There never seems to be a shortage of predators when it comes to backyard chickens. Unfortunately, they are easy prey for many animals, and the magpie is no different. But how much of a threat are these striking birds? Do magpies kill baby chickens?
Magpies will not only kill chickens, but they will gladly take their eggs too.
Throughout this article, I will explain what a magpie is, why she wants your chickens, and how to prevent it.
What is a Magpie?
A part of the Corvidae family, which also includes ravens and bluejays, the magpie is a very intelligent bird. They are known for their brilliant black and white feathers and their array of bird songs. They are generally found throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa.
What Are Some Magpie Behaviors?
Magpies travel in flocks, or as they are also called, parliaments or murders. Most flocks consist of a mating pair of magpies and their offspring, usually resulting in at least eight birds.
They stay together to keep safe from hawks and owls and seek shelter in dense wooden areas.
Magpies tend to be not only aggressive but fairly brave! They have no qualms about landing on deer and other animals to pick the ticks off of them. They also hang around farms, where they steal grain and other food lying around, as well as your chicken eggs.
What is a Magpie’s Diet?
Magpies are omnivores, meaning they will eat whatever they can find. This can be anything from beetles or caterpillars to rodents. And because they do appreciate chicken eggs, they are often referred to as nest predators.
Why Do Magpies Kill Chickens?
Magpies are very smart and will easily find their way into nests to steal eggs and often attack members of your flock. Most magpies tend to focus on younger chickens or bantams.
They can be vicious and territorial. If they feel their territory is being invaded, they will attack anything considered a threat. For example, magpies are known for beheading birds but not necessarily eating them. Because of this, it’s safe to assume that it’s purely territorial for them.
Will Magpies Take Chicken Eggs?
Magpies are known to be one of the biggest annoyances to chicken farmers because they intend to steal those precious eggs. For them, it’s a matter of a good meal, and if a magpie has a nest of babies, the chances of her taking your eggs increases!
How Do I Know Magpies Are Lurking
It’s always best to be able to know the signs of any predator on your property so you can be proactive in preventing them.
- They are annoying
- Missing eggs in the nest
- They build nests nearby
They are annoying
Perhaps because they are so smart, magpies can easily get bored, and they have been known to amuse themselves at the expense of other creatures, including humans. For example, they have been known to deliberately drop pebbles or sticks on people’s heads or other pets.
Magpies have a healthy set of lungs, and you may often hear them yarking at you as if to mock you!! Sneaky and mischievous indeed.
Missing Eggs in the Nest
Are you noticing a dramatic drop in eggs? Magpies will gladly oblige if you aren’t quick enough to grab the eggs yourselves. If you have hens that typically produce for you and you suddenly don’t see as many eggs, the chances are that magpies are stealing them.
This holds true, especially if they have young to feed. You may also notice empty eggshells around the coop and globs of egg yolk stuck to the hay.
They Build Nests Nearby
An obvious sign that you have magpies lurking is if you see their nest. They tend to inhabit gardens, woodland edges, and farmland, so chances are you will see one, especially if you have snacks, aka eggs, nearby.
You will have to look up to see magpie nests as they tend to construct their nest high up in the trees. They do this to be safe from predators and have a bird’s eye (no pun intended) on their territory.
Using everything from leaves and branches to mud, magpies are experts in nest building. It usually takes about 40 days to build a nest, and it’s quite an impressive structure!
How Can I Stop Magpies From Killing My Chickens and Taking Their Eggs?
Thankfully, you can do things to prevent these frustrations, but it will take consistency on your part because magpies are incredibly clever and stubborn.
- Gather the eggs before they do
- Eliminate other food sources
- Secure your coop
- A decoy or scarecrow
- Cover gardens or flowers
Gather the Eggs Before They Do
The obvious thing here is to collect your chicken’s eggs regularly throughout the day. Most chicken owners are familiar with the “egg-laying song” that chickens sing, so if you hear it, grab that egg as soon as it’s out!
The fewer the eggs, the less the food source for a magpie, and she will hopefully go elsewhere for sustenance.
Of course, this is a lot easier said than done as most of us are busy working or doing other things and don’t have time to stand guard over your chicken coop. But there are other things you can do.
Eliminate Other Food Sources
Aside from chicken eggs, magpies are drawn to bird feeders as well. If you have a problem with them, you will need to remove your bird feeders.
We all love watching wild birds, but the good does come with the bad. And if your chickens are at risk, it’s best to put the bird feeders away.
Secure Your Coop
Another obvious prevention method is to secure your chicken coop and pen with hardware cloth all around. This will help to keep out other pests as well.
Use netting to completely cover the pen area as well, keeping the chickens in and the magpies out.
A Decoy or Scarecrow
Using an owl or hawk decoy can work. A scarecrow can do the trick, but because magpies are so smart, you will need to move the scarecrow or decoy around quite a bit.
Magpies are not dumb and will quickly realize they are not dealing with an actual threat.
Cover Gardens and Flowers
Because magpies are not picky, they see your garden and flowers as a food source as well. But if you cover them with netting, you may be able to deter the magpies, and they will hopefully go elsewhere if they cannot get your treasures.
What I Don’t Condone
Some people will suggest trapping and relocating magpies or other animals. I, however, can not.
For one, it’s illegal to trap any wildlife in many parts of the world. But I also think trapping and relocating a mother bird is cruel and should be avoided.
I also understand that many people advocate shooting magpies. While I respect and appreciate hunters, I feel that shooting a magpie is unnecessary.
It is also illegal in many parts of the world as the magpie is considered a protected species.
Like all creatures, magpies are only doing what comes naturally: feeding and protecting their young.
We know that magpies can be a nuisance to chicken owners. But by understanding more about their behavior and taking the proper measures to ward them off, magpies can hopefully become less of a concern for you and your flock.
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