Anytime you have chickens or any type of bird you will always have to contend with predators. We thought we had a fairly safe set up. We have smaller wire at the bottom of the pen and electric wire running across the top. I am constantly monitoring for anything trying to dig under the pen until we are able to bury some wire around the bottom. We have a very large pen, almost like a small pasture so it is quite labor intensive and expensive to do things like bury wire all the way around the pen. The chickens are locked up tight at night in a very secure coop BUT all of the sudden I started to lose birds. First it was one and then a couple of days later another one was devoured. Then we started losing the beloved Pekin ducks. I couldn’t figure out what was killing them! Finally after the fifth loss, I was going down to the pen to gather eggs and I saw a very large bird standing in the corner of the pen. When I say large I am not exaggerating here at all. It stood approximately knee high next to me. I cautiously walked up to it and noticed it had just killed another duck. It didn’t seem alarmed that I was there or it was busy with it’s kill and didn’t notice me. I could only see the back of the bird and when I walked around the corner post of the pen I could have almost touched it. It turned it’s head toward me and low and behold it was the biggest owl I’ve ever seen! Whoa, those eyes can be a little creepy when seen in that context! That was it for us and the girls all went into maximum security lock-down which would end up being a month long prison term in their coop. It was either that or there would be one less of them every day or two. After they had been locked up for a couple of weeks with only a half hour of closely monitored outside time, we let our guard down and left them out for about an hour without us. This was the final straw, within an hours time the bird had killed and devoured one of our new laying hens! It was obvious, we were being aggressively stalked by an owl! Here are some of the things we tried and what finally worked!
Get another owl….wait…what?
Not a real one….a decoy! Owls, like most birds of prey have a territory and by placing a decoy owl strategically about the pen it may keep the owl from coming back to that territory to hunt. Be careful with this because this can also scare your birds and cause your rooster to be more aggressive because it’s his job to protect his flock this could cause him some agitation so placing it as much out of their view as possible would be best. Unfortunately our birds were already very heavily stalked by this owl and I think he wasn’t going to give up his territory that easily! You can also get various gadgets that have red lights that appear to look like eyes at night to scare predators away as well.
Grab your fishing line
This was another step that we took that has worked for many other people but unfortunately was unsuccessful for us. It may work for you or be a good preventative measure if you are not having a major issue. Take fishing line and string it across your pen in a zig zag pattern thoroughly across the whole area. It is very hard for them to see and many times they will fly down and touch the line and it scares them enough that they won’t return. I can’t say this method was successful for us as this is the step we had just taken when the birds were left alone for that hour and we lost another one. However, it is worth a try because the cost is very minimal and it HAS worked for others. Give it a shot.
Even though we have a very large pen (50’X115′) we decided the only way to end this problem is to install a aviary net over the entire pen. A few tips I would like to offer from mistakes that we made is to not anchor the net to your fence posts on the ends. This will pull down your fence or cause your posts to gradually lean over with time and can make the whole pen sag. It is best to install some heavy duty metal poles in the ground, we used 10 ft. conduit because it was stronger and we anchored them with concrete separate from the fence to keep this from happening. To keep the posts from bending it may also be helpful to fill the poles with concrete here too. We installed three of these poles on each end of the fence and ran a good heavy duty wire from the top of one post to the post directly across from it to form a sort of “skeleton” to hold the net up. Our pen is quite large so if yours is not so big you may not need that many posts. We then ran a few of these wires across the pen width wise, attaching them to the actual fence post since they were not carrying the brunt of the weight. We attached these wires to the 10 ft posts with a clamp and turnbuckles to adjust the tension. These items can be found at your local Lowes or Home Depot usually. It’s very important to not leave the ends open or any holes in your netting because birds of prey will find their way in especially if this has been their hunting ground previously.
We used wire ties to secure the netting over the top of the fence all the way around the perimeter as to not leave any holes for fly ins. This worked very well at the ends of the pen to keep to keep it secured down. It is really a good idea to have lots of helping hands to get the net placed on the wires and tied down. This can be very time consuming without help!
Up against the coop itself be sure to secure the netting as well. We used staples to secure it there. An owl could very easily roost on top of your coop and fly down through any holes left here.
Here is the finished product with the net up high enough to be able to comfortably walk under it. As I said, the posts were ten footers to allow for plenty of head space.
Happy chickens once again out in the yard and owl free! And also a very happy chicken keeper!