Tennessee First Responders Rescue Owl Trapped in Chicken Coop: PHOTOS

by Jon D. B.
Face of a great horned owl, Bubo virginianus, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Photographed under controlled conditions (Photo by Wild Horizons/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

This large great horned owl was just rescued from a chicken coop south of Nashville by a couple of very surprised firefighters.

“As a firefighter, you never know what your day is going to look like,” says Rutherford County firefighter Jerrod Clanton. “But I sure never expected to participate in an owl rescue when I reported for work this morning.”

Yet Clanton’s Rutherford County Fire Rescue received the call, alongside the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). Together, the first responders headed for the Woods Ridge area to assist in rescuing the owl in question.

The culprit? A great horned owl, the largest owl species native to Tennessee. But the large bird of prey didn’t net himself any chickens from the coop. Instead, he had become trapped in a net above the coop. Chickens: 1. Owl: 0.

The unique rescue, which took place Monday, Oct. 10, began as Clanton and colleague Kyle Spicer worked alongside TWRA’s Matt Brian to free the nocturnal raptor. Under the wildlife official’s guidance, the three men were able to free the owl with no injuries; human or bird.

Clanton told local WKRN that the rescue “came as a surprise,” indeed. First responders receive some pretty wild calls, but this was as far out as any the firefighters had ever tackled.

After the rescue, the owl would see release in a “safe location” before taking flight with “no issues.”

The Rutherford County coop sits full of chickens and ducks, and none were harmed in the rescue or the owl’s initial approach.

Owls and Other Birds of Prey Target Chicken Coops

It goes without saying for fellow rural-dwellers, but birds of prey can be a big issue for poultry farmers. We’d love to have chickens on my own small ranch north of Nashville, but we’re surrounded by forest. And that forest is full of predators.

Chicken coops often fall prey to raptors. Red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks, and barred owls are most common in Middle Tennessee. Great horned owls are indigenous to this area, too, but are not as frequently seen. All of the above, however, are experts at snatching up chickens in coops that are left like sitting ducks.

The solution? To cover your chicken coop’s top with chicken wire alongside the sides. This wildlife tech definitely does not recommend netting, though, for the exact reason seen above. Raptors and other birds will become ensnared in the netting, and this isn’t good for anyone – especially birds or those who have to come rescue them.

Instead, sticking to covering a coop or pen with chicken wire is the way to go. Sadly, however, this won’t protect poultry from more persistent predators like raccoons, foxes, and coyotes. Each of these mammals is capable of burrowing straight beneath metal mesh and taking out entire coops.

The only way to keep digging wildlife out is a concrete foundation for your pens and coops. And raising poultry in a predator-prone area becomes an expensive operation as a result.