of hauling off 6+ pounds are Redtail hawk, full grown Cooper's Hawk, Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Grey Owl, Screech Owl, Harrisons Hawk, Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, and I have seen Osprey take large chickens when I was at Pensacola NAS.

As has been suggested already, re string with the fishing line ( I like 40 to 60 lb. test so I can see it ) and get at least one Rooster.
We had a Great Horned Owl swoop our chickens just  two evenings ago, and the rooster kept everyone safe and discouraged both that owl and the Redtailed Hawk that was watching in a tree.
Our chickens were ranging in the hog pen, which doesn't have any lines over it since it covers half an acre.

BTW, Owls will begin hunting one hour before sunset and roost one hour after sunrise normally. If it is a cloudy day they might start earlier and stop later than normal.

The Redtails in our area stop hunting one to two hours before sunset and they wait till around one hour after sunrise to start their hunting.

Also, there is no permission to protect live stock from Raptors, they are federally protected and it is illegal to kill one, or possess parts of one (including feathers), the one exception is if it is attacking you, personally.
Even then you are going to want proof in the form of two witnesses and probably video would be good to have as well.

The only people able to possess feathers are First Peoples and we even have to have documents to prove we are allowed to possess the feathers or other parts such as talons.
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Most Predator attacks are not witnessed by anyone. Where I live, just about every Predator is legally protected. They are not in short supply. Shooting one or two, isn't likely to solve the underlying problem. If you are going to keep animals in a cage, find a way to keep Predators out. When kept outside, they just might live on rats and groundhogs.

My voice to text must have seen the movie Predator, and therefore capitalizes every time.
 
Wes Hunter
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Shooting one or two, isn't likely to solve the underlying problem.


I would (cautiously) disagree.  Last year, with something attacking and killing our chickens through their pasture shelter at night, I set out a handful of foothold traps to catch the offender.  I caught, of all things, a great horned owl.  That ended the killings, despite there being plenty of owls still in the woods.  In this case, at least, I had a problem animal, not a problem population.
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
gardener
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I saw an interesting bit in the middle of this video about him losing chickens to hawks and eagles until he let weeds and shrubs grow that the chickens could hide under. It starts at about 5 minutes and 20 seconds.

 
Fredy Perlman
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Location: Mason Cty, WA
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Wes Hunter wrote: I caught, of all things, a great horned owl.  That ended the killings, despite there being plenty of owls still in the woods.  In this case, at least, I had a problem animal, not a problem population.


*looks around furtively*
*leans in close*
*whispers*
what did you, uh, DO with the owl?
 
John Weiland
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Location: RRV of da Nort
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We've been getting ready to set up the wildlife cam on this one.  Have free-range chickens and the hens start clutches that they bring inside at night....they are not penned in any way.  But come mid-morning when we go out to feed them, lately it's been a whole hen and chicks, just gone.  No flurry of feathers laying about and no stray chick or two that did not get taken.  Livestock guard dogs have been a bit lazy with the heat and sometimes chicken distress calls don't get them out to where the noise is.  Anything about this type of "taking"....no feathers, whole clutches....that is characteristic of a certain type(s) of predator?  Pretty sure at this point it's not any of the dogs; region is NW Minnesota along a river, so mink/weasel, skunk, raccoon, coyote, fox, and the like are not out of the question and neither are owls and hawks.
 
Wes Hunter
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Fredy Perlman wrote:*looks around furtively*
*leans in close*
*whispers*
what did you, uh, DO with the owl?


Right, so I theoretically caught an owl, and I theoretically called the local state conservation agent, who informed me that I was free to trap and dispose of wildlife killing my livestock, and then I theoretically and unceremoniously hung the owl from a fence.

I think there must be a distinction made between inadvertently catching a raptor in a trap (because, really, who expects a raptor to land on and trigger a foot-hold trap?) and intentionally killing one, such as by shooting or by placing a trap on a perch, say.  I know of farmers who have done the latter.

Interestingly, about three winters ago I found an owl frozen to death after getting a wing caught on a barbed wire fence.  I brought it back to the house, showed the kids, then hung it from an open shed at the edge of the driveway for long enough to realize I probably ought not leave that sort of thing just lying around.
 
