Examples of how predators get inside a chicken run and coop

Sunshine Flock

Crowing
Sep 27, 2017
1,332
3,712
307
Northern California
We had a coyote come within ten feet of grabbing a chicken. They were free ranging, and we're rural in the woods. It was quite amazing to see a crouching coyote like that, ready to spring, and a miracle I saw what was happening in time to yell and scare off the coyote.

But with the chicken run and coop, that's protected space, and yet predators manage to infiltrate them all the time. We're new to raising chickens as of this year. Our flock is six months old. The coop is on a cement slab, and the windows and doors are secure. But it seems predators sometimes do get inside. I'm wondering how.

And the run has six foot posts and 2" x 4" welded fencing with affordable black deer netting top to bottom and 1/2" hardware cloth from the ground up to 36". We need to address the overhead access.

But let's assume we've covered the overhead with poultry netting. What are examples of how a predator could still get inside and harm our chickens? We buried hardware cloth about 8" to 10" (too difficult to dig down further). I'm also working on burying a flat sheet of hardware cloth all around the fencing. The door to the yard has two latches with locking carabiners.

I'm just wondering, though, what raccoons and other clever creatures do to get inside. It seems like it happens to everyone rural at some point, despite a great setup. I would find it helpful knowing examples of how this is happening, even if your setup is different or could be improved.

I guess what I'd love is to collect a list of scenarios you've actually experienced to help inform people as to how they get inside.

Thanks!
 

azygous

Crossing the Road
10 Years
Dec 11, 2009
18,177
21,748
912
Colorado Rockies
If you have coyotes, you probably also have bobcats. Coyotes can climb and bobcats are even better at it, so poultry netting is a joke to both these species.

A solid cover is much better, and really not that expensive if you use a light weight frame of 2x 4s and 1x 2s with corrugated fiberglass panels over the top. The installation goes very quickly and easily.

But for supreme protection against bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and even bears, I recommend hot wire around coop and run.
P1010033.JPG
 

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,267
12,501
707
Southeast Louisiana
It’s more challenging to make your run predator-proof than your coop, especially if your run is decent size. If you free range you are always at risk. But your question is how do critters get inside.

Some critters like weasels, rats, and snakes need very tiny openings to get through. That could be straight through your fence if the mesh openings are big enough. I had a snake big enough to eat a baby chick go through 1” hardware cloth. Gates, doors, windows, or external nest boxes are sometimes weak areas. You can have gaps at corners where walls meet, walls and floor meet, or the walls and ceiling meet. Your coop is on a concrete slab so that stops mice from tunneling in which provides a path for snakes or weasels. They can still do that in your run. If something gets in your run and the pop door is open they have easy access to your coop.

It’s amazing how easy it is for even larger critters like raccoons or bigger to squeeze through an opening under your fence. Uneven ground makes that even easier unless you take specific steps to fix it. Chickens like to scratch, they can create openings under a fence just from that. If your run is on a slope erosion may create an opening. I once saw a possum go under a fence through a gap that was hardly there. He didn’t even slow down. I now use an apron to prevent that.

A tremendous number of predators can climb or just jump a pretty high fence. If your run is fairly narrow it’s not that hard to cover it, but depending where you are you may have to consider snow or ice load and make it strong. If you are in a wooded area leaves might pile up on it. They can get heavy when wet. If you have trees inside and outside the run with interlocking branches that might provide a path for a critter to get in and out over your fence, even if the fence is electric.

Even if you can’t cover the run you still have options. A properly installed electric fence or electric netting will stop practically any ground based predator. Birds of prey are still a danger. One trick that can help is to angle the top of your fence out. Install a section at the top that bends out at a 45 degree angle or flatter so the critter has to hang upside down to crawl over it. That will stop a lot of critters. Another trick is to install some free standing wire at the top of your fence. Say you take a five feet wide piece of fairly stiff wire like 2” x 4” welded wire and attach that to the top of your fence about 2’ from the bottom of the 2x4 wire. Then fasten the bottom of that 2x4 wire to your fence a couple of feet down. You should have 3’ of that wire standing up because of its stiffness. If something tries to climb it the wire bends back, making it practically impossible for a critter of any size to climb in. You have to watch your corners and if you don’t have all one piece you need to overlap where it splices together but it can be pretty effective.

If you have a big run and are worried about birds of prey deer or bird netting is usually not that hard to install but I’d want it high enough I could walk under it even when it sags. Don’t forget snow, ice, or leaf loads.

Some critters, like a large raccoon or a big dog, can tear some wire if they can get a grip on it. The smaller the gauge (heavier wire) and the smaller the holes the harder it is for them to tear it. Chicken wire is usually fairly light weight and typically has larger holes. It provides protection against many critters but it can be torn. It surprises a lot of people but there are photos on this forum where lighter hardware cloth has been torn by critters too. The heavier the wire and the smaller the holes the more protection it gives you and the more it costs. A fairly effective strategy is to use a heavy wire like 2x4 welded wire for strength and overlap it with smaller mesh wire to stop smaller critters from going through.

