Please assist me in choosing the best option to protect my hens.

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Kafka, Mar 24, 2012.

  1. Chicken Ark x 2

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  2. Portable Electric Netting, 48" x 50'

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  3. 32' x 32' Dog Run Reinforced with Electric Fence

    2 vote(s)
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  4. Other

    2 vote(s)
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  1. Kafka

    Kafka New Egg

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    Mar 24, 2012
    I think I'm losing it weighing all the options, and could use some help from experienced chicken owners before I try again to raise a larger flock.

    Had four barred Plymouth rocks, that I was crazy about. A week before they turned one year, a red fox ate three. We now have one, as well as a new Partridge Rock friend (full-grown). Was planning on getting six chicks and two ducklings this week, for a total of ten birds.

    We live in the suburbs (Long Island, NY), with quite a lot of woods. I know we have foxes (obviously), raccoons, possums, stray cats, owls, and hawks.

    The girls are kept in a shed coop at night (locked), and until the attack, split their days between a 32x32 food dog run in the backyard woods, and free-ranging in the lawn and shrubbed front yard (they had a favorite low tree they liked to roost in). The hens being able to forage is important to us, as high-quality eggs were really the primary motivation in keeping the chickens. We're currently allowing the two remaining hens out of the coop only with supervision by our two dogs (Welsh Pembroke corgis), but the dogs bark and our neighbors would prefer this not to be a long-term solution.

    Obviously, I want to protect the chickens, and I've been mulling over the options over and over again, without clear resolution as to best course to take.

    Option 1: We could build a chicken ark, as per http://catawbacoops.com/. Pros are good access to bugs and protection from hawks. Cons are restricted movement (even building two, it looks crowded for ten birds), worry about digging predators (foxes?), lumber cost, and time required to build.

    Option 2: Premier1 PoultryPlus electric netting (48" x 50'), which I could arrange in my yard, either front or back. Pros are ease of setting up and the fact that it's the cheapest option, as well as the fact that it should protect from foxes, cats, etc. Cons are that I'd worry about hawks , as including shrubs in the net would be tricky without risking a short. Major con is worry about the safety of my younger kids (6, 9 years). Touching an electric fence isn't dangerous, but tripping and falling on one, or getting tangled in one, could be lethal according to the company. My kids aren't stupid, but I admit that scares the pants off of me.

    Option 3: Wiring the 32x32' dog run in the woods with Premier1 insulators and electric low-tensile wire. Pros are that the issue of falling on the fence or getting tangled in it is zero, since the wiring would be attached to a permanent structure. I can put concrete below the fence to discourage digging and a net above to protect against hawks, although animals that climb could still get in my climbing the surrounding trees and then dropping down (now I'm wondering if I'm just getting paranoid, since these presumably aren't Navy SEAL raccoons or whatever :) ). Cons are that there aren't really bugs in the dog run to forage any more...the chickens have basically cleaned it out. So we'd be feeding them scraps and feed, which makes me wonder if it kind of defeats the point of having chickens for healthy eggs. As a location in the woods, I also would need to work to keep the vegetation around the fence clear on a regular basis to avoid shorts.

    I've weighed the pros and cons a thousand times, and am beginning to wonder if this predator problem is causing so much stress that I should just give up and not start anew with chickens. I would value others' perspectives on this problem. Thanks in advance!
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2012
  2. Baymule

    Baymule Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Too bad your neighbors complain about the dogs-they would be your best protection! I live in town, just blocks from city hall in our small town, but we have hawks, eagles, raccoons, possums and feral cats. I have a Great Pyrenees that does not even let a songbird light in the yard. And yes, she barks, mostly at night-a big booming bark. [​IMG]After years of being disturbed by other's barking dogs, i am lulled to sleep by the BOOM-BOOM deep sound of her earth shattering BARKS!

    The yard is HERS. Nothing and I mean Nothing gets in HER yard. [​IMG]

    I have no experience with electric fencing, so cannot help you with that. Please don't give up on chickens, they have so many rewards.
     
  3. Kafka

    Kafka New Egg

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    Mar 24, 2012
    Thanks! Even corgis? My alpha male is a great barker/protector. My submissive one is a bit of a wimp. Hard to imagine either one standing up to a fox, though. Is it just the scent that discourages?
     
