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Secondary Run Predator-Proof Level

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone!

 

I have 5 laying hens in a covered run (1/2 inch welded hardware cloth all around, including underneath the bottom, under the sand) and coop (Wichita Cabin Coop inspired design). The overall footprint is 6x9 feet and the raised coop provides another 3x6 feet of living space, with two roosts and two nesting boxes. Technically, it's enough square footage for 5 hens, but of course I know they would be overjoyed to have more room.

 

I bought a used dog kennel (7x13 feet) and put it in the woods near the coop. However, to carry each hen back and forth each morning and evening before and after work is time we don't always have in the morning and so they don't make it out there very often. (We have bears in our vicinity, as well as large neighbourhood dogs, so free ranging is not an option.) I have this amazing idea to connect the two via a chicken tunnel, with a pop door at the more secure coop/run end that I would close in the evening once they have come in to roost, keeping them as secure from nighttime predators as they are now.

 

For daytime security, in the secondary play-yard, I want to cover the top with animal mesh (to keep out hawks and other birds of prey) and I want to reinforce the bottom few feet of the chain link dog kennel (as well as skirt it out along the outside of the ground) with either hardware cloth (like the permanent run) or chicken wire. Obviously the latter is much less expensive. So my question is this:

 

For a secondary, day-time only run, do you think chain link fencing with chicken wire overlapped (and skirted with paving stones overtop) would be enough to keep out the majority of the day-time predators? Obviously nothing is completely fool-proof, but I'm also loathe to quadruple the cost to get hardware cloth if the chicken wire will provide a reasonably adequate margin of security.

 

Thanks!

 

                           

 

This picture is from just before the coop was finished.                   This is a stock photo of the type of kennel

The nesting boxes, staining, windows and trim over                      I bought for the secondary run.

hardware cloth edges were all added afterward.


Edited by MamaHen56 - 3/29/16 at 8:32pm
post #2 of 8

Your coop is fantastic! 

You've gone to a lot of trouble with your coop/run to make it secure,so I can understand why you are concerned about your secondary run.

 

I have my 4 chickens in the back yard, with a secure coop and run, and a chicken tunnel to a less secure secondary run. 

You have to know what kind of predators you have during the day, I suppose.

 

In our area, it's aerial; bald eagles, Cooper's Hawks, Redtail hawks. We don't get ground predators during the day.

So they have a large area fenced with deer netting, supported by U posts, and poultry netting over the top (there's a tree in the middle to hold the netting up).

 

There is an auto door on the run at the beginning of the chicken tunnel, which secures the coop/run at night.

 

If you also have dogs, possums, weasels, etc., etc., during the day, you'd need the chain link run, which would be strong, but I'd personally still attach 1/2" hardware mesh 3' up. Chicken wire is so easily ripped by a determined predator. Then you'd need welded wire over the top, and some kind of foundation protection.

 

I like the way you are thinking ahead for your chickens and trying to keep them content!

post #3 of 8

I don't understand why a run would need hardware cloth up only a few feet. If an animal can get into the chain link then it can climb up a few feet then get in. Nothing large is getting past the chain link. Dig proof aprons don't need to be hard ware cloth either. 2x4 welded wire in 14 ga. will stop anything of size, skunk, dog, coyote, etc. It's far cheaper than hardware cloth. Weasels, are typically night predators. Lock the coop at night and use hardware cloth on any openings there. For the off chance weasel are hunting your chickens in day they have the ability to get away from it. Unlikely it will make a kill in daylight and if it does would only be a bird not entire flock. Weasels are so successful at night as they can see at night, chickens can't. Chickens are roosting. Weasel kills a few before the rest wake up and it's easy pickings to kill the rest as they are contained in small space and can't see.

 

 A raccoon would climb the fence and chew through any inferior netting covering the top to climb down and eat birds. A skunk will chew through if able or dig under if able to eat a bird. Dogs dig under and chew and push against the fence. Coyote is a dog and also excellent jumper. Bear are attracted to food not chickens. If you leave food out they will come. Once there and have eaten the food will continue on taking advantage of contained birds too. A bear would tear a dog kennel apart if it wanted to. It would tear most anything apart. The key is not to attract them in the first and keep feed inside garage or shed at night. 


Edited by Egghead_Jr - 3/29/16 at 10:38pm

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post #4 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Egghead_Jr View Post
 

I don't understand why a run would need hardware cloth up only a few feet. If an animal can get into the chain link then it can climb up a few feet then get in. Nothing large is getting past the chain link. Dig proof aprons don't need to be hard ware cloth either. 2x4 welded wire in 14 ga. will stop anything of size, skunk, dog, coyote, etc. It's far cheaper than hardware cloth. Weasels, are typically night predators. Lock the coop at night and use hardware cloth on any openings there. For the off chance weasel are hunting your chickens in day they have the ability to get away from it. Unlikely it will make a kill in daylight and if it does would only be a bird not entire flock. Weasels are so successful at night as they can see at night, chickens can't. Chickens are roosting. Weasel kills a few before the rest wake up and it's easy pickings to kill the rest as they are contained in small space and can't see.

