September 18, 2012

Fortifying the coop

This is like military planning. You have to set up your line of defense from the air, ground and down under. You have three areas you need to consider: the free-range area if you let you chickens out to roam the yard, the chicken run and their coop.

Predators - We live in a mid town urban area so we don’t have big bears or wolves but we have plenty of others -raccoons, opossum, feral dogs and feral cats. You have your domestic pets dogs and cats. Then you have the sneaky ones like rats and mice. From the air we have hawks and owls.

From the air - The first group of chickens we went to visit, before we got ours, pretty much had the run of half of the backyard. It was enclosed by an eight foot fence. I saw metal wires going randomly across the top and my first thought was to keep the chickens in. But it was to keep the air predators from sweeping down and stealing one of the flock. They also had CD’s hanging about on strings as distractions.  I thought no way we will have these air born predators in our backyard. One week after our chicks moved in, I looked out the window and saw a hawk on our storage shed looking at the flock in the run. Well I think I freaked out more than the chickens.

From the Ground – We have a fenced in backyard so threat from neighborhood dogs is minimum. We have dogs also but we do not let them mingle with chicks. We do not trust them yet. So the Chicks stay in the chicken run when the dogs are out. It is important that you use ½” hardware cloth to enclose your run. Regular chicken wire allows the chickens to stick their head out and that's all it would take to loose it. We also have neighborhood cats. One in particular I likes to visit most mornings when I open the coop door. My dogs seem to be friends with every cat in the neighborhood so forget them for extra protection. Make sure all you hardware cloth is securely fastened around the frames. Cats or others will push back the wire if it is loose.

Under Ground – We hear that there are predators that will tunnel into the run. Mainly rats will find a way in. So along the base of our run we have concrete blocks on solid ground. But we have been told it best to run a perimeter of hardware of cloth alone the outside edge under ground or just lay in the full floor of the run and cover with dirt. 

Raccoons and opossum will try under, over, around or through.  Sharp claws and paws to dig under or through.  Sheer determination to find a way over or around.

Night time security – At night the flock promptly moves to the coop as soon as it gets dark. At this time we close the coop door going into the run. All the windows of the coop have hardware cloth. We have a metal corrugated roof so where there are some small gaps there we covered with hardware cloth.

If the flock is in the yard and danger comes lurking about, they can fall back to the run. If the run protection fails you can have them go to the coop and shut the door as a final stand off. 

At this point, if our chicks are out free-ranging in the backyard, they get very close supervision.


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