Your connections are very important and often your weakest point. What you attach the wire to and how you attach it are important. If I’m using staples to attach wire I don’t even consider those ¾” poultry staples, they pull out way too easily. I use the 1-1/4” fencing staples. What you hammer those into has to be substantial. If it vibrates when you hit the staple it’s extremely hard to hammer in and it might split the wood so it also pulls out easily.

When I attach wire mesh to a flat wooden surface I use screws and furring strips. A lot of people use screws and fender washers to attach hardware cloth and that works pretty well. It leaves the sharp edge exposed though which can snag your clothes or skin, but also might give a critter something to grab hold of and pull. I take a ¾” thick furring strip and drill pilot holes to make starting the screw easier and keep the wood from splitting. When I attach it those screws go through holes in the wire mesh. If the wood is soft I use fender washers with the screws to keep the screw head from sinking through or keep the wood from splitting when I tighten them up. By clamping that wood on tightly the fence isn’t going anywhere and the sharp edges are covered.

Another potential point of weakness is your hardware. Don’t use those tiny weak cabinet hinges, get something substantial and attach them well. Your hasps and locks also need to be robust.

Your most secure lock is a padlock, either keyed or combination, but those can be a pain if you enter very often. Raccoons can be pretty clever at opening other types of locks. I use spring loaded carabiners, they have worked so far. But I realize some day a raccoon may figure it out.

There are ways to build a really secure coop and even run but it can get quite expensive and may take a lot of effort. Zoos build enclosures to keep some pretty savvy capable critters in, you can build to keep critters out.
 

Sunshine Flock

Crowing
Sep 27, 2017
1,332
3,712
307
Northern California
Good information, thank you.

We are attaching some welded wire to 4x4 redwood posts today. The 3/4" U shaped staples do seem easy to pull out. But as you mentioned, the post vibrates when hit with a hammer, so hammering in 1 1/4" staples isn't going to go well.

I never thought I'd consider poultry netting for the top, but we're strapped financially and we're also unsure of how to span the chicken run with 2x4s. We also have two trees inside the run, which couldn't be avoided. They're sizable oaks.

If I can figure out how to extend a plywood covering out from the roof for rain protection, that will help, and from there I'll see if I can add some fiberglass panels as mentioned. It's just all so costly, and yet the ultimate cost is losing our flock.
 

hlhutchinson

Songster
Aug 26, 2015
642
661
201
Casper Wyo
If you have coyotes, you probably also have bobcats. Coyotes can climb and bobcats are even better at it, so poultry netting is a joke to both these species.

A solid cover is much better, and really not that expensive if you use a light weight frame of 2x 4s and 1x 2s with corrugated fiberglass panels over the top. The installation goes very quickly and easily.

But for supreme protection against bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and even bears, I recommend hot wire around coop and run. View attachment 1157669
Hehe love the security sign
 

Howard E

Crowing
Feb 18, 2016
2,557
3,112
276
Missouri
How they get inside? In my case, nothing larger than a mouse ever has. So this is what I did to keep the larger stuff out.

Starts with a tight coop. In my case, a Woods style coop:

IMG_9657.JPG

Some key features. Note the design incorporates both run and house into one tight structure. Flexible as to ventilation, with two sets of windows that open or close. A Woods coop is essentially a covered run enclosed on three sides. The fourth side, which faces south into the Winter sun, is covered with 1/2" x 1" 16 gauge welded wire. Tough stuff. The rest is 5/8" T111 plywood siding. Only two openings at ground level and those are securely latched. Door is tight. No other way in. This coop is portable, meaning built on two heavy runners. To keep diggers out, there is a 2' wide apron of 1" x 2" welded wire. Shown as installed, before I put the pins in to hold the apron down tight. Within a week or so, grass grew up and covered it and I now mow over it. But still there to keep diggers out. Now and then I see places where it looks like they tried, but never get in.

When varmints show up, and they do, normally, they stand at the opening and stare in:

SUNP1107.JPG

But no joy. Can't dig in, can't break in and can't reach in, so tough luck to them.

That protects the birds during the day, or during several days in a row if I'm not around to let them out. They have food, water and room to play inside the coop. Then, during the day, they are contained within, and protected by, a 4 wire electric fence.

fence 1.JPG
It may not look effective, but it is. Brutally hot and painful to anything who might want to test it.

This flock is going on 18 months and no losses to date from any predators......and they are around. Foxes, coyotes, possums, skunks, dogs and cats and who knows what else.

It can be done.
 

Attachments

NancyNurseCxMama

Songster
Jun 1, 2017
471
820
237
Hudson Valley, NY
Good information, thank you.