 

Bear are attracted to food not chickens. If you leave food out they will come. Once there and have eaten the food will continue on taking advantage of contained birds too. 

Well if you have bear, then it is a different story. That's why it helps to know the kinds of predators a person is dealing with.

If it is mainly raccoons, and the like, that doesn't take quite as much.

 

The hardware cloth partway up is to protect the chickens from raccoons, weasels, etc., from grabbing their heads and pulling them through.

Since the chickens are mainly on the ground, you protect them at ground height. If the raccoon climbs higher, they won't be able to reach the chicken.

The OP wants a fairly secure secondary 'daytime run', to be used only during the day. It doesn't have to protect them at night.

Anyway, let us know what kind of daytime

predators you are worried about, @MamaHen56

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

I'm in rural Nova Scotia, Canada.

 

The bear is purported in our area, but we haven't seen him personally (or his tracks in the ground, etc). Additionally, in NS, our only bear species is the Black Bear, which are nocturnal. We have a green bin (with all sorts of food scraps, including meat) and an uncovered compost heap (with veggie scraps only) and he has never touched either. So I'm *fairly* confident the bear will not be interested in the chickens or their feed enough to be a problem.

 

I'm mainly concerned about raccoons (they have gotten into a small green bin left out on the deck in the summer) and aerial threats. Although I have not personally seen either, I am sure they are around when I'm not. The neighbour's dogs are typically tied, but if they were to become loose, I am confident the dog kennel (being designed specifically to keep large dogs in) will also keep them out. The top will be covered as well, keeping out the aerial threats.

 

So I am mainly thinking of raccoons around dusk (or during the day if they were super hungry for some reason). The thinking behind the 3' up is exactly as @lynnehd has said: The chain link openings are large enough for a raccoon to fit his arm through and grab a chicken, but not fit his whole body through. So, near the ground, where the chickens are, he would not be able to reach in. But, of course, as you have said, a determined raccoon could rip through the chicken wire, thus making the opening large enough again to reach in.

 

I guess I was wondering how much *time* it would take said raccoon to do so.

 

Because it's during the day only, if a raccoon saunters up and starts ripping at the chicken wire, the girls are smart enough that they would move away from the masked guy (into the dog house / day shelter that's in the secondary run, fly up onto a roost, run back into the tunnel toward the secure coop, even over to the other side of the run to get away from him!). Trust me. I go in (their favourite person in the family) with a head of lettuce and they scatter like I was a weasel myself! (Of course, 30 seconds later, they see I am not and spot the lettuce and they are back.) A neighbour brought a tiny dog round one day on a leash and I swear, they were up on their roosts faster than he could say "Bark!" and they didn't venture back down for a good 20 minutes after he was gone!

 

So, unless he could approach and rip it in, like, lightening-fast speed, I have every confidence they would move away (being awake and in daylight). Similarly, in the time it would take a raccoon to scale the outside of the chain link, rip through the top and climb back down the inside, I am sure the girls would have scattered for the hills by that time! It's not dark, so they aren't roosted and vulnerable sitting ducks (er, sitting hens?). I would notice the hole(s) upon daily inspection and patch it up the same day.

 

On my secure coop/run, all the ventilation holes, windows, everything, has hardware cloth, with covered staples. The doors both have two-step lift latches that are then also locked with a lock hanging from a short link of chain for human access. Trust me, I don't underestimate the craftiness of predators when they have a lot of time (at night). Now, I've never seen a raccoon at work on a prey, but they aren't ninjas, are they? I've seen them moving around at the wildlife park and, while crafty and smart, I know, they kind of lumber around a bit and aren't so tiny that the girls would see him coming, wouldn't they? Has anyone actually had a raccoon make it through chicken wire, and chain link, during the day, to grab a hen also dumb enough not to move away in time? In terms of odds, how often does that actually happen?


Edited by MamaHen56 - 3/30/16 at 9:10am
post #6 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaHen56 View Post
 

I'm in rural Nova Scotia, Canada.

 

The bear is purported in our area, but we haven't seen him personally (or his tracks in the ground, etc). Additionally, in NS, our only bear species is the Black Bear, which are nocturnal. We have a green bin (with all sorts of food scraps, including meat) and an uncovered compost heap (with veggie scraps only) and he has never touched either. So I'm *fairly* confident the bear will not be interested in the chickens or their feed enough to be a problem.

 

I'm mainly concerned about raccoons (they have gotten into a small green bin left out on the deck in the summer) and aerial threats. Although I have not personally seen either, I am sure they are around when I'm not. The neighbour's dogs are typically tied, but if they were to become loose, I am confident the dog kennel (being designed specifically to keep large dogs in) will also keep them out. The top will be covered as well, keeping out the aerial threats.

 

So I am mainly thinking of raccoons around dusk (or during the day if they were super hungry for some reason). The thinking behind the 3' up is exactly as @lynnehd has said: The chain link openings are large enough for a raccoon to fit his arm through and grab a chicken, but not fit his whole body through. So, near the ground, where the chickens are, he would not be able to reach in. But, of course, as you have said, a determined raccoon could rip through the chicken wire, thus making the opening large enough again to reach in.

