Should I replace part-time free ranging with another outdoor run?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Spikes Chooks, Jan 9, 2014.

  1. Spikes Chooks

    Spikes Chooks Songster

    Sep 10, 2012
    Sydney, Australia
    I have 4 hens, 16 months old, 1 each of RIR, Australorp, Barnevelder & Silver Campine. In addition to their coop & nesting boxes, they have 8 m2 permanent run with river sand, protected including roof with snake & mouse-proof level netting, buried in the ground and right under the floor (under the sand) for fox/dog protection. I let them out for 3-4 hours in the afternoons to free range in the garden, as our veggie patch is protected by a full enclosure. However, we now have two 5 month old Bengal kittens and we are not doing well at keeping the peace in the afternoons. I thought the kittens would get bored with chasing them. Hoped they would get a serious peck when little and avoid the chooks. Continually supervise and generally protect the chickens. It's just not working! Two days ago, it was lucky I was close enough to stop the two kittens ganging up on the RIR, who they had cornered. I fear I am going to end up with an injured or dead chicken. They are stressed and off the lay (0-1 per day now instead of the usual 2-3 eggs). I love them dearly and feel bad about it all. I have been naive to think it would sort itself out - it hasn't.

    Plan B is to add another run for the girls to go out into in the afternoons. It would add about another 16-18 m2 of garden (so dirt and plants - I'll move anything they can wreck). I plan to still lock them in each night in their permanent run, so it needn't be fox proof - but does need to be cat proofed. I am thinking of getting OH to concrete in posts to hold chicken wire netting on all sides, including the roof (these cats can really jump). The cheapest netting seems to be 1800mm in 50m rolls, 1mm wire with holes 50mm hex diameter. Will this be up to the job?

    I will leave the dirt as floor - should I add in sugar cane mulch for them to dig through/entice insects? Should I sprinkle dolomite lime around to reduce smells? (I clear poop from their coop & sand run daily). I can add an additional outside roost for them and there is an area of bracken fern they like to use for shade or cover. I currently give them a breakfast wet mash, then greens from the garden at lunchtime, then let them out about 3.30. So, yes they are pampered. Instead, I thought I would let them into the garden run and add greens about 3.00pm each day (dusk/bedtime is currently 7.45pm).

    The Silver Campine is by far the least tolerant of confinement (which I knew when I got her). Whilst I think the others will grumble about not getting access to the whole garden, she will shriek for hours....... From yesterday, I am not letting them out till the garden run is finished. She didn't shriek too badly yesterday - I suspect they are all happier to feel safe in the run, but it may not last. Is the kindest thing to find another home for her? I wonder if her distress at not free-ranging will make the others more distressed than they would be otherwise. It will be 2-3 weeks before we can get the gardne run built. Should I leave it till that is built and hope she is satisfied with the afternoons in that?

    Apologies for the long post. I feel I have created this bad situation and seek any advice on how to do the best I can for my 4 lovely hens.

  2. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member 9 Years

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Having an additional run to rotate them into will help. Electric fencing around the runs will teach the kittens and other predators to stay away.

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