Free Range in the Woods

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by jbmedlen, Feb 15, 2017.

  1. jbmedlen

    jbmedlen Just Hatched

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    We are preparing to get my first chickens. We live in the woods (no yard at all). I have a good idea and plans laid out for a coop. The area that we want to keep them in the front of the house is about .15-.25 acres. I plan on putting some sort of fence up to keep them in that area (off the road, neighbors property, out of the dogs play area, out of trouble.....)

    My question is do i need a fence that will protect them from predators during the day? I understand that letting your chickens free range comes with that risk. If the answer is no does anyone have any recommendations on a a very low visibility fence/netting to keep them contained and how tall. If Yes any recommendations and how tall.


    Thanks
    Jared
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  2. PD-Riverman

    PD-Riverman Overrun With Chickens

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    Free ranging does cause problems a lot of times. A stray dog can wipe you completely out in a few minutes. A fox will sneak up and grab and go. Hawks grab and go if the chicken is small enough or kill and eat part, then fly off with the rest or leave it. At night you really need a secure coop where predators do not wipe you out. As far as a fence----just remember "chicken wire" is to keep chickens in, not predators out!!!
     
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  3. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Yep....without dogs to protect them, you'll need something like electronetting to do that. https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/bees-key-points-to-successful-and-safe-free-ranging
     
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  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I’m envisioning an area maybe 80’ x 100’. Pure woodland. Maybe not real level?

    You will need a fence to contain your chickens. In an area that big you would probably be able to do that with a 4’ high fence but 5’ high is better. Unless you have weird chickens yours can probably fly that high, but usually they don’t. One thing that often happens is that chickens like to perch. If the top of your fence is solid, like something they can perch on, they may just fly up there to perch. Who knows which side they will fly down on? Sometimes it is the wrong side. So don’t have a solid top to your fence. Beware of fence posts too. Have the wire stick up above them a few inches.

    I’d probably go with 2” x 4” welded wire fence, five feet tall. Baby chicks can walk through that but it will contain older chickens. One possible problem, especially if the ground is not level, is that they may be able to walk under it. You may need some kind of apron to contain the chickens. That’s where you take some wire mesh, attach it to the bottom of your fence, and lay it flat for about 18” or more. You don’t have to bury it but it keeps it out of the way of lawn mowers and weed eaters if you bury it a couple of inches. Or maybe cover it with leaves.

    To me this would not be all that unattractive, this type of fencing in wooded areas looks kind of natural. But if it bothers you take a roller and dark green or black paint and paint it. It pretty much disappears.

    Your fence will not keep predators out. It will be a deterrent to some land-based predators like many dogs, but some larger dogs can jump that. Foxes can climb really well. There are plenty of other things that can jump, climb, or tunnel under it (think apron). The trees provide a highway for many things to bypass your fence. You are not going to be able to cover something that size so flying predators can get in.

    It’s still going not be a deterrent but it offers no guarantees. One way to greatly increase the deterrent value would be to use electricity on it. There are different ways you can hook that up, but a hot wire or two properly installed can stop many predators in their tracks. I don’t know if you have legal restrictions on installing an electric fence or not.

    No matter what you do, no one can give you any guarantees that you will be safe from predators. Some people free range for years on end and don’t have a problem without a dog or electric fencing. My folks did that when I was growing up out in the middle of not much and we only had two predator attacks, a fox and a dog. Other people will be wiped out as soon as they try it.

    Bee mentioned dogs. A well trained dog can be a deterrent, really help. But train it so it knows your chickens are not playthings or it can kill them. A house dog is not a deterrent. The dog has to be with the chickens to protect them. A dog cannot be everywhere in an 80’ x 100’ area so it is not a guarantee, but it can be a huge deterrent.

    My philosophy is to have a predator resistant place during the day (I use electric netting for that) and secure them in a really safe coop at night. It works for me.

    Good luck! And welcome to the forum!
     
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  5. jbmedlen

    jbmedlen Just Hatched

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    Feb 15, 2017
    Great! you all have answered a lot of my questions. I feel good about my Coop design and it being predator proof. My concern was during the day. I was very curious about the electric netting. The areas is on a hill and this would be much easier to install the electric netting and it made a lot of since to me for my situation. I think my plan will be to go with the premier1 electrified poultry net and then make sure i have a very secure place for them at night.

    Jared
     
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  6. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My guess is if you were to let these birds run free in a wooded area, you should mark them up as already dead. My daughter did that with her first birds and they managed to stay alive until about 2 weeks after their first egg. A fox then got them all. The good news is the majority of predator attacks occur at night, so if your coop is predator tight, that would be the most important thing. They can hang out all night long if they want, but if they can't get in, they will soon give up and move on. So that leaves protection during the day. That means a fence and electric fences are the simplest and in my mind, most effective. It will keep chickens in and predators out.

    Electric netting is best, but can be expensive, depending on the amount of area you want to cover. Also, if appearance matters, they make them in different colors. White, orange and green. I use the green ones. So these come in standard lengths of 82 and 164 feet. So a long one will fence in an area of about 40' square or any combination of lengths that adds up to 184 feet. Or connect two together, but that starts getting expensive in a hurry.

    For larger areas, I have found wire fences to also be effective. I tested them as 2 wires, 3 wires and once I got up to 4 wires high, just about all traffic past the fence stopped. It is only 18 to 20 inches off the ground, so you can step over it, but it is respected by chickens and varmints alike.

    Last thing to worry about would be hawks and owls in a wooded area. You will need to include some cover for them to escape to and under. Also, if you have woods, regardless of the fence type, the canopy of the woods is an avenue for climbing predators like raccoons to get inside the wire. They go up one tree and come down another. They are all clever and persistent!
     
  7. jbmedlen

    jbmedlen Just Hatched

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    I am looking into the PoultryNet Plus by Premier 1 seems a lot of people have had good luck with it. Is that what you all are using?
     
  8. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    I'm using dogs but have used Premier electronetting for meat birds for a very brief while....then decided it wasn't needed with the dogs on hand and the CX were free ranging wider and better than could be done with the netting unless I was to move it all the time, which I was getting tired of doing.
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    One big problem with netting is that grass, weeds, and such grow up into it and short it out. Weed whackers are murder on the netting. I would not recommend netting in a woodlands setting. It’s more of an open field thing. And you need to move it often or find a way to manage the grass or weeds grounding it out. Just leaves blowing in the wind can stack up against it and when they get wet, it’s grounded.

    As I said earlier, there are many different ways to run it, but I was envisioning a 5’ high 2x4 welded wire fence with a couple of hot wires on insulators on the outside. The 2x4 wire would be set up as the ground.
     
  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I use electrified poultry netting of two brands to be fair. First by Premiere and second Kencove. No preference at this time. The 48" tall variety works well when hens have limited capacity for flight. Clip wings to suppress flight if need be, clipping both properly does better than one. Quarter acre will require roughly two 164 foot lengths of fencing. If going with poultry netting, then use a heavier charger. The shorting out issue mentioned above can be a real issue so I set fence up so it can be moved easily so I can mow ground tightly underneath to control shorting. Then move fence back. Some people use herbicide to suppress shorting by vegetation. My mowing takes an additional 15 to 30 minutes each time. For nearly six months of year shorting by weeds minimal. Snow can be problematic. You may need to be careful of placement relative to trees to prevent critters like Gray Fox from beating fence. Still make certain birds secure in roost during day. Protection from raptors generally not provided by the netting as I describe.

    Darker option less visible in dark background but not what I would call low visibility.
     

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