Owls may be somewhat cute; but they are birds of prey after all. They commonly reside in open landscapes where they can hunt their prey. Especially, if they have a place to nest – such as in a tree or in an outbuilding. But what about your chickens? Will they go after them or do they stick mostly to rodents? I spent some time researching these nocturnal birds, and will be sharing with you all that I found here today.
So, do owls eat chickens? Owls will eat chickens, if there is an opportunity for them to attack and to do so. Being nocturnal, they are most likely to hunt during the night but they have been known to strike in the day. They are skillful hunters; their silence in flight makes them a dangerous predator to keep your chickens safe from.
Don’t be haunted by the image of a devastated flock after a predator’s visit…
Without proper guidance, the joy of raising chickens can swiftly turn to heartbreak.
My comprehensive eBook will equip you with essential protection strategies to keep your flock safe from any predator.
Don’t leave their safety to chance; arm yourself with knowledge and safeguard your precious flock needs.
An owl attack on chickens isnt pretty. Their method of attack is ruthless.
Owls will use their sharp beaks and talons to snap the neck of a chicken, before proceeding to feed on their insides.
They are also known to regurgitate parts that they cannot digest – this includes feathers and bones.
Not something any keeper wants to come across.
There are also many different species of owl (over 200 in fact); with the barn owl being perhaps the most universal.
Besides, they are found on every continent across the world except for Antarctica.
They are mostly solitary in nature, drawn to areas where more prey is naturally present.
If an owl gets sight of your chickens, they can easily become the next target.
Let us now take a closer look at owls and just how dangerous they are to your flock.
We will also be looking at some of the proactive things and strategies you can employ to keep your birds safe and secure from these opportunistic predators!
Do Owls Kill Chickens?
Owls will attempt to kill your chickens, if given the chance. In fact, their method of attack is generally very successful, albeit gruesome and upsetting for us keepers.
They are known for being opportunistic feeders; going after what is available to them in their environment.
While living off mostly a rodent-based diet (mice and rats), owls will also seek out voles, frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, rabbits, birds and squirrels.
Chickens are also considered fair game, and due to their vulnerable nature can become a target for these predatory birds.
Owls are actually very skillful hunters, and act in many ways like hawks and other larger birds of prey.
They will seek out high vantage points, while observing for food on the ground below.
From there, when they see the opportunity to strike, they will swoop down and attack with their talons (claws of the feet).
Due to the nature of their wings, owls are very quiet in the air, making them go largely undetected by chickens and other prey.
An owl attack on your flock will also be quiet evident.
Your bird are likely to have clear and open wounds in their necks. This is where an owl will focus during their attack.
Using a combination of their sharp beaks and talons, they will rip through your chickens necks before consuming their insides.
As you can imagine, young and defenseless chickens, like chicks are particularly vulnerable.
How Do You Keep Owls From Killing Chickens?
The best ways yo keep owls from killing your chickens include: keeping your chickens in the coop during darker times of the day, removing opportunities for owls to perch, preventing owls from roosting on your property, concealing your birds and even get getting a dog or animal to help protect them.
Let us now take a closer look at each one and what you can do with each approach:
Keep Your Birds Safe
Owls are most active at night and around periods of darkness, such as dusk and dawn. Thus, they can hunt in the early morning too.
So, ensuring that your birds are locked up in the coop, or have overhead protection, around these times comes strongly advised.
You should consider adding cover over the run, or adding strong wire overhead to prevent any swooping.
Meshed fishing line has been used by some keepers effectively, as owls are unable to see or get through it when their wings are outstretched.
From there, only letting your chickens out to free range and roam in the late morning, when the sun has been up for multiple hours, should offer your birds more protection.
Remove Opportunities For Owls To Perch
This could be the removal of a tree, or cutting down branches of said tree.
Either way, you want to give owls little opportunity to watch over your flock and plan their attack.
Prevent Owls From Roosting
If you have outbuildings, such as a shed or a barn, you should ensure they are not easily or freely accessible by owls and other animals to roost.
This will prevent them from housing on your property where your chickens are kept nearby.
Consider Your Chickens
Larger, more robust chickens will generally be seen as less of an opportunity to an owl, than say a small and defenseless chick.
So, you should consider your flock and consider when and where they free range. Some are going to be more physically protected than others.
Equally, some chickens will naturally be disguised by their color, and those within the environment.
