A flock of free-range chickens strut around the yard on a sunny afternoon. They are busy pecking around, hunting for bugs in the green grass. Suddenly, the yard goes quiet. Squirrels run into the trees and songbirds disappear in the blink of an eye. The chickens are too enthralled in their foraging to notice the wildlife disappearing. A crow calls out from a nearby tree, and the chickens scatter for cover. They run into the woods, under a garden shed, and back into the coop as quickly as they can. A huge red-tailed hawk sees her cover is blown, and flies away, followed by the angry crow.
This scene plays out in our backyards everyday, usually without us even knowing. Without the help of the neighborly crow, many of our chickens would have become an easy meal for the raptor long ago.
When we bring our chickens into our yards, we are introducing them to already existing wildlife.
For free-ranging chickens, the most deadly daytime predator is the hawk.
Hawks have amazing eyesight and can easily take off with a chicken. They are the ultimate daytime predators.
There is just one problem for the hawk; crows.
Crows despise hawks, and especially owls. They make it their daily mission to always know exactly where the hawks are. I’m sure you’ve probably seen crows yelling and dive bombing at hawks. This constant harassment is how the crows intimidate the raptors, therefore keeping themselves safe.
Their strong distaste for hawks and owls, makes them perfect free protectors! They are far more vigilant than a dog or a person.
It is this hyper vigilance that makes crows the ultimate guardians of your flock. Crows have a special call reserved especially for hawks, and your chickens know this! Crows that consider your yard part of their territory will move hawks out of the area, making it safer for themselves and any other animals who happen to live there; including your chickens!
You can entice crows on your property by leaving a little corn out for them, but you don’t have to do this. Mainly, just do not try to scare them away if you see them. Deliberately chase them away a few times, and they’ll soon avoid your yard at all costs, leaving your flock vulnerable.
While some argue crows may expose backyard flocks to avian diseases, these cases are minuscule. Chickens themselves also pose a threat to wild birds as carriers of disease. Free-ranging chickens can come into contact with all sorts of pressures they wouldn’t normally encounter in a coop. However, if you’ve ever seen how happy a free-ranging hen can be, you’ll agree the benefits are worth the small risks.
This being said, the crows in your backyard most likely will not come into direct contact with your flock.
Give backyard crows a chance to prove themselves, and I am sure you and your chickens will soon be thanking them!