Hawks and Livestock Guardian Dogs

Sassy the dog keeps an eye on the chickens
Before I started farming, I had a reverential attitude towards hawks. I’d spot one by the side of the road and slow the car down if nobody was behind me, admiring the proud curves of its head and beak.

I’ve only known the name of one kind of hawk – a red-tailed hawk. Still, I speculated about what kind of hawk it might be as though I were an expert at bird identification and the red-tailed hawk was the greatest treat any bird watcher might see.

Those magnificent hawks have been eating well at our place. Instead of a farm, we’re running a five-star restaurant for hawks. We feed our birds organic feed, which costs extra, so by the time we’ve spent 6 months raising a hen to adulthood, we’ve spent significant money and time on that bird and are depending on the eggs it will lay.

About a week ago, as I was scattering grain for my chickens in their yard, a bunch of hens started squawking and running back towards their coop. Sure enough, there was a hawk sitting very nobly in a tree at the southern border of the property.

I ran over to that tree, and it looked at me regally. I started whooping and jumping and flapping my arms in a performance you rarely see from an adult. The hawk was barely impressed and swooped to a tree about 30 feet to the south.

I followed it, stomping, hooting, and waving. Again, it watched me carrying on at the base of the tree for several moments before choosing another tree just down the property line. I kept at this, eventually chasing the hawk all the way to my house. I threw a five-gallon bucket into the air to give it extra motivation to leave the property entirely. Instead, it swooped low over the hen yard and landed in the same tree where I first saw it.

By this time, my son was late for preschool, and I realized that I could only protect my birds by spending the day with them. I left with my son and returned to find a dead hen in the yard. The hawk had its meal.

We got a dog the next day. This had been planned for some time, but the timing was good. It is a livestock guardian dog that protected poultry in Kentucky until its family had to leave the farm. The dog is still adjusting to its new home and didn’t seem to notice the hawk at the edge of the chicken yard when went out for morning chores earlier this week.

The hawk noticed the dog though. Without any whooping or throwing of buckets, the hawk was gone, soaring away to the south. It didn’t come back.

I don’t slow down the car to look at hawks any more, but I look at that dog with a new sense of respect. Unlike the hawk, the dog respects me back.

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