What makes a coop "Fort Knox" predator proof?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by zndzant, Oct 7, 2016.

  1. zndzant

    zndzant Chirping

    Sep 6, 2013
    Hi everyone!

    Reading here, I see we all have predator issues, which vary greatly depending on where we live. I'm in Southeast MI(60 miles N of Detroit) in a rural area. Our main predators are fox, coyote, hawks, owls, opossum, and skunks, and the ever popular raccoon. Snakes are generally not an issue, although we do have garter snakes(those are the only ones I've ever seen.)

    This is my first year having chickens and I have built my coop as close to predator proof as I believe it can be, and was wondering what everyone else considers to be "Fort Knox" safe.

    I covered the eaves with 1/4" hardware cloth attached with screws and fender washers.
    The windows and one pop door(that isn't used) are also covered on the inside in the same manner.
    The coop is 4x8, 2 1/2' off the ground, so it would be hard for anything to get in from underneath the coop.
    The run surrounds 3 sides of the coop, total dimensions are 16'x16' with 4' of one end comprised of the coop itself. This is completely covered in 1/2" hardware cloth again attached with screws and fender washers.
    The top of the run is 2x4's attached to the coop and top edge of the run walls with joist hangers screwed in, and completely covered in 1/2" hardware cloth as well.
    There are no openings in the hardware cloth larger than 1/2" anywhere.
    Not done yet , but to be finished before the weather gets cold is a 2' skirt of 1/2" hardware cloth attached along the bottom 2x4 of the run walls again with screws and fender washers to prevent diggers from getting in.
    So far, so good.

    My weak points, that I can see are the window sash locks on the back doors. IF anything got in they could easily undo them. My plan to remedy this is to attach something to the door handles that will prevent them from opening even if the sash locks are undone. Like a chain through them with a lock or something
    There is space around the gate to the run, that the hardware cloth extends over an opening greater than 1/2" to allow the door to swing in all weather. This is mainly along the latch side. My plan to counter this is to screw a 3-4" strip of plywood the length of the sash side, on the outside that will act as a "stop" and also cover the gap. Sorry I don't have a picture of the gate.

    Here are a few pics to illustrate.

    Now, please share what you have done to build "Fort Knox" and also suggest what you would do differently if you were me( or other posters as the case may be.) Maybe we can all get some tips and tricks that will help us keep our cheeps safe. :)



  2. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich Enabler

    Apr 6, 2014
    Melrose Park Illinois
    You did an EXCELLENT JOB. There is no such thing as totally predator proof, but you come very close. The predators you list should be well deterred. If you did encounter bears, well, they can overcome most things short of Alcatras. The other lil devils are the weasels martins, and mink type predators. Hope you don't have those in your area. About the only thing I would add would be a Hot Wire Electric fence. Wait and see if you need one. The most important is to look up your chickens for the night. That is when most predator attacks occur.
  3. JenniferCNY

    JenniferCNY Chirping

    Aug 28, 2016
    Your set up looks great. I have what looks to be the same coop. I feel like I've been tempting fate with only having chicken wire on the run. Time to cover it in hardware cloth.

    Did you insulate your coop? I'm in central NY state. How cold are your winters?
    Annie Blair likes this.
  4. Folly's place

    Folly's place Crossing the Road

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Very nice! I added1"x4" boards, screwed in to the framing, over the top of the hardware cloth, and 2"x4" woven wire over the bottom four ft. for more security. Mary[​IMG]


  5. Howard E

    Howard E Crowing

    Feb 18, 2016
    Fort Knox? I think you are close to it. If everyone did that well BYC's predator forum wouldn't see much traffic. A good thing. (well maybe not for BYC, but it would be for growers and their birds)

    So what else to do? With little shade, you can expect your birds to hang out under the coop 90% of the time. That will become a mud hole in short order, if not already. We have a neighbor near us who must keep 20 or 30 birds in a house not much larger than yours.......large fenced yard, but no shade. In the middle of the day ALL of those birds can be seen camped under his elevated coop. They sit there in a huddle, looking out.