  4. BuffOrpington88

    BuffOrpington88 Non-Stop

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    Have you thought about using 1/4 hardware cloth? It might not be economical with a large run, but it works very well.
     
  5. Kafka

    Kafka New Egg

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    Mar 24, 2012
    1/4 hardware cloth on the perimeter of the dog run? Is that sufficient to be fox and cat proof? Thanks! I'll look into it.
     
  6. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

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    I have used all the methods you outlined with varying levels of success. A chicken ark was how I started out, but the space was limited and when the flock grew it needed to be replaced. I use the portable electric poultry netting and love it, but it is not feasible in this climate as a long term option. It also is not very secure on its own. Birds fly over it and bigger predators can leap over it. I combined the netting with running electric tape at head height and had better luck until the snow buried parts of the fence rendering them useless. I now keep my birds in a secure run of welded wire, hardware cloth, and deer netting over the top. The whole perimeter of the fence is surrounded by a electric poultry net as a second line of defense. This has worked well. I allow the birds a couple hours of free-range each evening before bed when I can watch them.

    Unfortunately, if you are going to free-range you are going to lose birds. Period. I plan for a certain number of predation losses each year when I plan the upcoming year's flock. Some years I make out better than others. Last year I got nailed, but in previous years I have made out alright. You are going to need to weigh your needs against the need for flock safety, and come up in some kind of middle ground.

    Good luck.
     
  7. LIBERTYNY

    LIBERTYNY Out Of The Brooder

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    I am on Long Island myself ( south sure brookhaven) and free range myself with a secure coop I let my chickens out about a hour after sunrise and away at dusk. My major predator is red fox we have ratcons possum owls hawks and stray dogs. The hawks are to small to take a adult chicken. The owls/coons/possum mainly hunt at knight and have not ben any problem.

    I hope this helps you good luck
     
  8. Kafka

    Kafka New Egg

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    Mar 24, 2012
    Thanks for your comments.

    CMV: is there any reason why one cannot attach deer netting/fishing line to deter hawks to the top of the electric net? I'm most seriously considering the 50' one, due to the size of my yard. That's only 12x12, approximately, which would be a reasonable distance to string something (I apologize if this is a stupid question, but I've never seen the electric net in person). Also, you said that predators could jump over. The Premier1 net I'm looking at is 48". Can a full-grown fox really make a leap over a four foot fence? Of course he may collapse it trying, which wouldn't keep the girls safe either.

    LibertyNY: good to hear the only major predator to worry about is foxes during the day (the girls are in the converted shed coop at night). That suggests to me that concentrating on the hardware/electric combo that CMV suggests may be more critical than concentrating on predators that come from the air and trees. If so, the dog run is still an option.

    I've decided against the ark and unprotected free range ideas, so now it's just a question of the electric netting vs. dog run. To examine the question more clearly, today I cleared the entire perimeter of the run of vegetation. Things grow on Long Island like crazy, at least where I'm at, and I think cementing a path around the run will be the only way to keep it from shorting an electric wire.
     
  9. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

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    I used fishing line across the top of my run attached to tall stakes. A 48" high fence...a fox, coyote, and bobcat won't even break a sweat sailing over that. I can say this with absolute assurance because I lost a duck last year to a coyote that jumped the fence. The coyote couldn't make it back over the fence with the bird in its mouth and ended up ripping about 20 feet of the fence right out of the ground, but that was the last I saw of him that year. I am sure that fence gave him quite a wallop. The fence is quite flimsy, but packs a mean punch.
     
  10. Kafka

    Kafka New Egg

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    Mar 24, 2012
    If a fox can easily jump a 48" fence, then I have no idea why Premier1 claims the fence is "fox-proof."

    If that's true, then I really have no option other than the dog run. It's 60", and I could put an electric line on top, maybe a few horizontally on the perimeter, and cement the bottom to address digging. Plus a net on top. Plus hardware cloth on the sides. And free-range them only with my close supervision.

    Remind me of why I want chickens, again?

    Maybe it's better to have a pet fox.
     

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