Wes Hunter
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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John Weiland wrote:Anything about this type of "taking"....no feathers, whole clutches....that is characteristic of a certain type(s) of predator?  Pretty sure at this point it's not any of the dogs; region is NW Minnesota along a river, so mink/weasel, skunk, raccoon, coyote, fox, and the like are not out of the question and neither are owls and hawks.


I would suspect fox or coyote.  Foxes will often leave a small 'puff' of feathers at point of impact (because there is often still a bit of a struggle), but a coyote might big enough so that doesn't happen.  Or the birds get far enough back into brushy areas that you just aren't finding the evidence.  I always lose some chickens this way, especially in spring corresponding with coyotes and foxes having pups, but this year was terrible.

I might even guess that the chicks aren't even bothered with.  It's possible that mama hen gets killed, and chicks are stranded and die, or perhaps are picked off later.
 
Marcus Billings
Posts: 43
Location: South Central Indiana
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Here's my forensic predator murder scene guide:

I divide killings into day and night.  This is for eastern U.S., I do have some bobcats nearby and we have a very limited number of mountain lions in the southern part of the state, but I've never had problems with either.  All of these observations are from attacks on my birds, personally observed by me.

Night time-
1.  Feathers scattered intermittently every few feet and body of chicken is found and chewed on in various spots. Generally only one chicken killed, but sometimes a couple.  Most likely a raccoon.  Raccoons are omnivores and not "natural killers" so their kills are a little messy.  They generally bump the chicken or try to bite or grab it and the bird gets loose, this can happen several times, thus the interment feathers. I've never had a problem with them, but I've heard opossum attacks look similar. 

2. As Wes mentioned, small puff or patch of feathers and no chicken, most likely a fox. They grab and run.

3.  Chicken totally gone, no feathers, most likely coyote.  Could be a small amount of blood or possible small piece of bird laying around, (head or leg).  Whole bird just generally taken. 

4.  Chicken beneath a tree or fence post, (sometimes hanging in tree) with a circular patch of feathers plucked out and the center of this plucked area eaten away--Owl, either Barred or Great Horned, biggest difference being the size of the hole.  Never had one enter a coop, only lost chickens when they decided to roost in nearby pine tree.

5.  Multiple chickens killed, bodies still in coop or roost, small amount of damage to neck or head.  Most likely mink or weasel.  Some people people say they suck the blood.  Haven't seen evidence of that, but they will kill just for the sake of killing.  Helped my uncle kill one 35 years ago that killed 27 chickens over two nights.

Day time-

1. Body of chicken found, area around neck and head eaten away, damage can extend down spine and into the back, eyes almost always picked out.  Most likely a Cooper's Hawk.  Worst Chicken killer in the world for my money.  Bird killing specialists.  Usually just eat the chicken at sight of the attack.  Not a robust raptor, so it would have to be a big one to fly off with anything but a four or five week old bird. I move my coop periodically and let plenty of weeds, bushes, etc. grow up and this helps create hiding areas for the chickens.  Also, roosters are very vigilant and can give the flock advance notice of attack.

2.  Multiple chickens killed.  Bodies still laying around.  Significant wounds, and wet, slobbery feathers.  Probably a dog.  Not much devoured, probably somebody's pet.  If most of one of the birds is eaten, could be feral dog.

3. Chicken found a few yards away from normal area under a tree or branch, or maybe not found at all.  If not found, maybe small puff of feathers at attack sight.  If found, most of the damage is centered around the head, neck and breast.  Probably a Red-Tailed Hawk.  Robust raptor.  Will carry off full grown chicken.  I've seen them also eat on the ground where the kill was made. 

Since I installed a light activated, automatic door on the coop, night time attacks have become a thing of the past. Best money I every spent by a long shot.  I keep one rooster for every ten hens for daytime security.  They've saved several chickens for me over the years.

Hope this is helpful to someone.


 
Marcus Billings
Posts: 43
Location: South Central Indiana
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Wes Hunter wrote:
John Weiland wrote:Anything about this type of "taking"....no feathers, whole clutches....that is characteristic of a certain type(s) of predator?  Pretty sure at this point it's not any of the dogs; region is NW Minnesota along a river, so mink/weasel, skunk, raccoon, coyote, fox, and the like are not out of the question and neither are owls and hawks.


