advice on plans for predator-proofing

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by hensandchickscolorado, May 19, 2011.

  1. hensandchickscolorado

    hensandchickscolorado Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 14, 2011
    Englewood Colorado
    I have 4 baby chicks in my suburban house here in Colorado--no coop yet.

    I have an area behind my garage that is about 20' x 10' where the coop & chicks will go. It is surrounded by 6' wood fence on 2 sides, garage wall on one side, and open on the fourth side.

    Here's the plan to keep out predators that is VERY changeable. I feel like I'm not sure what I'm doing and am open to suggestion!:

    -Dig trench around entire perimeter and bury 12" of hardware cloth & staple the top of it to the bottom of my fence/garage.

    -Add a fence of some sort to the fourth side--maybe cute picket reinforced with something.

    -Put the coop in the area along with a run (so when I'm not home all day, chicks can get outside).

    -Run: 3' x 5'. Hardware cloth on all sides including bottom (is this necessary?? or comfortable?). Can it be a 3 feet high? I don't need to get in there, do I? Maybe I can have a roof that opens for access??

    Essentially, chicks will have a run attached to coop that they can access at all times. They will also have a larger area of yard to play when I am in the yard with them (or maybe just during the day when I'm home). There seems to be a lot of bottom reinforcement--can't foxes & other creatures just climb over the fence?

    What am I missing? Do I need the trench if I build a run with a bottom? Should I put some sort of netting over the entire area so birds don't get in? I realize this is turning into Ft. Knox, and I do have a very limited budget. However, I'm petrified of losing chicks to raccoons or foxes, and I also don't want mice anywhere near the area.

    Help--what's the best way to do this setup?? I'm just a mom, not that great at building things, and I'm very new to this! Thanks!!!
     
  2. CoyoteMagic

    CoyoteMagic RIP ?-2014

    don't waste your time digging anything!!! Just attach the wire around the sides of you coop/run like a skirt/apron. Make sure it's about 2ft wide. Once you have it flat on the ground and tacked to the side of you coop/run, stake it down. If this is going to be a stationary coop, throw a load of topsoild and mulch on top of it and plant flowers and shrubs that will grow down through the wire and hold it down. Sure as heck beats digging
     
  3. idispatch4911

    idispatch4911 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 20, 2011
    Southern Utah
    Can't beat that advice!! I love being lazy (aka efficient)!!
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Absolutely do the apron not burial, it is basically just as good as burying wire 18" deep and is VASTLY easier [​IMG]

    Cute picket fence ought to be backed up with some kind of really predatorproof wire mesh - don't count on predators not being able to rip pickets off or slip between. Also most cute picket fences are so low that they invite both chickens and predators to go over them. Really I'd recommend either adding a wire top to the run if you go cute-picket-fence, or using a TALLER wire mesh fence (e.g. 5' 2x4 mesh, and you can still have the picket fence outside the front of it for decoration if you want)

    3x5 is reeeaallll small for a run for 4 chickens, even if they will be let out into the larger area for a few hours every day. I'd urge you to try making it substantially bigger. I wouldn't use hardwarecloth on the floor of it unless you absolutely MUST (e.g. have a serious rat problem already), because scratching and digging is a really central part of chickens' natural behavior and they will easily dig down 8-10" or more so unless you put *a whole lot* of material over top of that hardwarecloth, you'd be really messin' with their instincts. Instead, I'd suggest a good apron around the area. If you find the chickens are digging dusting holes right against their fence and undermining it (which may well happen if you keep your run tiny like that, and occasionaly happens even in a good-sized run) it is easy enoguh to fix by putting a few rocks or bricks around the edge to force their dusthole-digging activities further from the fence.

