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Do Eagles Eat Chickens? [How Much Of A Threat Do They Pose?]

Birds of prey are certainly a worry if you keep chickens. But what about Eagles? How much of a threat do these birds pose to your flock? Will they actively seek out coops when flying overhead? This is what the research says.

So, do eagles eat chickens? Eagles will not proactively go out of their way to hunt for chickens, although may attack, and eat them in certain contexts. As opportunistic feeders, eagles will eat what is available to them, and the hungrier they are and the less access to food that they have; the more likely they are to strike.

Eagles are definitely a formidable bird; weighing up to 7 kg and having a wingspan of several meters.

And then there is the fact that they can travel anywhere between 120-320 km/h depending on the species.

You read that right.

That is how fast they can fly.

Combine this all with strong talons, sharp hooked beaks and an immense eyesight ability and you’ve got yourself quite the predator.

Not only can they see prey from a distance, but they can get their quick, and strike with force.

It comes as no surprise that eagles are such proficient hunters – feeding on several different animals that range from smaller birds to rodents all the way through to deer.

So, your chickens are absolutely vulnerable if they are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Let us now take a closer look at how likely these birds are to attack your flock and whether they have the ability to pick them up.

We will finish up with some proactive strategies and approach to keep eagles both away from your birds to begin with, and keeping your chickens safe even if they are present.

So, be sure to keep reading if this well-built predator has been sighted in your area. Or could very well be.

Will Eagles Attack Your Chickens?

Eagles are more than capable of attacking your chickens, although will only generally do so if the opportunity presents itself.

They will not actively seek out a backyard, searching for vulnerable chickens to attack.

Instead, they are far more likely to be identify your flock when flying overhead, and it will be down to the specific circumstance as to whether or not they will strike.

If hungry enough, or your birds are especially accessible, they could very well attack.

The chances of an attack are also increased by the breed and size of your birds. As you can imagine, the smaller the chicken, the more vulnerable they are to an attack.

Furthermore, depending on their color, they may be more visible to birds of prey like eagles from the sky, and making them look generally more defenseless.

It all boils down to this.

Eagles, like many other birds of prey, will tend to take the path of least resistance to food.

So, typically their diet consists of fish, birds and small mammals. Sometimes they are killed alive but they also eat a lot of food as carrion (the dead carcass) from a left-over hunt.

But, there are plenty of reports from keepers of eagles swooping down on their yards.

And here is something else to consider.

While there are over 60 species of eagles that can be found in every continent but Antarctica, by and large, they find habitat near large bodies of water.

Therefore, its important to consider your property in relation to such water.

Do you live close to lake, a river etc. Or, is this body on an eagles flight path?

Either way, the closer you are to this habitat the more vulnerable your chickens will be to an attack.

Can An Eagle Pick Up A Chicken?

Eagles do possess the power and strength to pick up a chicken and are likely to do so part of the hunt.

Eagles are immensely powerful and strong birds, supported with robust wings and thick talons.

Considering chickens only weigh between 500 grams and 12 pounds depending on the age and species, they definitely have the ability to be able to do so.

Of course, the smaller the bird, the more likely they are to look to do so. Bantams and breeds like Polish, Leghorns, and Hamburg’s would be much more vulnerable than say Buff Orpingtons or Brahmas.

Although, its safe to assume that an eagle – especially an adult one, could carry a bird of larger size.

And there are quite a few reports from keepers who have stated that this has, unfortunately occurred.

In fact, eagles swooping at a speed of 160km/h hour generate so much force that its not particularly challenging to them.

Upon contact, they would also likely kill their prey. Whether this by tearing through their bodies with their talons, or through the breaking of the neck with their beaks.

Either way and even if the chicken does manage to survive, they will typically be carried to a safer area (in the context of the eagle), where they can finish the meal in their own peace.

How To Keep Eagles Away From Chickens

Keeping eagles away from your chickens, or property altogether, is perhaps the best thing you can do to keep your flock safe from this particular predator.

As opportunistic eaters, making the hunt more challenging can be enough to deter them altogether.

Below, we walk through a couple of modifications that you could potentially make to your current set up, that would enable you to effectively do so.

Remove Perching Opportunities

Like many other birds of prey (including hawks) eagles are known to perch as part of the hunting process.

Here, they will actively look out for potential and vulnerable prey, and plan their process of attack.

