Keep Your Chickens and Other Fowl Safe from the Clever Owl

If you've been raising fowl for awhile, you get to be "in tune" with their moods.  And you found out, after not so long, that they are very perceptive to their surroundings.  Usually, when a chicken appears scared or skittish, they have a good reason.  Like this...

While everyone knows that owls - even this little screech owl - can do big damage to your flock, there is not a lot you can do to keep them from hanging around.  It is against many laws to take an offensive approach.  Short of having your guard dog "bark" at them, they are pretty well able to come and go as they please.

And that means you have to have a good defense for your little birds.  Here are some things we have done to prevent owls from attacking.  (Note: This is purely trial and error.  We have lost so many creatures over the years -- even in broad daylight! A hungry owl can go to great lengths, if he wants to.)

1. Provide cover.  It's not enough to give your chickens, turkeys, and ducks shelter at night, when the owls are most likely to be out.  We have seen plenty of hungry owls during the day, looking for something to snack on.  We let our chickens roam, and have no issue with them taking shelter from the sun -- and owls and hawks -- anywhere they find comfort.  This includes the dozen or so that make their way under our parked SUV!

2.  Get 'em in before dark.  After awhile, your free-range birds will come in on their own before the sun sets at night.  If you are like us, however, you will have a few "dawdlers" who need a bit of encouragement to come.  Our two geese, for example, need to be "shooed" in before they will return to the coop.  They make a game of it, actually coming up to our front step and knocking on the sliding glass door with their beaks, to remind us that "Daddy" needs to escort them in.  I joke to my husband that this is their way of asking to be tucked in.

3. Provide solid shelter.  Do you know what happens when you only provide chicken wire for the tops of your chicken tractors or shelters?  Bad things.

Owls can set on the tops of cages and shelters and wait for baby chicks and immature birds to jump up, and THAT's when they reach down with their beaks, through the chicken wire and grab them.  Since the birds can't fit through the chicken wire, the poor things end up with no heads.  This is gruesome, and it's horrible to find them the next day.  Please, please, please, make sure that there are SOLID coverings for your enclosures during the times of day or evening hours when owls and hawks are present.

Because they are so beautiful to look at, we have an appreciation for the owl.  But we also know that they are no friends of the farm that raises birds.  Take care to protect your fowl from the clever owl.  And if you don't see one, look for signs from your flock that one may be hiding.  Our chickens are usually our first alert of trouble!