We are expanding our flock at the moment so I decided to build a new, large run for our big girls and use their old run as a grow-out area for chicks. Our 4 girls just have a 3x3 premade coop at the moment. This is just a temporary measure over the winter because in spring I will be replacing this with a 6x8 modified shed in time for the new chicks to join them at POL.
Predator proofing for the new run took a surprising amount of thought. By far our biggest problem is foxes here in the UK. It was too expensive to put a fox proof roof on the whole area so it had to be open top and protected by electric fence. But poultry netting seemed like a somewhat temporary solution. I wanted an inexpensive, permanent, solid, electrified enclosure with a gate that I didn't have to unhook or turn off to enter the run. For anyone who has tried researching there's not much information on this. It took a bit of thought but its' really quite simple so I thought I'd share my solution/set-up and hopefully help someone else.
I built a wooden gate with 2" welded wire mesh on the inside which is hooked up to earth via a small section of lead out cable on the hinge side. I ran 4 live strands of 3mm polyrope on insulators on the outside of the posts. An electric fence doesn't need to create one continuous loop/circuit around the perimeter so both ends of each length of polyrope are tied off where the gate opens. (Of course if you have more than one gate you'll need to run a section of well insulated live cable underground plus an earth at the entry points so that you have current on the sections between your gates!) The gate must open outwards for this set-up but when you open the gate the entire perimeter of your fence will droop. I overcame this by attaching stainless steel screw fastening balls to the polyrope next to the insulators on the first post. This keeps the fence taught and limits the sagging of the polyropes to the gate section only.
As I was only fencing a small 6.5m x 4m area I was able to put heavy duty landscape cloth covered with gravel on the slightly lower ground around the perimeter. This makes the setup low maintenance by preventing weeds growing and shorting out the low level live wire. It also provides drainage to the run.
My existing coop is raised on 3x3 posts cemented into the ground. This provides a dry sheltered area for the chickens and also keeps their food dry. It’s not practical for me to always be up at dawn and always home by dusk so the obvious solution was an automatic opener. I bought some 3mm aluminium sheet and some aluminium runners on eBay and fabricated a pop door that opens vertically (as standard the coop has a horizontal sliding wooden door that is not ideal for use with an auto opener.) I use ChickenGuard Premium auto opener and I have been very happy with it. In the spring I will relocate this door and opener to the new 6x8 coop. The feeders will also be kept inside then.
Something else that has proved very useful is a wireless CCTV camera that I have set up over the area. Great for making sure the chickens are being looked after while we’re away and also for seeing the predators who attempt to get in! I've been woken twice in the early hours by a fox realising there's 10,000 volts between his nose and his chicken dinner! Needless to say nothing has yet to make it over the fence.
UPDATE April 2018; My new coop is now complete, aside from a couple of coats of treatment. The old, temporary coop is now used for introducing new members to the flock. It will also come in handy as a second small rearing pen if my main rearing pen is full - yep I’m guilty of hatching more than I should - or if I need to separate a broody.
To build the new coop I excavated about 8” of earth and filled with 3” of concrete to create a floor. I then laid breeze blocks around the perimeter for the coop to sit on. As the blocks are mainly below ground level I tanked the area so that the coop would not get flooded. This created a solid base that could be used for deep litter without the worry of the coop rotting.
I then made easy clean roosts suitable for ten birds and installed wooden brackets to create steps. I fabricated some roll-out nest boxes from a piece of ply which will save eggs getting dirty or eaten. At first I temporarily filled them with straw to get the girls used to the change. They are now lined with artificial grass so that the eggs roll out as designed.
The whole set up is now incredibly easy and quick to maintain and that means more time to relax and enjoy chicken TV!