I have to say, for the record, that every time I go out into the yard, this thing gives me a start. The dogs spent fifteen minutes barking at her when I first put her out. The chickens? They couldn’t care less.
But the lady-scarecrow seems to be doing her job quite nicely; since she has been in the yard, the neighborhood hawks have not. Coincidence? Maybe. But I like to think my well-dressed friend has something to do with it.
We’ve had our flock for about a year now, and in that time, there have been a couple of isolated scares that mainly consist of the girls taking successful cover, and me running and screaming like a psychopath through the yard to spook those crafty hawks off. But then, all of a sudden, about a month ago, the attempts began to happen frequently–almost once a day.
That’s when I saw this:
The view from our ‘chicken yard’ of our neighbor’s big tree.
Don’t see it? Let’s look closer:
Well, looky-there. Those hawks went and built themselves a little penthouse with a view. Of my chickens. That dark mass in the tree is a big, fat hawk’s nest. *&#$*%&!!!!
Immediately, I went online and started researching how I might be able to thwart their efforts without bringing harm to them or to my chickens (hawks are federally protected animals and killing or even hurting them comes with a hefty, hefty fine, at the very least). I have always admired the red-tailed hawks around here–I find them to be incredible birds and wouldn’t ever dream of harming one–I just wish they’d take their incredible somewhere else at the moment. So that’s what I was after in my research: hawk deterrent….come on, internet!
The best, most reliable deterrent I found, of course, was to completely pen in your chickens. This is a no-brainer, and in an ideal world, I would have a big, spacious, fully-enclosed, state-of-the-art free-range yard for my girls, but as I live in the suburbs, I am not allowed to build this sort of structure, and I am not willing to keep them cooped up in a tiny run. So that’s out. Beyond the no free-ranging option, the internet was rife with suggestions about small modifications you can make to your chicken yard that may, or may not help deter aerial predators; among these are things like setting out an owl statue (as birds of prey are territorial and will often steer clear of another bird’s property), putting out flags or banners in the chicken’s area that will flap in the breeze, stretching string across the chicken yard with streamers attached (though I feel like this poses a threat to any hawk that gets bold enough to still attack–it seems likely that it could get tangled in string or wire that is implemented like this), and I even read one account of someone having success hanging a disco ball in the chicken yard. I’m not going to lie, I heavily considered the disco ball. I might still put up a disco ball. I think the question is, why wouldn’t I put up a disco ball in my yard???
Ultimately, I found many accounts of scarecrows working. Theoretically, hawks won’t attack with a person standing in the yard (of course, there are exceptions to this rule, always), in fact, there has never been an attempted chicken-murder while I was in the yard–it always happens when I am inside at my computer (probably on Facebook), and when I hear the chicken alarm call, I go tearing outside usually just in time to see the hawk flying away empty-taloned. I like to think that my presence in the yard helps. So the theory is that if you make a scarecrow, and move it around every couple of days in the yard, the hawks will believe it to be a real person. This was definitely worth a try, in my book. It would be inexpensive, quick, and hey, it sounded fairly logical. Game on.
I decided, ultimately, that I would use a mop as the backbone of my scarecrow. Why? Because, digging way back into the depths of my childhood memories, I vividly recall the decorative scarecrows my mom used to make at Halloween–always a Mr. & Mrs. Scarecrow, and the Mrs. always had mop hair. Little did she know it, but my mom had her finger on the pulse of cutting-edge scarecrow-building.
I attached the mop to two 4 foot garden-variety garden stakes. The first was attached lengthwise, to give the scarecrow appropriate height, and also to have a ‘stake’ end to be able to drive into the ground. I attached it with two pre-drilled screws along the length of the mop handle. The second stake would be attached perpendicular to the mop handle, to act as arms. It was secured with one pre-drilled screw right into the center. To keep the ‘arms’ from pivoting too much, I then secured the intersection with tightly-wrapped wire:
Next, I took some plastic sheeting (leftover spray-paint tarp) and bunched it up and stapled it to the mop handle in such a way that it would give her a bit of shape–I knew I was going to put her in a dress, so she needed to ‘fill it out’ up top, and then have a bit of petticoat action going on below. I then arranged her ‘hair’ into two ponytails, securing them with twine. Finally, it was time to dress her; I selected an old dress, button-up shirt, hat, gloves, and neckerchief. I stapled the shirt and gloves into place, but everything else seemed to stay put well-enough to leave alone.
This is when I decided that she needed some accessories….I planted a little red hanging bucket with petunias and moss and stapled this to her hand, and at the same moment, decided I wanted her to be holding a bit of her skirt (I like that she looks like she’s dancing, but really, this is purely scientific–the skirt billows more in the breeze like this–more predator-spooking action!). And finally, I felt like she needed some sparkle (again, to deter hawks), so yes, I gave her some earrings. What.
The girls approve of my accessory choices.
Is this a fool-proof predator-deterrent method? Probably not. But scarecrows have been implemented by farmers to spook birds for thousands of years. So I’m giving it a go. As I stated before, it could just be coincidence, but I have not seen a single hawk since putting the lady-scarecrow out. I move her a bit, every morning when I go to let the girls out (as allegedly, if you leave it in one place, the hawks will get used to it and no longer see it as a threat).
At the very, very least, I get a good laugh from it every time the Texan goes into the yard and has a heart attack because the creepy thing has moved again. Good times.