We are attaching some welded wire to 4x4 redwood posts today. The 3/4" U shaped staples do seem easy to pull out. But as you mentioned, the post vibrates when hit with a hammer, so hammering in 1 1/4" staples isn't going to go well.

I never thought I'd consider poultry netting for the top, but we're strapped financially and we're also unsure of how to span the chicken run with 2x4s. We also have two trees inside the run, which couldn't be avoided. They're sizable oaks.

If I can figure out how to extend a plywood covering out from the roof for rain protection, that will help, and from there I'll see if I can add some fiberglass panels as mentioned. It's just all so costly, and yet the ultimate cost is losing our flock.
If you can borrow or rent a compressor and compressor-driven staple gun it will go much faster and you can use heavy 1.5" galvanized staples. We put them in every two inches or so which would have been an absolute pain using a hammer. They are available as "pneumatic staplers." Fast, and the post doesn't budge when you use it. If you can pull out your 3/4" staples easily so can a predator.
Can you post a pic of the run and tell us the size? To put 2x4's across the span you can fasten joist hangers to the posts and attach 2x4's to the hangers. If you need more support across the span put posts in to support the 2x4's. Then you can take the coverage from there. We encased the whole run with 1/2" hardware cloth and also buried the HWC down and out from the perimeter.
We are in the process of building a partial roof with polycarbonate panels for snow protection. Our coop is entirely within our 10' x 20' run. Might add more roofing next year, depending on how this winter goes.
Our coop is tight, all windows and vents completely covered with hardware cloth. It's also raised off the ground with cement blocks---critters can't burrow in and it also provides a nice shady place for dust baths and cooling off. Latches with spring carabiners on the coop, three latches with spring carabiners and a combo lock on the run door.
I hear you on the cost factor but I couldn't bear losing my girls because of not having done everything I could to protect them. We deal with coyotes, foxes, raccoons, mink, weasels, rats, mice, snakes, neighborhood dogs, feral cats, hawks, and owls. No free ranging. Still, I worry that I haven't done enough and I know that $### can happen despite our best efforts. I can drive myself nuts, I know.
An egg or two would be nice. They're 20 weeks old and so far, total slackers. :confused:
 
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Rachel Taylor

Crowing
Aug 17, 2017
3,310
5,545
402
Virginia
Definitely some kind of overhead coverage. Instead of staples or regular nails try u nails and putting them in at an angle. I have pieces of wood that still have you nails in them because I couldn't get them out. It's almost impossible to get those out. That's what I used after I lost two to a raccoon
 

Howard E

Crowing
Feb 18, 2016
2,557
3,112
276
Missouri
If you need to secure wire, really secure it, don't use the 3/4" staples. Use the real deal wire fence staples:

IMG_9868.JPG IMG_9870.JPG IMG_9871.JPG

If need be, buck up behind them when nailing. Use a heavy hammer, or something like a splitting wedge behind the wood. And a real hammer to drive them. 16 oz to 20 oz framing hammer vs. a tack hammer.
 

DuckMom2017

Songster
Aug 24, 2017
156
327
136
NC
How they get inside? In my case, nothing larger than a mouse ever has. So this is what I did to keep the larger stuff out.

Starts with a tight coop. In my case, a Woods style coop:

View attachment 1157995

Some key features. Note the design incorporates both run and house into one tight structure. Flexible as to ventilation, with two sets of windows that open or close. A Woods coop is essentially a covered run enclosed on three sides. The fourth side, which faces south into the Winter sun, is covered with 1/2" x 1" 16 gauge welded wire. Tough stuff. The rest is 5/8" T111 plywood siding. Only two openings at ground level and those are securely latched. Door is tight. No other way in. This coop is portable, meaning built on two heavy runners. To keep diggers out, there is a 2' wide apron of 1" x 2" welded wire. Shown as installed, before I put the pins in to hold the apron down tight. Within a week or so, grass grew up and covered it and I now mow over it. But still there to keep diggers out. Now and then I see places where it looks like they tried, but never get in.

When varmints show up, and they do, normally, they stand at the opening and stare in:

View attachment 1158008

But no joy. Can't dig in, can't break in and can't reach in, so tough luck to them.

That protects the birds during the day, or during several days in a row if I'm not around to let them out. They have food, water and room to play inside the coop. Then, during the day, they are contained within, and protected by, a 4 wire electric fence.

View attachment 1158009
It may not look effective, but it is. Brutally hot and painful to anything who might want to test it.

This flock is going on 18 months and no losses to date from any predators......and they are around. Foxes, coyotes, possums, skunks, dogs and cats and who knows what else.

It can be done.
How big is that electric run you have and may I ask about how much $$$ it cost?
 

Rachel Taylor

Crowing
Aug 17, 2017
3,310
5,545
402
Virginia
As far as a covering for the top you could use the 2x4 fencing with a layer of chicken fencing over that. If you have two by fours to stabilize it that should make it secure enough up top
 
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