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Can a Hawk Pick Up a Chicken? What to Watch for

When raising chickens there are plenty of things to worry about and one of those things is predators. You may be wondering if a hawk can pick up a chicken and how you can best protect your poultry from predatory attacks.

If you are in an area where hawks are prominent you need to be worried about your chickens. An adult Red-tail hawk can easily pick up a five-pound chicken and remove it from the flock with little to no disturbance or evidence that anything happened.

To learn more about the danger that hawks pose to a flock of chickens and how to protect your assets from being swiped before your eyes, continue reading.

Fend For Your Flock By Thinking Like a Hawk

To protect your flock from flying predators like a Red-Tail hawk it is essential that you understand a hawk’s behavior and how it thinks.

The Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawk are the other two types of hawks commonly seen in the US; however, the Red-Tail is generally the one you need to worry about if you have chickens.

Understanding how this particular predator thinks can better prepare you so you can keep your enclosure safe from hawks and other predators whether in the sky or on land.

It’s kind of a situation where you need to think like a criminal to catch the criminal so to speak. Look at your coop from the perspective of the hawk (or any other potential predator).

Identify the obvious weak spots then zoom in closer to see if other areas could be made more secure and protected from unwanted outside visitors.

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Home Improvements – Adding Protection to the Coop

As mentioned above it is helpful to look at your chicken’s coop and outdoor space from the perspective of a hungry hawk.

If you have an outdoor space for your chickens to stretch their drumsticks and do some natural grazing it is important that you have plenty of overhead protection.


Most people will use some sort of fencing with small enough squares that the hawk cannot come through. This way the enclosure still receives plenty of light and airflow but the enemy cannot infiltrate the border. (source:

This also doubles as protection from some pesky ground predators as well. If you have free-range chickens with outdoor feeders it is highly recommended that you create a cover or some sort of enclosure to allow the chickens to eat without being preyed upon.

Chicken Coop On Wheels

Hawks are notorious for hovering near feeding spots and picking whichever chicken they think looks the best. Another way to give your chickens some breathing room away from a hovering hawk is to invest in or make a chicken coop that is on wheels for easy relocation.

You can simply roll the coop to a different location whenever you wish and this will provide new enrichment and fresh space for the chickens as well as throw the hawk off of its game a little while it tries to figure out where its lunch rolled off to.

Here’s a cool video demonstrating a coop on wheels:

When In Doubt Call For Help

Many times if someone is experiencing persistent issues with a predatory bird the department of wildlife services can offer suggestions for ways to deter a hawk from harassing your hens.

In some more extreme cases, they may trap and relocate the hawk to a more suitable location if they find that it is in the best interest of all parties. (source:

Since a hawk is a bird of prey you cannot shoot them or harm them in any way. You can receive serious fines and other legal issues if you are caught. When in doubt, call the authorities to be on the safe side and they will help you.

Put a Rooster In the Hen House

A rooster is one of the best ways to protect your hens; they are very territorial and protective of their girls.

If the rooster thinks something is threatening his lady friends he will let out a loud, high-pitched crow. He is warning the hens to take cover because there is danger. He will continue to crow and make a ruckus until the hawk is deterred.

Boost Security With a Guard Dog

A guard dog like the Great Pyrenees or any other dog that is naturally protective is a little better than a rooster at times because of the sheer size difference.

A dog is less likely to be afraid of a hawk than a rooster would be which means the hawk will likely stay away for good once they realize a big hungry dog is running around.

Old Tricks That Still Work

It may sound a little old-fashioned but a scarecrow is a great way to trick a hawk into thinking the chickens are being watched.

Here are some old tricks to keep the hawks away:

  • Hanging shiny objects can add movement to add an extra layer of a scare for the hawks.
  • Use decoys such as owls. Owls are a natural enemy to a hawk so if a hawk believes there is an owl close by they will likely fly on to better spaces.
  • Flashy tape or reflective items that can be hung are distracting and scary to a hawk so the more things you have moving around and reflecting light the less likely the hawk will stop in for a meal.

The trick with both of these tips is to move them frequently to ensure the hawk does not become accustomed to seeing them and lose the fear they once had.

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Some Noise

Another way to deter a hungry hawk is to make noise. Try keeping a radio on near the coop or hanging wind chimes.

Anything that moves around or makes noise will distract and likely deter the hawk from hunting your chickens. As with the decoys, noises need to be changed every so often to keep the hawks from getting desensitized.

Protecting Flock Easy With Simple Fixes

If you follow the tips in this article, you will see that your chickens are much more protected. A chicken that is well protected will be less stressed and therefore more productive. Keeping your distractions and decoys rotated and your enclosures covered will decrease the chance of hawks swooping in and getting your chickens.

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