In researching how to construct, or reconstruct, a safer coop for our next flock of birds, I discovered that we were (perhaps) not as good to our birds as I thought.
We fulfilled and provided almost all of their basic needs.
They had fresh air, clean water, a dust bathing area, lots of fresh grass and insects to forage and enough space. But they didn’t really have a place to flee from predators…or (apparently) much protection against them.
Their coop and run were completely enclosed, but that just meant that if something got in (ie a fox or an opossum), there was no escape for the chickens.
They would have been way to frantic, not to mention way too clueless, to escape the way the predator gained entry.
So where were they to go?
While pondering these concerns and researching what other chicken keepers have done, The Grow Network, a blog where I’ve been a guest contributor, published an article that addresses most, if not ALL of our concerns.
One of the top concerns we have is (for obvious reasons) protecting our flock from predators.
There are many things the article mentioned the things we are already doing.
The coop is enclosed and raised off the ground and the run and ramp are completely covered with chicken wire.
But, there are also a few things we could be doing to better.
Chicken wire, while fine for keeping the chickens contained, would not protect against a determined dog, fox or raccoon.
Apparently, raccoons as well as small dogs and weasels, could easily tear through the wire.
Using wire mesh or hardware cloth instead of or in addition to chicken wire may be an affordable option.
Another suggestion was to bury wire around the run.
This is not an option for us. We want to have the freedom to move the chickens around the property to help us weed, fertilize and prep for planting.
But, if we cover our chicken wire with the mesh, and also cover the bottom of the run, we would still be able to move the coop around and the chickens would still be able to peck and forage.
This added protection would further deter predators by making it that much more difficult to breach the coop.
We could also cover the ramp with the mesh, which is one of the most vulnerable spots in our set-up.
The use of electric fencing, motion-sensing lights, or even a well-trained livestock guardian dog (LGD) is also an option.
We already use a solar motion detecting light that seems to be doing a pretty good job…at least at night.
Electric fencing sounds so scary, especially to an amateur homesteader and chicken lady with two little boys running around touching everything they see like crazed monkeys.
But…with the proper precautions and training of said crazed monkeys, it would be another layer of protection for the hens.
A simple measure we can take will be to lock the hens in at night. While there are daytime predators like hawks and the occasional confused fox, locking the hens in at night will put the odds in our favor.
We should have been doing this all along. It wouldn’t have stopped the daytime fox from getting the big flock, but it may have protected our last three girls…something I will always wonder about.
Beefing up the coop
Security our main goal
Protecting our hens