Unexpected Predator June 4, 2012

Never expected to be concerned about the Great Blue Heron

For years we enjoyed the native wildlife that was attracted to the pond on our property.  One year a gorgeous Great Blue Heron male began frequenting the property.  He would show up early in the morning or late in the evening to fish.  The bird was used to humans, it appeared, because we could sit on the far edge of the pond and watch him without him taking off.

Last summer, I had an eye opening experience with our visitor.  Our duck, Charlotte, had hatched a clutch of ducklings unexpectedly.  My husband was able to count 6 while out fishing one morning.  The next day he only saw 5.  By the third day I could only see 4.  With numbers dwindling so fast, I had a feeling someone was helping themselves to ducklings for breakfast.  We set out to catch the remaining ducklings to raise in a spare pen until they were larger, thinking we’d release them back with their mother in a month or so.  Catching the duckings turned out to be a fruitless venture.  Nearly a week later we were down to 2 ducklings.

Saturday morning of the following week our family decided to have a yard sale and we noticed that mama brought the last baby up on the bank of the pond.  We saw an opportunity to round it up.  While collecting a net from the back porch we were awe struck to witness the Great Blue Heron walk up the bank and begin chasing the mother and duckling around a tree.  Before I could take in what I was seeing the Heron scooped up the duckling in his beak, swung it around a few times and flew off across the pond duckling in mouth.  Mama stood on the bank squawking helplessly!

It never occurred to me that such a majestic bird I had only seen eating fish could have been a threat to my flock.  To this day, I see him nosing around my chicken pens, especially when my hens are raising chicks.  I am extra careful if the chicks are having an outing in the yard that I am there and the heron is not visiting that day!

21 Comments
Lauren Allpress June 4th, 2012

A heron has been terrorizing my mom’s koi pond for years! I would never have thought they would eat a chick or duckling.

Cheryl June 4th, 2012

The poor little darlings, what a way to go. I never would of thought about a Blue Heron going after the little ones. My heart breaks for Mommy to. So sad…….

Cheryl June 4th, 2012

We had a hawk kill one of our free range chickens a couple of years ago. Our birds are now free to go in and out of their coop whenever they want. But now are confined to a very large pen with netting over the top to protect them. I don’t want to have to witness the aftermath of something like that again or put our dear birds in jeopardy. Also our girls seem very happy with the new living arrangements.

Joe from Gasport June 4th, 2012

We have a Great Blue Heron who visits our pond as well, which is about 75 feet from our chicken run. Every year we have a pair or two of Canadian Geese who hatch some babies and raise them aroud the pond. Our problem is not with the Heron, it is with the snapping turtles who grab them from below and pull them under until they drown and have them for thier dinner. Actually, I have seen the snappin gturtleds pull young and full grown Herons under as well!

A relative thought it might be nice to have a few turtles in the pond for our girls to watch when they were little, and put several in the pond that they caught as they were driving around. Unfortunately, a few have gotten very big, and one was trying to dig near the fence to the chicken run one day! Well, that one is now a “former” turtle is all I will say!

Pam Stockton June 4th, 2012

Do you know if snakes will bother grown chickens? I went to feed and gather eggs yesterday and there was about a six foot snake in nest. We have been missing eggs so I figured that is where they had been going but just wondered if they would hurt chickens

Angie June 4th, 2012

Wow, thanks for sharing. We live on the river and have Blue Heron on our property frequently. Good to know!

Connie June 4th, 2012

We lost three pullets to either a Fisher cat or very strong raccoon. There were nine chickens happily caged in a chicken tractor on my son’s back porch…whichever predator disemboweled the terrified pullets, had to physically LIFT the tractor (a feat I can barely perform), kill them and escape by lifting the tractor AGAIN. My son’s barking dog prevented any further carnage. Unbelievable!!!!

April June 4th, 2012

Great Blue Herons will pretty much eat anything they can get down their throats. They aren’t picky…I’ve seen them go after baby muskrats.

