Do owls eat chickens? Should you be worried about birds of prey killing your chickens when they’re roaming free-range?
As a backyard chicken owner, it’s important to be aware of any threats to your flock.
There are some animals and birds of prey that very well might be in your area and would kill one of your flock given the opportunity.
Owls are one of those threats, and they are found more commonly than you might be aware of.
Here’s a detailed look at how much of a threat owls pose to chickens. As well as some of the things you can do to protect your flock and other predators to be aware of.
How Dangerous Are Owls to Chickens?
Owls are very dangerous to chickens. Most species of owl will think nothing of swooping down and killing a chicken, often biting their heads off and taking that back to their nest.
Snowy Owls and the Great Horned Owl which is common across the U.S. are two of the largest spices. They prey on rodents and smaller birds for the most part, but will also attack chickens, cats, and even small dogs.
If you’ve never seen an owl swooping down on prey, you might think they’re fairly slow. Far from it, owls are incredbily fast.
They have long sharp talons that dig into prey and help carry them off. Or, in the case of a large chicken, they will land on the chicken and pin it down with their talons. Biting their head off to take away if the body is too heavy.
There have even been cases of owls attacking humans, and leaving them with some serious injuries (source).
Owls are very dangerous. If you have them in your area you should be mindful at all times that they could attack your flock.
Why Do Owls Bite the Heads off Chickens?
It’s very distressing to find a chicken with its head bitten off. Many an owner has had to face this, and owls are often the main culprits.
This is because a whole chicken will often be too big and heavy for them to carry away. Plus, their brains are high in essential fats and protein, which owls need in their diet.
How to Keep Owls and Other Birds of Prey Away From Chickens
Here are some of the best ways you can protect your flock from birds of prey:
Secure Them in Their Coop Overnight
For protection against birds of prey, this is an absolute must. Owls are active at night and the risk of them attacking a chicken is much greater.
Cover Their Run With a Roof
Your flock will be safe from ground predators in their run. But not from overhead threats like owls. It’s not always a convienent solution, but you have no choice if flying predators are a threat.
Related content – What material should you use for a run roof?
Have a Rooster for Warning Calls
Part of a roosters roll is to sound a warning call if he detects any dangers, and this includes airborne predators.
You’re not allowed roosters in most urban settings due to the noise. You could consider a no-crow collar though, they might still make enough noise for hens to run for cover.
Related content – What noises do chickens make?
Motion Activated Device
You could fortify your coop and surrounding area with motion-activated lights. Bright lights freak out birds, it makes it difficult for them to see with the laser focus they need to pick up prey.
It’s one of the more expensive options. But it can also alert you that something is flying or crawling around your coop at night so you can go out and scare them off.
What Other Predators Do You Need to Be Aware Of?
There are various predators native to different countries and regions. It’s hard to say what you should be aware of where you live.
If you’re following all the necessary steps to create a secure and safe environment for your flock you should be protected against most threats. That’s all you can really do as a preventative measure.
Here are some of the most common predators known to kill chickens. Start by checking if any of these are known to roam your area:
We have a dog, she’s a little sausage dog and she gets on just fine with our flock. I can trust her to be around them while I’m not there, but it did take a period of training to ensure I could.
I wrote a post here about keeping dogs and chickens in harmony. I recommend checking that out if you want your dogs and chickens to coexist.
Without training, domestic dogs can kill chickens. If there’s a risk of a neighboring dog getting to your flock, this is something to be aware of.
Coyotes roam freely in parts of the U.S. Canada, Central America, and other locations around the world. They’re very good at hiding from us, then preying on animals in the night.
If you have coyotes in your area, even if you’ve not seen one, take the necessary precautions to protect your flock. Their natural hunting instinct is too strong to resist killing a chicken.
We have foxes where I live, so it’s something I’m mindful of. Everyone knows foxes love chickens, it’s often portrayed on TV and in illustrations.
They really do love chickens, so keep your defensives up if you know they are present in your area.
Other Birds of Prey
Owls aren’t the only large birds that pose a threat to your flock. There are some huge birds of prey in the U.S. such as the Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Osprey, various Hawks, and other Owls.
If you’re following all the right steps to protect your flock from owls, you should be safe from other birds of prey too.
Weasels are pests for a lot of reasons. They are particularly adept at getting into coops through the smallest openings too, so you need some tight security if any animals from the weasel family are in your area.
They tend to kill chickens for the sake of it too, rather than the need for their meat. So they can make quite a mess and cause a lot of damage overnight.
Owls do eat chickens, yes. They will swoop down and kill a chicken, either eating it where they kill it until disturbed, or they will bite their head off and take it back to their nest.