Heads up!!! No really, look up! Why? Well because it is fall raptor migration time and if you have chickens, well, you need to be aware. Hundreds of thousands of hawks, eagles, ospreys and falcons are currently winging their way south and possible past your coop!
Most hawks are soaring birds.... that means they depend on updrafts to help them travel. Sense large bodies of water have no updrafts, the raptors tend to follow land routes. This means they will follow shorelines in order to get around large bodies of water. Here in Michigan this is especially true. Bird watchers LOVE this fact and raptor viewing over by lake Erie is a highlight this time of year.
So how do you know when to start watching out for these predators from above? Well different species of raptors migrate at different times. Thanks to the bird watchers and their research, we know that for example the Broad-winged Hawks peak in their migration in September. Red-tailed Hawks, on the other hand, are a little later and reach their peak migration in November. After looking at all the data out there, and there is a lot, just assume you will need to be vigilant the late August till the end of November which is peak migration time for most raptors.
Be vigilant? What I mean is that you need to keep a close eye on and set up protection for your chickens. A lot of these migrating raptors are younger and willing to take more risk when looking for food.... food like your chickens. But what can you do? Make sure your coop and run are secure from all sides, including above. If your chickens don't have an enclosed run, well you are taking a chance, so make sure you have a lot of places they can hide if you are along a migration route. When you let your chickens out to free range, stay close by and keep an eye to the sky. Since these raptors are migrating in such large numbers, where there is one, well, assume there is more. If they pick off one chicken, others may notice this is an easy meal.
To learn more about how to identify raptors, head over to Hawk Mountain. The have some very good information there. And remember, knowledge is power... if you know they are coming, you can be prepared... and maybe even enjoy sighting some amazing new feathered friends.