Conflicts with Birds of Prey and Backyard Livestock

Birds of prey (raptors), mainly hawks and owls, often cause conflicts when they prey on backyard livestock, such as chickens and rabbits. It is the responsibility of the livestock owners to make sure their animals are kept in secure and sturdy structures that are predator-proof. Many resources are available online from enthusiast groups and cooperative extension services that offer advice and instructions on how to secure backyard livestock from aerial predators, as well as from animals like black bears, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and raccoons.

Some Important Points to Remember
  • Adequate fencing is the most important protective measure.
  • When avian predators are a problem, covering the chicken pen with wire or mesh can be effective in deterring hawks and owls.
  • When possible, try to place the coop and enclosure away from trees or other places where hawks and owls can perch.
  • Larger hawks will attack chickens from above during daylight hours and eat them in place. Great horned owls are known to take chickens at night, either carrying them away or eating them on the spot.
  • Provide escape cover, low to the ground, for free-range chickens in the form of old Christmas trees or evergreen shrubs.
  • When hawks become a problem, avoid allowing your chickens to free-range for a while, keeping them in a covered enclosure instead.
  • The most important point of all is that it is unlawful under the federal Migratory Bird Treat Act at any time, by any means or in any manor, to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, or attempt to pursue, hunt, take, capture, or kill any migratory bird protected under the Act, which includes ALL hawks, owls, falcons, and eagles. All birds of prey in the United States are listed as a migratory bird and therefore protected. It is a class A misdemeanor with a $15,000 fine and up to 1 year imprisonment for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
  • A property owner has no unconditional right to kill protected raptors in defense of their property under a state wildlife law. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act overrides this and no permits will be issued through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to kill raptors that are depredating a homeowner's chickens.
Additional Resources
  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Hawks and Owls, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services (Please note that some of the measures detailed in this publication require a federal permit and may not be allowed in the State of Connecticut.)
  • Preventing Wildlife Conflicts with Electric Fencing - Electric fencing is the most effective way to protect crops and livestock from wildlife, including black bears (video).

Content last updated in January 2022.