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Dog changed our design plans...

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

Our dog is a lab, a little over a year old.  He is not gonna let these chickens survive if he's able to get to them.  We only figured that out recently and the chicks are two and three weeks old.  One hen, Georgia, keeps flying out of the rubbermaid box we have them in, so it's definitely time to get them outside.  We are faced with a new plan because the old plan had the chicks too far away from the house.  Free ranging will have to be done inside a fence for the most part.  So we're building a fence around an old garden shed which we will put the nesting boxes.  That way we can keep a good eye on them - someone is always home during the day.

Here's my questions:  There will be a lot of fruit trees inside this fenced area.  We never use chemicals, so is it okay that they will have a buffet at their living quarters?  I've read that they won't overeat,  but I'm worried they may have access to too much sugar.  I have figs, wild cherry, plumbs and apples.  There are at least 7 fig trees in the area that I want to fence in.  Is there anything I need to worry about?  Like...will *I* get to harvest any?  If I include my herb garden in this fenced area, will they destroy it?  I'm guessing they will eat herbs (mostly medicinal)?  Or will they leave them alone since they'll have all those figs, pears, apples and cherries? 

I'm afraid that putting them close to the house is the only way they will survive the dog and mole-chasing cat.  The problem is that we have to make decisions fast.  My husband took two days off work so we can deal with this.  I appreciate any thoughts, advice or criticism.  Thanks!!!

post #2 of 25

Chickens will eat pretty much anything in their way - that is why a stationary run becomes void of vegetation.  Have you considered a chicken tractor so that you can move them different places to keep their run full of grass,etc.  but they will be more contained and you can control them a little better?

post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 

My husband is building one as we speak.  But it looks like the dog could get to them if we weren't here Maybe not.  I think I'm just so attached to them that I can't help but be terrified that something will get them.  We only have 9 now but we want a large flock, more like 30 or 40.  Even with only 9 the tractor seems a little small, not my idea of free-range.  :(   But that may be our only option for now since the fencing material looks very expensive.  What happens on rainy days?  They don't go out at all?

Thanks for your help!

post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 

Hummm...I guess that most folks have a cover on their tractor.  Duh! 

post #5 of 25

I'll be putting shade fabric on the run (we had to stop work on our tractors due to weather), and we raised the coop portion up so that there is room under it that is part of their run too. for cover.  Chickens don't always stay inside just because it is raining - they aren't generally as prissy as a cat or dog :)


Yes, we are putting a wire top on the tractor run as well - to protect from hawks/owls and to keep the chickens from trying to fly up over the wire walls. 


Rule of thumb is 4 sq ft/chicken in the coop and 10 sq ft/chicken in the run.  Others on here have said that they did ok with less room in the coop but they also seem to free range so the chickens aren't "cooped" up so much.


You might consider a stationary coop when you get a large flock, but then have a larger wire mobile run that you herd the chickens into every morning and then take them back to the coop at night since you are looking at having so many birds in the flock.  That would help save somewhat on costs for housing that many birds.


We've got 8 dogs and I only trust one of them not to eat chickens if they got hungry.  I feel your pain on the cost factor.

post #6 of 25

Funny stuff. I myself have a German Shirthaired Pointer at the house, and she just wants to taste my birds so bad....  This is my cage new:




This is my cage now, notice the bite marks all up and down the 2x4 on the bottom. I cant really be angry with her, shes a bird dog.



post #7 of 25
Originally Posted by Riceman026 View Post


This is my cage now, notice the bite marks all up and down the 2x4 on the bottom. I cant really be angry with her, shes a bird dog.



yuckyuck.gif  Just doing what comes naturally! 

post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 

Our dog would *not* need to be hungry.  He'd do it for fun.  :(

We got the tractor finished.  DH made a big one that's fairly heavy, but the dog was digging at the sides, determined to get in. 

I've got a few more considerations and questions.  :)

Can baby chicks swim if they accidentally fell into a body of water?  How about adult chickens, can they swim? 


post #9 of 25
Thread Starter 

And additional questions.  Many pine trees wouldn't be a problem would they?  I'm thinking they will make great shade.  Do they eat pine needles?  The only other place they would find shade (in my new plan) would be underneath the shed.  Unless we make the fence larger which would include some large old pines.  I want to provide the biggest run with what money I have but now I'm starting to worry about the cat.  He won't bother them once they get big will he?  He is an outdoor cat, he fattens up every winter from catching moles and eating those in addition to what we feed him.  He brings the dog presents...usually a half dead bird he's done with.  I just assumed the chickens would defend themselves when they're adults (?).

I think this is my final few questions.  I hope.  ;)

The shed has two windows with typical residential screens.  Is that strong enough to keep predators out at night?  The two windows is our air circulation so they will be open or cracked most of the time.  Do we cover them with chicken wire?  The building is metal but wood stubs on the interior so I don't think there's an option for putting the netting or wire on the outside.  Putting it on the inside would make the opening and closing of the window a little difficult. :(

And finally, if I fence in an herb bed,  are there *any* plants a chicken shouldn't eat?  I remember my father cutting down cherry trees saying the goat would die if he ate the leaves.  Is there any plants that would be deadly to the chickens?  I have all sorts of unusual things growing...not the typical landscaping materials you see at most homes.  Most are superfoods that I assume are as good for the chickens as they are for humans.  Is there any plants I need to worry about them eating too much of?

If anyone knows the answers, thanks in advance.  I find so many (and so few) answers on the web, I have to weigh all the options so any help is useful!  :)

post #10 of 25

Pine trees make great shade and great protection from airborn predators. My birds spend all day loafing under or near one. I've never seen them eat pine needles. They do like to scratch away the needles to make dust bath areas. 


I don't think a cat could take on a full grown hen but I don't know your cat or the size of your hens. 


They will eat all green things and all fruits they want. If they don't actually eat the greens they'll destroy it because they'll be scratching for bugs in the dirt. My birds can move large rocks when scratching--they're stronger than you'd think and they'll tear up a patch of ground really fast. Do a search on here for poisonous foods chickens shouldn't eat. I've seen posts like that before. Don't just fence IN the herb garden--fence it over completely. They can fly. 


No, residential screens will not be strong enough to deter any predator--and not your dog, either. People say chicken wire is only strong enough to deter chickens--that raccoons and such can pull it apart. I've had chicken wire over my windows for a year without problem....but the windows are more than 4 feet off the ground and the siding of the coop wouldn't allow anything to grip it and climb it. Use what is called "hardware cloth" (think strong wire arranged in small squares) for anything that needs to deter a predator. Mount the wire from the inside so a strong predator can't pull out the staples or bent over nails you'd use to attach the hardware cloth. 


Have you considered restraining the dog until you get a solid plan for fencing the chickens? I tie ours to my clothesline so she has a long distance to run and can reach either shade or sun. I don't like tied up dogs as a permanent solution but it would buy you time so you could make careful plans for your chicken run. 


Backyard farming with my flock of super talented manure composters and bug hunters.


Backyard farming with my flock of super talented manure composters and bug hunters.

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