I would suspect fox or coyote.  Foxes will often leave a small 'puff' of feathers at point of impact (because there is often still a bit of a struggle), but a coyote might big enough so that doesn't happen.  Or the birds get far enough back into brushy areas that you just aren't finding the evidence.  I always lose some chickens this way, especially in spring corresponding with coyotes and foxes having pups, but this year was terrible.

I might even guess that the chicks aren't even bothered with.  It's possible that mama hen gets killed, and chicks are stranded and die, or perhaps are picked off later.


My apologies-- I mistakenly attributed this quote to Bryant Redhawk in my last post.  Sorry Wes!
 
John Weiland
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Thank you both for your insights.  Yes, I think many things will be lurking in the shadows here.  What we know for certain have taken chickens/chicks in the past are Cooper's and Red Tail hawks, Barred Owls and maybe some others, and raccoon, mink, and fox (and have lost some goslings to snapping turtles...."Gator of the North").  We know for certain that coyote case the property from the outside, but usually at night, dawn/dusk and tend to get the dogs alerted by their yipping.....don't know if they've ever made it onto the property by stealth.  So this latter may have started happening especially with the dogs being bit more lazy in mid-summer.

Again, much thanks for your comments.....I'll hopefully remember to post again if we get confirmation.
 
David Livingston
steward
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I was surprised that someone mentioned Barn Owls a chick yes sparrow sized bird yup but to fly off with a whole chicken ?
We have then here as they are one of the few birds with a world wide disribition and I have never seen one with anything bigger than a rat . Here they seem to be a mouse/vole/rat /mole specialist and I am happy to have them
 
Marcus Billings
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Location: South Central Indiana
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John Weiland wrote:We know for certain that coyote case the property from the outside, but usually at night, dawn/dusk and tend to get the dogs alerted by their yipping


Based on the absence of crime scene evidence I'd say you've got a coyote problem.  Probable at least a couple if your not even seeing chicks the next day from a mother hen.  Coyotes don't have hands so after the first one gets his jaws around the hen, a second one is probably gobbling up the chicks.  I don't know how solid your coop is, but as I said, night time predators are a thing of the past with my automatic door.  I think the name of it was the Pullet-Shut Chicken Door.  I've had mine for four years and I sleep a lot better at night.  Comes with two options-AC plug with trickle charging battery or solar charger for the battery.  I have the plug in type, but it only moves twice a day so it doesn't use much electricity.  Getting ready to get the solar charging version.  Again, this is the best money I've ever spent when you consider how much time and effort goes into raising a chicken to adult hood.  The last thing you need is to lose a great young hen because you couldn't get home to lock up the coop.

Another thing with coyotes, if your birds aren't locked in at night and the coyotes can come in when they please, the will keep coming back like clockwork until the birds are gone.  You might have a few that live if they are roosting in the barn rafters, but older hens tend to stop going high after a certain age and coyotes will jump up to 6' and climb on anything that's close to a roosting bird.

I don't want to sound like a commercial, but the automatic door made keeping chickens a whole lot easier, for me anyway.  It's worth a look.
 
John Weiland
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Thanks, Marcus....if we ever get to the point where the chickens have their own place, then that sounds like a worthy investment.  It's kind of a bust, and boom, and bust again story as we started out with about 12 random birds several years ago that did pretty well and got up to ~30 just by hiding in the various outbuildings (rafters, etc.)  Then the surrounding predator population notice the "KFC" sign hanging at the top of the driveway and told their friends and neighbors...    So we had a decline.....until we got some livestock guard dogs.  And then the population skyrocketed to over 100 birds.  Of course as we don't have a designated coop, they have broods all over the place and we have no shortage of eggs in early summer.  To a certain extent, the boom is a consequence of a VERY alert dog as our first,.....the subsequent dogs are good, but a bit more lazy and we are likely seeing the fallout from that.  But if the population gets down to where we want to keep them in a more confined area, then I will revisit this post for your door suggestion which sounds like a great fix.
 
John Weiland
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Current culprit caught on image.....with paws in the cookie jar!

FoxA.JPG
[Thumbnail for FoxA.JPG]
FoxB.jpg
[Thumbnail for FoxB.jpg]
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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I'm going to give in to temptation. The little kid in me wants to say "Gee, it's a Glowey-eyed Devil Dog".  
 
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