Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Predator Party... Bye Bye Mr. Hawk!!!

So there I was... minding my own business.... going about my day when I heard the weirdest sound ever. I could tell it was coming from the backyard area of our property... well that general direction anyway. I went out back to check on our chickens and ducks because it wasn't an egg song, but it was a poultry type announcement. I was a little shocked to see all our chickens and ducks in the coop because they free range our fenced in yard. None of them were injured and I could still hear the odd call so I decided to check my neighbor's chickens.

As I looked over the fence, I counted three chickens in her enclosed pen. Wait... three? No that isn't right.... there should be four! So I quickly ran to her yard to find the missing chicken (who I assumed one of the stray cats might have their paws on.) As I crouched low to peek under the bushes at the back of her yard I flushed out not a cat, but a VERY large RED TAILED HAWK!!!!! He was stalking her bantam chickens!!! (And yes the fourth chicken was found, believed to be hiding under her one standard size chicken! LOL)

Now I knew it was migration season for raptors... I mean heck I even wrote a blog post about it to warn you all last month.... and here one showed up in my neck of the "woods." Well crap, crap, crappity, crap. For three days that stinking hawk was totally focused not on my coop and free ranging chickens and ducks (who I might add kept their fluffy butts in the coop) but the penned up chickens in my neighbor's yard. It was obvious this hawk had had chicken before and was trying to figure out just how to breach security. He was so bold as to stand on the ground right next to the pen in full view, scooping the situation and pacing back and forth. I was getting seriously tired of running out there and yelling at him.

Yes I yelled at that hawk, because at least in the state of Michigan you are NOT allowed to so much as turn a water hose on a raptor. This guy was legally covered better then most folks in witness protection! The final straw came when I was in the kitchen, minding my own business, baking up pumpkindoodle cookies and as I went to put the flour back in the cabinet, I passed the window and that dang hawk was sitting on MY fence not 10 feet from me. Oh no, no, no sir, I do not think so. I had left the pop door of the coop open just in case my chickens wanted to come out.... they are smart and new better...... but since I had seen this hawk strolling around my neighbor's pen, well I quickly wiped my hands, put on my shoes and went and closed the pop door on the coop. I was not about to let the hawk stroll right in for an all you can eat buffet at my place.

So now I was tired of yelling at the hawk and none to pleased with his proximity to my coop either. I called the DNR because I was running out of ideas on how to NOT harass the raptor but make him leave. I was pleasantly surprised when the DNR officer stated she too had chickens and could therefore sympathise with me. She told me to throw a party for the hawk..... well not like that but that is what it ended up looking like! She suggested using mylar balloons as a visual deterrent to the hawk. I was sceptical but willing to try.


So I called my neighbor and told her to pick up some mylar balloons on her way home from work, we were throwing a party! My neighbor brought home a few balloons that had NOT been filled with helium. You see the temperatures are dropping around here and helium shrinks in the cold. How intimidating would a flat balloon be!?!?! So she blew them up with her breath and hung the balloons around her pen. Then we waited. The balloons blew in the breeze, turning and flashing. And do you know what..... I kid you not.... that hawk left! Now I don't know if it was the Elmo balloon that did the trick or not..... but it freaked me out to look out my window and see Elmo blowing around!

So why did a few simple mylar balloons from the dollar store work? For one, they moved. I know some people use old CDs this way so why are balloons better? Well the trick was that one side had a shiny, reflective silver side while the other side was brightly colored. Talk about over stimulation on old Mr Hawk's visuals! So why am I telling you about this weird tale from the backyards of my neighborhood? Because it is raptor migration time and I am seeing a lot of people posting on Facebook about loosing chickens to hawks, and if this tale can help just one person to not loose another chicken..... then I say it is Party Time, bust out those balloons!!!




**** Everyone has different views on safety for their flock. My chickens are allowed to come and go from their coop in our fenced in yard as they please. I know to some people this seems like a recipe for predator disaster, but it is obvious that our poultry have learned from a young age to use the cover in the yard for concealment and obviously understand danger and hide as they did in the coop. Meanwhile, my neighbor's birds were extremely stressed as they were caged in plain view of the hawk for three days, wondering if they were going to get eaten. I could plainly hear their distress calls off and on during that time. I am not here to debate how one should keep their birds, I just want to point out that all poultry should be given some type of coverage in their enclosure to hide in/under. ****

10 comments:

  1. Very informative and worth remembering for the future. Thanks for sharing. Evelyn

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  2. My feathered friends (chickens and ducks) are all free roaming as well, but I only have fenced on two sides. I have all sorts of little shiny things in the yard, as well as I built the a "fort" from old tree limbs in the middle. They all know where to hide when needed and so far, we have been successful. I know that does not mean that we will always be safe, but I believe the animals should be able to move about. We have a very friendly, happy flock that so far, has remained safe from flying predators.

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  3. Hawks are a year round problem here. We have a 18x48 foot intex pool, all summer long we have no hawk issues, the reflective water surface keeps them at bay, but come fall when we take the pool down the hawks come-a-calling. So, this year I took an outdoor umbrella and covered it with cheap, shiny, mylar emergency blankets (3 covered the 10 feet), and planted it right where the pool stood. Two months and the hawks just fly over and keep going. I have an interesting looking back yard ornament, but my girls are accounted for, unlike previous autumns. I was worried about last weeks storms but it survived beautifully!

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  4. Awesome idea! I'm so glad it gave you and your neighbor some relief to see that the mylar balloons did indeed deter that pesky old hawk from attacking you and your neighbor's flock!

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  5. It looks like a juvenile cooper's hawk to me, rather than a red-tailed. They are notorious for going after chickens in fall, and I have that issue every year. We had one make an attempt a few days ago, but the chickens took shelter in my weedy asparagus patch, and the hawk left. Since then, I've been extra watchful and limiting the chickens' outdoor time. Hawks usually give up after a couple weeks of that, but I have to be pretty careful all fall and winter. I love your balloon idea. Thx for sharing on Homestead Barn Hop.

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  6. Glad to hear you found a way to get that hawk out of your yard and your chick's are safe. Just hope he stays away. Any idea's on how to keep the blue jays out of my bird feeder. They are eating us out of house and home. I enjoy feeding and seeing the others but I want those blue jays gone.......................Maybe a balloon may work for them.................Andi

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    1. Sadly the balloons would scare all your birds, well atleast for a while. Sorry the Blue Jay loves your feeder.

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  7. I hate to say it but Hawks are one of my favorites and we have a lot of them around our area. I also have a lot of bunnies that like to hide in my plants and vegetable garden (yeah they especially like my beets) but I like bunnies more than beets so that's oaky with me. I just keep replanting the beets until I get a full batch for canning. The hawks are always scoping out our backyard waiting for the bunnies but the bunnies have figured out escape routes underneath the back yard deck so they seem to be doing okay.

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  8. Visiting from Freedom Fridays. Thanks for the balloon idea....I've heard cd's do NOT work. We have Red Tailed Hawks year round where we live and I've witnessed one snatching up a little bird from our feeder. :( We also have wild cottontails that we are very fond of and I'm afraid the hawk will nab one! Going to try your idea.

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