    "don't want mice anywhere near the area" is pretty much impossible. The best you can achieve is not to be actively feeding the mice (much, anyhow). That can be achieved by keeping the feeder indoors, feeding all mousebait-type kitchen scraps indoors, and making the carpentry on the coop REALLY REALLY TIGHT so that when they're locked in at night no mouse can get in. It is generally not a problem to feed plant stuff outdoors (e.g. nontoxic garden weedings, or wilted lettuce leaves, or the like), you just want to avoid stuff that a mouse would go out of their way to get even a small bit of (scratch grain, leftover bits of the roast you had for dinner, etc)... feed that indoors.

    If you want to keep sparrows out, you will need a top on the run with no larger than 1x1" mesh. Honestly though if you have the chicken feed indoors, it is quite rare for people to develop mooching-sparrows problems, so I don't know as it's really worthwhile if you'd be doing it JUST to keep sparrows out.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  5. hensandchickscolorado

    hensandchickscolorado Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 14, 2011
    Englewood Colorado
    Thanks! A picture of the area is below (hope they clear those weeds!).

    What if: I skipped the run altogether, fenced my 4th side and aproned all around, and let them have the entire square as a run?

    Then I would just need a top?

    How does one build a predator-proof top over (what seems to me) a pretty large area: 200 sf?? I'm worried that critters could climb up the trees and jump right in if I don't have a top!

    I think they'd be happier that way. I suppose I could make sure the door to the coop is always closed at night for added security?

    Sigh, I'm a pretty independent girl, but it's times like this I could really use a husband! (sorry to share TMI [​IMG].

    Thanks!!

    [​IMG]
     
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:That's certainly an option too, as long as you don't mind that whole area getting pretty thoroughly "chickened" (grass will eventually be gone from most of it, perhaps leaving a few weeds amongst the bare earth/mud, with poo here and there).

    But if you want to keep it as lawn (for use, or for aesthetics), your original plan is probably preferable.

    How does one build a predator-proof top over (what seems to me) a pretty large area: 200 sf?? I'm worried that critters could climb up the trees and jump right in if I don't have a top!

    The only tree-climbing daytime predator you have to worry about is raccoons; and they only rarely hunt during daytime, so it is not like it's a BIG risk. Hawks would be a greater concern, really. If you would be devastated to lose even one bird once, a top would be good (but remember you can lose a hen to a hawk even if you're sitting right there watching over 'em); if you would be sad but accept it as the price for giving them a larger area, then statistically you'd probably be in reasonable shape.

    If you wanted to put a top on a 10x20 area, the cheapest thing would be a deer-fencing type thing, won't keep raccoons out (you might want to deliberately leave the edges a little open so investigative raccoons don't keep ripping holes in it, in fact) but it will keep chickens in and hawks out. However it won't work if you live somewhere that gets snow (well, you could take it down for the winter and put it up again after your last snowfall).

    To cover that area with something that will even halfway stand up to snowfall would require some form of strongly-supported 2x4 wire mesh top, or an aviary-net or fishing-net top (which will sag in snow but then spring back when snow melts), with some kind of pole or wire supports to it.

    I suppose I could make sure the door to the coop is always closed at night for added security?

    Oh yes, you really really ought to do that unless you are prepared to be philosophical about a pile of bloody feathers when you go out there one morning.

    Sigh, I'm a pretty independent girl, but it's times like this I could really use a husband!

    Huh, I got one you can have for free if you come haul him away [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  7. hensandchickscolorado

    hensandchickscolorado Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 14, 2011
    Englewood Colorado
    Huh, I got one you can have for free if you come haul him away [​IMG]

    Does he eat much??


    Thanks for the advice!

    First, I hope those chicks clear that place out--it's the wasteland of my backyard and they can have at it.

    Second, I think I will secure third side well, apron all of it, and leave the top open (yes, it snows--I live in Colorado!). I do know raccoons live in my area but I will lock the chickies in well at dusk. (I have heard of timed door openers...but I'll save that for another post!)

    I haven't built the coop yet. Maybe it can have a small outside area underneath that is fully secure--that way if I don't get out first thing in the am or if it is snowing or raining, they can still get a bit of fresh air.

    Wow--this really requires a lot of thought!

    Thanks for the tips!!!​
     

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