So, its important that you eliminate any potential perch sites on your property, especially within 100 yards of your coop, run or flock.

This could require the removal of trees, their branches or any other ability for an eagle/bird of prey to perch.

Consider A Rooster

If you do not yet have a rooster in your flock, you can always consider adding one.

Of course, there will be things you need to consider here, but roosters have a very protective nature. They will proactively look out for the health and wellbeing of your flock.

In fact, they will even cry out to your hens when there is a risk of danger; or an overhead predator nearby.

It’s in a rooster instincts to look out for potential risks, and even step in should the need arise, keeping the rest of the flock safe.

Consider Guinea Hens

Guinea Fowl hens may not be for everyone as they are generally quite noisy, but you may want to consider adding these birds to your flock.

They are also known for their cries and calls upon the onset of a potential predator – warning the rest of your flock to take cover.

These additional few seconds can make all the difference.

Consider A Guard Animal

Guard animals can be fantastic protectors if you are willing and able to take their care on.

Guardian dogs are a popular choice, but you do need to be particularly careful of the breed and you will need to enroll them in training to ensure they do not pose a threat to your flock.

You do not want to shoot yourself in the foot here!

Nevertheless, a well-trained and well-mannered dog can be a considerable deterrent – both during the day and even at night.

So long as they are sufficiently close to the flock, of course.

Add Visual Deterrents

There are also a number of other visual deterrents that you can add to your property.

From shiny objects (like the hanging up of CDs that cause confusion) to moving scarecrows (to imitate people).

Then there are motion activated lights and sprinklers; that you can position accordingly.

Either way, its about increasing the perceived risk to eagles, and other potential predators.

How To Keep Your Chickens Safe From Eagles

Assuming eagles are still frequenting your property, there are some additional measures and steps that you can take to keep your chickens safe from eagles and other birds of prey.

Consider The Time And Season

First and foremost, its important to consider the time and season. This should have an impact on where you keep your flock, when you let them free range etc.

For instance, it is during the spring that eagle mothers are actively looking to feed their young.

Again, June and July are known to be high hunting seasons for most birds of prey.

So, during these times you should be extra vigilant and ensure you have all the other safety precautions in place.

Remember, eagles are known to hunt during the day, unlike Owls who will hunt during the night.

So just consider the vulnerabilities and that your flock need to be kept safe, at all times.

Overhead Netting

From there, overhead netting can be a great approach to protecting your birds from aerial attacks.

Any netting that is orange in color appears to be particularly effective; as eagles and other birds of prey are more likely to see it any refrain from striking altogether.

Bushes For Cover

When it comes to free ranging your flock, you should ensure that they are not left vulnerable in the open at all times.

There should always be sheltered spots, covers, or bushes that your chickens can hide behind if a predator flies overhead.

Protect The Coop

It’s important that routinely examine the coop; ensuring that it is completely secure and protected from any predator that makes an attempt on it.

So, be sure to reinforce the coop with hardware mesh and other strong materials.

Covered Runs

If you do want to let your flock roam, and know an eagle or other bird of prey is in the area, then consider a covered run.

Just be sure that this is again very robust, and that there are no loose or weak spots that could enable sharp talons to get through.

Regular Changes

Eagles and other birds of prey are intelligent birds; surviving through hard times by using their initiative and recognizing patterns.

Thus, you can always alter the routine, or make regular changes to your property to confuse eagles and birds of prey, and reduce their confidence altogether.

So, you may want to consider changing the time that either you personally go outside, let the dog out, etc.

Keep Your Flock Inside

So long as your chickens are familiar with the home, the coop, they should naturally return at the end of a long day.

And this is something you may even want to promote, during the day.

Keeping your hens inside a poultry house is one of the best ways to keep your birds safe, at least in the short term, and as an interim measure until you explore the other options.

Finally

Eagles are absolutely a threat to your flock. Especially if you own a small breed of chicken, have an open property and live near a large body of water.

That being said, eagles do not survive on eating chickens alone.

Far from it, they do have other foods that they would rather seek out.

They’ll also look for food that is the easiest to obtain.

Its all about opportunity.

So, the harder you can make it for an eagle, or other predator, to get at your chickens, the greater chance you will have in keeping them safe.

Just remember; eagles and several other birds of prey are often protected by law.

Shooting them is not an option.

So, in worst-case scenarios, for persistent offenders, or for particularly vulnerable areas, you may want to contact your local authorities for some support and advice.