I came to the farm one evening a few weeks ago for a Hen House Helper training session, and found 3 large hawks dive-bombing the chickens outside the Egg Mobile in the chicken yard. The roosters were raising the alarm LOUDLY and the hens were making TONS of noise. It was not a peaceful night at the farm to say the least.
We tried to scare the hawks away, but were not very successful. I called my husband and kids to the farm -- I know they can make lots of noise and create distractions -- and sent them into the chicken yard to hoot and holler. The hawks were not scared of my family, the family I was supposed to be training, or the other people who heard the panicked calls of the chickens and came to the farm to investigate. They peered down on us from their perches in the trees, determined we were neither predator nor prey, and blithely ignored us while they went about their work.
Although the chickens were too large to be carried away by one of these birds, it was a scary experience and a startling reminder of the web of life. The majestic hawks we loved to spot hunting along the side the road were now hunting our beloved chickens! The kids were particularly concerned about the chickens and wanted to camp out at the farm to keep an all-night vigil. Homework, bedtime, a good night's sleep and the morning school bus made that an impractical (and temporary) solution.
At the end of the day though, despite the many layers of protection for our chickens -- the electric perimeter fence, the secure Egg Mobile that is closed each night, the Nite Guard Solar (registered trademark) predator deterent http://www.niteguard.com/, the roosters who alert and corral hens to take shelter, the covered areas under the Egg Mobile door and feed area, the trees they are often pastured under to compromise Red-Tail hawks' preferred hunting methods, the chickens' proximity to people, etc. -- we can't completely protect them from harm.
As many farmers say, the only way to completely eliminate predation is not to pasture chickens. We keep our chickens off pasture until they are fully grown -- Red-Tail and Coopers hawks have low rates of success with fully grown hens. We do our best, then hope for the rest -- and that's life on the farm.