 

I guess I was wondering how much *time* it would take said raccoon to do so.

 

Because it's during the day only, if a raccoon saunters up and starts ripping at the chicken wire, the girls are smart enough that they would move away from the masked guy (into the dog house / day shelter that's in the secondary run, fly up onto a roost, run back into the tunnel toward the secure coop, even over to the other side of the run to get away from him!). Trust me. I go in (their favourite person in the family) with a head of lettuce and they scatter like I was a weasel myself! (Of course, 30 seconds later, they see I am not and spot the lettuce and they are back.) A neighbour brought a tiny dog round one day on a leash and I swear, they were up on their roosts faster than he could say "Bark!" and they didn't venture back down for a good 20 minutes after he was gone!

 

So, unless he could approach and rip it in, like, lightening-fast speed, I have every confidence they would move away (being awake and in daylight). Similarly, in the time it would take a raccoon to scale the outside of the chain link, rip through the top and climb back down the inside, I am sure the girls would have scattered for the hills by that time! It's not dark, so they aren't roosted and vulnerable sitting ducks (er, sitting hens?). I would notice the hole(s) upon daily inspection and patch it up the same day.

 

On my secure coop/run, all the ventilation holes, windows, everything, has hardware cloth, with covered staples. The doors both have two-step lift latches that are then also locked with a lock hanging from a short link of chain for human access. Trust me, I don't underestimate the craftiness of predators when they have a lot of time (at night). Now, I've never seen a raccoon at work on a prey, but they aren't ninjas, are they? I've seen them moving around at the wildlife park and, while crafty and smart, I know, they kind of lumber around a bit and aren't so tiny that the girls would see him coming, wouldn't they? Has anyone actually had a raccoon make it through chicken wire, and chain link, during the day, to grab a hen also dumb enough not to move away in time? In terms of odds, how often does that actually happen?

 

Great summary!

 

I've read (no personal experience with this) that raccoons can work in teams. One will get on one side of the run, scare the chickens to the other side, and another raccoon or two is waiting to grab them. So I guess if that could happen, the 1/2" hardware mesh 3' up would be better? And then maybe an apron to prevent digging? And then welded wire across the top, bent over the sides and secured with strong wire. The wire over the top could be larger gauge, of course.

 

I think your coop sounds like it is about as secure as you can make it. Only a really strong bear might be able to penetrate it, but as you say, your compost bins have been left alone. Of course, a bear would regard a nice warmblooded chicken as tastier than veggies, I suppose.

 

My chickens love their tunnel and going back and forth. :yiipchick

(If there turns out to be any threat of a nocturnal bear, the only other step you could take would be electric fencing or double/triple wires, on a timer to activate in the dark).

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hmm, I hadn't thought of a team of raccoons! Crafty little buggers. I'd be interested to hear from anyone that has had personal experience with this.

 

Actually, the Black Bear species is primarily an herbivore and would prefer the fruit and veggies to the chickens. Easier, less work, and tastier, in their opinion. On the other side of the house, I have a raised kitchen garden, completely covered with chicken wire, sides and top (to keep rabbits and pesky starlings out). The bear never made any attempt at the delicious strawberries growing inside and the chicken wire would have been easy work for a bear, so I'm guessing the chain link is the much more tiresome of the two options, if I were a big fat berry-loving bear. ;-)

 

I do love the idea of hardware cloth. I admit it is much safer. But our original coop cost $2,000 in materials (despite using reclaimed lumber as much as possible) and I'm trying not to go broke in order to build them a secondary run! My budget is much smaller this time round or else it simply won't happen. :-D

post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by MamaHen56 View Post
 

Hmm, I hadn't thought of a team of raccoons! Crafty little buggers. I'd be interested to hear from anyone that has had personal experience with this.

 

Actually, the Black Bear species is primarily an herbivore and would prefer the fruit and veggies to the chickens. Easier, less work, and tastier, in their opinion. On the other side of the house, I have a raised kitchen garden, completely covered with chicken wire, sides and top (to keep rabbits and pesky starlings out). The bear never made any attempt at the delicious strawberries growing inside and the chicken wire would have been easy work for a bear, so I'm guessing the chain link is the much more tiresome of the two options, if I were a big fat berry-loving bear. ;-)

 

I do love the idea of hardware cloth. I admit it is much safer. But our original coop cost $2,000 in materials (despite using reclaimed lumber as much as possible) and I'm trying not to go broke in order to build them a secondary run! My budget is much smaller this time round or else it simply won't happen. :-D

Fortunately I don't have to cope with brown bear in my back yard neighborhood, and it doesn't sound as if you have had to, either.

 

It does sound as if raccoons may be a bigger thread to your flock. Though they usually appear at night, they can certainly appear during the day, too. Just do the best you can to anticipate them.

 

I'm sure you live in a beautiful setting!

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