Deana June 4th, 2012

We read all of the stories good and bad about things happening like that. So when it was time for our little one’s to go out we built a 12×12 pen for them and covered it with netting. We live in the country of Northern California and we mostly have deer but we always make sure the chickens are in at night and I go count them at night time. I know it might be crazy but I am new at this and very attached to them. We grew up in Southern California by the beach and then 3 years ago we moved up here and I can’t believe I am raising chickens and realizing all the different breeds and I am just tickled at their personalities. I am sorry that Momma Duck and the rest of you had to go through such a terrible tragedy!

Nan Moore June 4th, 2012

I live in FL and once watched about a 3 foot gator stalk a family of gallinules (banty sized water birds). Never thought of a blue heron going after anything but fish or frogs. Sadly, a few weeks ago, 5 of my dozen 10 week old MPC chicks fell victim to a small raccoon that found one missing wire in the coop fencing and managed to squeeze in. Also, one chick is now blind in one eye due to the attack. We have trapped 6 raccoons since this happened and our pen/coops are now double reinforced including 4x4s buried under gates. Very upsetting ot have our beloved chickens predated.

Marge Paduano June 4th, 2012

Best way to keep a Heron away from your pond/flock is to get an artificial one and let it sit next to where you want to deter the real one. I understand they are territorial and won’t come down if another is there. Artificial ones are a bit pricey but worth their weight in koi and “youngin’s”.
Marge

Laura Spinale June 4th, 2012

Awe this is a sad story.

Sue C June 4th, 2012

Herons will eat any small animal, including baby bunnies!

Mark June 4th, 2012

Re: Snakes. Lots of snakes will eat eggs. Rat snakes are sometimes called “Chicken Snakes”, but generally are on the lookout for rodents, who are attracted to the chicken food. It would have to be a large snake to eat an adult chicken. Rat snakes are constrictors, so they would coil, squeeze, and kill the chicken first and then attempt to swallow it, but I believe it would have to be a huge snake. A large, accidentally released python or boa certainly would eat grown chickens.

Maery Rose June 4th, 2012

I never would have thought of that either. Funny how animals that you loved seeing (like foxes) suddenly aren’t so cute once you have a flock to protect.

Darlene June 5th, 2012

Oh yeah, I see them hunting baby ducks and coots all the time. It’s commonly known that they will eat baby waterfowl. Not only baby waterfowl, but small birds, almost grown clapper rails, and even shorebirds. They’re very fast and a mother duck’s only defense is to get her babies away from them.

Lewis from SC June 6th, 2012

I had a hawk picking off my small chickens when I first started and I asked a game warden if there was anything I could do about it. He looked at me with a sly smerk on his face said “No, but if it were to come up missing and there was absolutely no trace left of it nothing will ever be said about it.” A few days later the craziest thing happened lightning hit the tree that hawk was sitting in and I never found the first feather.

Doug Taylor June 8th, 2012

I biult a pond here and stocked it. A GB Heron decided it was his personal buffet. The pond is about 100yds from the house. After a few days of losing expensive fish, I started shooting at him with a shotgun using target loads. The target loads won’t hold up for the distance from the house to the pond, so he wasn’t hurt. After a few days he got the message and moved on.
About snakes – yes they will eat chickens and eggs. I had a rat snake get in my brooder and eat a chick. He was then too big to get out. I also had one kill a grown brood cock – my dog and the chickens were raising cain one night and when I went to check, the snake had constricted around the cock. I don’t think he could have swallowed him though. I imagine the snake was after eggs and the rooster attacked him.

MARCELA June 21st, 2012

watch out , not only herons eat fish I think any long legs bird is adapted for this .In my pond i sow a white bird, long legs and long pick it was catching the fish.the bird came several times, so we decided to cover the pond with a net .then we were so happy seeing the bird’s frustration because it couldn’t get them any more.

Gabi and her chickens on the coase January 10th, 2014

I just caught all my 4 hens in an open garden shed huddled in fear of a squawking heron up in a tree. What a racket! As I shooed them back into their run (they are afternoon free rangers in the yard) – the heron followed me tree to tree squawking like crazy. Now I have something else to worry about! Poor chickens. Good thing we have lots of underbrush and shed for the chickens to hide in!

em May 21st, 2016

we had a great blue heron visit our pond. there were at least 30 ducklings. within a couple weeks, there are now none. we tried scaring him away but he would always come back. how can we get rid of the heron?? just keep it away from the baby ducks! =(

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