Predator Proofing in Advance

Waters-flock

Chirping
Premium Feather Member
Dec 17, 2020
72
169
96
Central Texas Hill Country
Sorry for the long message in advance. We recently moved from a large city to a rural location in Central Texas and are getting ready to add chicks in February. I am putting together two chicken coops and I am busy gathering information to make these coops as predator-proof as possible before the girls arrive. We have ten acres and have been told (and seen) many, many predators in our area. (hawks, snakes, foxes, coyotes, racoons, opossums, rats, and the list continues).

My plan is to put the two coops (each has a small secure run attached) in a large area about an acre away from my house. The plan is to put both coops inside a larger enclosed area to give the chicks more freedom during the day. I wanted this large run-type area to be as predator-proof as possible, which leads to my questions:
1) How do I secure this larger run? I was going to make a fence with hardware cloth but my original plan was not to fully enclose the entire area. I am going to put down a perimeter border with rocks but I am not as worried about digging predators because most of our ground has bedrock very close to the surface and digging isn't all easy. Flying predators are a big concern but I read (here, of course) that if I string cables across the top in a random pattern, this will help with that type of predator. That leaves all the rest - many predators can climb right over a fence. Do I enclose the entire larger run completely or just put a fence around the area, leaving the top open? Because the coops will be inside this larger run, any roof will have to be high enough for me to enter, since I need to access the two coops.
2) Do electric fences work and is that something I should consider? I am also going to put up solar powered motion detector lights - there is no power to the coop area.
3) I hope that the coops will secure the hens at night but I want to give them a secure place to wander during the daytime.

Any other suggestions anyone can offer would really be appreciated. I am clearly already chick-crazy before I even see my girls. I just want to do whatever I can up front to make this a safe home for them. Thanks in advance!
 

cmom

Hilltop Farm
14 Years
Nov 18, 2007
29,346
29,459
901
Florida
My Coop
My Coop
:welcome :frow It is good you are planning first. I don't have electric fences but do have electric wires around my coops and pens. Nothing messes with the electric wires. I have the electric wires around my coops and pens as I said, good heavy duty netting covering all of the pens and concrete under the gates all due to losses from predators in the past. I also have several game cameras up on my property. Some of the cameras are on posts that I can move around. Here is a family of coyotes. I do believe the adult predators teach the young that a chicken isn't worth getting zapped for. Ask any questions you have. You wtill probably some across other things of interest. Everyone here is ready to help. I have previously posted this video on other threads.
 

cmom

Hilltop Farm
14 Years
Nov 18, 2007
29,346
29,459
901
Florida
My Coop
My Coop
Some won't agree with this but my pens are large. I don't free range any more due to losses from predators in the past. I do open the gates now and then and the birds will come out briefly but very shortly will be back in their pens where they feel safe. My land is mostly open pasture so there is no places for the birds to run to and hide. If you do plan to free range this website may help you. Good luck and have fun...
http://www.plamondon.com/wp/faq-simple-electric-fences-chickens/
 

Waters-flock

Chirping
Premium Feather Member
Dec 17, 2020
72
169
96
Central Texas Hill Country
Thanks - the video is very telling. Hubby thought the electric panels would be useful any time I wasn't visiting the chicks but since I know nothing about this stuff, I figured it would help to ask the experts. And yes, I have been reading up a storm because I figure it would be best to plan this stuff in advance, rather than wait to find out what mistakes I make.
 

Waters-flock

Chirping
Premium Feather Member
Dec 17, 2020
72
169
96
Central Texas Hill Country
Some won't agree with this but my pens are large. I don't free range any more due to losses from predators in the past. I do open the gates now and then and the birds will come out briefly but very shortly will be back in their pens where they feel safe. My land is mostly open pasture so there is no places for the birds to run to and hide. If you do plan to free range this website may help you. Good luck and have fun...
http://www.plamondon.com/wp/faq-simple-electric-fences-chickens/
I have room to allow the chickens to free range but, to be honest, I am too nervous. I would rather just build a large area for the chicks to wander around that is secure. Maybe I can let them out once in awhile but only when I'm there. I know, I'm crazy already.
 

cmom

Hilltop Farm
14 Years
Nov 18, 2007
29,346
29,459
901
Florida
My Coop
My Coop
Sorry for all of the posts but as I have read you post, different things keep popping up in my head. Putting hardware cloth for your fencing will be quite expensive. I have chicken wire with welded wire. Nothing has penetrated it.
IMG_20200428_102816.jpg
 

cmom

Hilltop Farm
14 Years
Nov 18, 2007
29,346
29,459
901
Florida
My Coop
My Coop
A fox took my very special hen during the middle of the day. She would always come when I called her but didn't come so I knew something wasn't right so I went looking for her. I had been seeing a fox on my game cameras at night. I found feathers but never found her body. I cried and still think if only I had put her back into her pen while I was distracted. Live and learn... I did catch and eliminate the fox. I have seen other fox since.
DSCF0010 01.jpg
DSCF0012 22.jpg
 

cmom

Hilltop Farm
14 Years
Nov 18, 2007
29,346
29,459
901
Florida
My Coop
My Coop
Please keep us posted on your progress. Everyone is different with different situations and ways. It's always interesting to see how others do things. Again, good luck and have fun...
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
4,635
13,515
536
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Long posts are good, saves us the delay of asking lots of questions in response. Planning ahead is to be commended. You are already one step ahead of most.

I use a large hen house with two floors - 80 sq ft and about 105 sq ft (concrete board, livestock fencing, and hardware cloth), inside a large run (about 1,000 sq ft) of livestock fencing plus chicken wire, inside about 4.5 acres protected by an electric fence (5 wire, 3 hot, each wire is about 2/3 mile in length, charger is rated for "30 miles" - 1.2 joules. Hot wires are 6", 24", and 48" high, middle wires are tied to grounds, so contact between any two will get your attention). A second house and (larger) run is being constructed in an L around two sides of the first. The third side is my barn. As I drop small dead trees, I tend to lay them out along the outside of the fence as a digging deterrent - sandy clay soils make burying wire both impractical and expensive, the clay is quite corrosive to metals.

Its effective for ground based predators. I've taken several losses to aerial predators - its impractical to try and string wires over the 1.5 acres of open pasture, and I trust the remaining, under-brushed area, to provide camouflage. With some success.

If you are willing to take some losses, a set up like mine may be effective for you - two years ago, I was still living in the "Lost Pines" are of TX, we had similar predators. If the idea of losses really troubles you, for whatever reason, then I would recommend following @cmom's advice on set up - LOTS of experience there to learn from.
 

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