For example, if you have white chickens and a white barn in the backdrop – or brown chickens and a brown shed in the backdrop – they’ll be less likely to be seen from birds of prey.
Conceal Your Chickens
Through the use of different objects, items, furniture or plants within the environment. For example, having bushes or shrubs on the ground may be a good way to conceal your chickens from birds of prey.
Plus, if you plant bushes that grow berries, you can also help your birds to naturally forage which supports their instincts and natural traits/behaviors.
Get A Protector
Roosters or dogs have been used by many chicken keepers to watch over their flock and help to protect against predators.
With a dog, you obviously need to consider how they behave and react around your birds. But, even having them in the vicinity of your birds is a large deterrent.
Roosters are great for alerting your hens that a predator is nearby, which can be all the difference in them getting to a safe and protected area before they swoop.
Unfortunately, birds of prey including owls are going to be a challenge at all times. However, during the spring and fall, they can be particularly problematic and troublesome as they migrate.
During these times you should be vigilant, and consider all of the above suggestions, and recommendations found below to help you keep your birds safe.
If you need to keep your chickens indoors for a while, then so be it! At least until it is safer for them to return.
What Will Keep Owls Away?
Preventing owls from accessing your feeling the need to come to your property in the first place will better help you to protect your flock.
Its a more proactive, less reactive approach to take.
Therefore, consider the following suggestions which have been known to keep birds of prey, such as owls, away:
One of the most simple, yet effective things you can do to prevent owls from coming to your property, is turning on lights at night.
You can either have these on at all times, or install motion sensor lights that spooks owls and other predatory birds away when they enter the path of the sensor.
Equally, you can even point lights towards trees or other potential areas where they may perch or roost.
Motion Activated Sprinklers
Motion activated sprinklers, like these best sellers on Amazon, also work particularly well at preventing owls and other predators from accessing your property to begin with.
Working in a similar way, they release water when an animal enters into the path of of the sensor.
Owls do their best to avoid water: they cannot take off out of it and are do not possess water proof feathers. So this option tends to work well.
Visual Deterrents can also work well, if you are willing to put something up on your property. This could be a scarecrow, a fake Hawk or even a fake owl itself.
As owls are solitary in nature, they do not like to compete with other birds.
One thing to consider with this option is that owls are very intelligent and will soon learn if it is fake if it does not move.
So, you’ll need to routinely move them around your property to keep them being effective.
Lastly, with whatever option you choose, you must ensure that you do not kill an owl. They are protected under law in many countries and locations; so you risk a hefty fine or even jail-time if you were to do so, even accidentally.
What Attracts Owls To Your Property
Ensuring that you are not inadvertently attracting owls to your property is also important aspect to consider.
By ensuring that you are not doing so, you are effectively implementing a solid three-pronged defensive strategy against them and other birds of prey.
Below, we look at the main ways that you can prevent owls from being attracted to your property:
- Regularly mow the lawn and keep grass short; Owls hunt in lush grasslands, where they know will be more prey. By cutting your grass and lawn shorter, it will prevent owls from ‘hanging around’ looking for food when they cannot immediately see it.
- Prevent your property from being open; Owls hunt in open fields, so installing different items, pieces of furniture, bushes or plants to your yard/garden will prevent owls from seeing this as a landscape of potential food.
- Ensure that you do not have any nest-boxes for birds on your property; Where an owl can look to roost and take home.
- Remove any trees, branches or vantage points; To give owls less opportunity to stop and scout the area.
- Clear up any uneaten food; So that rodents are are not attracted, which can in turn attract owls to your property.
- Remove any deep bird baths; Or any deeper waters, where owls may look to drink and bathe.
Owls are a threat to your chickens; even despite being a great bird to observe and a desirable sight when bird watching.
If you are keeping chickens, then you absolutely need to think ahead to prevent owls or any other land based predators, such as minks, skunks, weasels, badgers etc. from coming by for a visit in the hope of food.
Perhaps the best thing you can do is to focus on prevention rather than on reaction.
This means doing all you can not to inadvertently entice predators onto your property.
Ensuring your coop is fully protected, and your birds only ever roam in secure environments at safer times is equally important.
Seeing your chickens devastated by owls is a shocking sight that no keeper wants to see.
So, take their threat seriously, plan ahead, and you should find that your flock remains safe in your care.
Wondering what other animals and predators pose a threat to your flock?… My guide below will be of interest:
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.