    So maybe consider concrete pavers under there to keep the birds and such off the muddy ground, as well as thwart rats from living under that area in tunnels (assuming rats might be an issue in your area.....).

    Next issue for you will be to decide what to cover your run floor with. As runs go, yours is pretty large, but the birds will still strip it of anything green in short order. So be thinking about what you want to put down to get them up off the ground, and what to cover it with to prevent a muddy smelling mess. This also has implications if you do put down something like deep litter. You may want to consider installing some type of band boards around the perimeter to keep it in. That might be 5/4 treated deck boards on edge. But you can put that on after the apron goes on so as to cap it.

    But all things considered, you did a good job and are off to a great start!
    Sequel and Cre8tivechik like this.
  6. FlyWheel

    FlyWheel Crowing

    Mar 19, 2016
    35.111165 -81.226586
    My Coop
    10" deep concrete slab floor, steel reinforced cinder block walls and a metal roof.That should keep them safe from just about everything.
  7. zndzant

    zndzant Chirping

    Sep 6, 2013
    Thank you. We do have the occasional weasel/mink here. Neighbor across the road lost some cheeps last winter when one got in her coop. :( I do lock mine up at night, but leave the covered/unused pop door, and the windows open all night during summer. What can be done to keep weasels out?

    I built it from a plan I bought online. It's called The Daisy Coop. So far I like it, but there are a couple things I would already change if I could. Lol I did not insulate the coop. Everything I've read says they don't need it. Just keep them dry and draft free. That said,I do plan to put up Styrofoam insulation under the floor of the coop and the nest box and cover it with plywood just to give some added protection to the floor. We have occasional days below zero but usually not for more than 24 hours. High teens to low 30's normally.

    Yeah, I would say you're tempting fate with just chicken wire,that's one thing I learned from reading here on BYC when I was still in the planning stage,but it's expensive. I have more $ into hardware cloth than a lot of people have in their entire coop! But if you can afford it, definitely replace with hardware cloth. Even if it's just a roll at a time.

    Thank you! I have 8 pullets and a cockerel. They haven't totally reduced the run to mud yet, but is is starting to smell when it rains. We have 5 old maple trees in our front yard that shed tons of leaves in the fall,as well as several pine trees. I was thinking that instead of running over them with the lawn mower mulcher and scattering them, I would start putting them in the run. I hadn't yet worked out how to keep them in there! I like the idea of boards around the bottom. That's probably what I'll do.:)
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2016
  8. JenniferCNY

    JenniferCNY Chirping

    Aug 28, 2016
    @zndzant I have the daisy coop also but I paid to have it built. Fortunately money isn't an issue for buying the hardware cloth. Just procrastination. But I know if something happens I will be devastated.

    I like that yours only has one nesting box. We have both sides with the boxes and they NEVER lay in one side.

    I agree on the insulation. We will put some on the floor and cover it with more flooring and the bedding that we use.

    What do you use for roosting poles? We use a wide dowel but thinking of changing to 2×2 board.
  9. Cre8tivechik

    Cre8tivechik In the Brooder

    Jul 18, 2016
    Amazing job! My husband worked in a maximum security prison for years, so he was my go to. We buried the wire cloth about a 1' 1/2 deep. We poured concrete for the inner coops. Security is certainly a concern! We live in the middle of the woods in Idaho. You have to try and think like a varmint! You've pretty well nailed it! Best of luck to you!
  10. zndzant

    zndzant Chirping

    Sep 6, 2013

    My roosting poles are 2x4's with the wide side up. The roosting boards are the same as the plan except that I made them about 3" wider because I was afraid that they would miss the board at width they were designed. I will say that this makes them quite a bit heavier to take in and out so I've filled them with sweet pdz and just scoop it daily like a cat litter box.

    Thank you! I had originally planned to bury the wire as well, but it was just me and my parents, who are both in their late 70's, who built this and we all just ran out of steam! Weve been working on this since the beginning of May! So the skirting of wire will have to suffice. :)
    I would imagine living where you do that you get the occasional bear or big cat? I wouldn't even know how to begin fortifying for those types of predators. But I bet it sure is beautiful out there. :)

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