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chicken security

 
Posts: 13
Location: Fergus, Ontario, Canada
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In our area we have mice, voles, wolves, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, squirrels, and hawks. .  I'm hoping someone can comment on our coop security needs... did we miss anything?  

Our coop is raised two feet off the ground on a trailer bed, clad with roofing steel on the outside, with insulated plywood walls inside, the windows are screened with 1/2" hardware cloth.  I've searched high and low for any openings, it seems very secure.  The coop has an automatic door with a ramp into a covered run, roofed with more  of the recycled barn steel, and screened with 1/2" hardware cloth. I've made a skirt of chicken wire around the run, secured with long fence staples.  

The run opens into a 12' x 40' gated chicken yard, which we've fenced with 4" hardware cloth.  The chicken yard is set tight against the treeline and surrounded by trees on all sides, to deter hawks.  The idea is that we will leave the gate to the sheltered run open during the day, to give the chooks free range of the larger yard, and they can use the smaller run as needed for shade/ rain and snow cover.

There is a lively debate in my home about the need to run a chicken wire skirt around the whole chicken yard, to use 1/2" hardware cloth to close up the gaps in the lower part of the whole fence (to keep mice and little raccoon hands out), and/or to run wires along the top of the yard as extra protection to the hawks.  Do these measures seem like overkill, with the rest of the coop and run secured?
 
pollinator
Posts: 933
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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I'd string fishing line or netting over top of the run.  The hawks in Kitchener know that they can just drop from the tree onto the chicken, so if word gets around in the hawk community you may experience that.  

I had an automatic door, the Pullet Shut, and it was a life changer, lol.  I initially had it set to open and close dawn and dusk, but I had to delay the morning opening because a raccoon figured it out.  When the sun was up a little more before it opened I never had another issue.
 
Ida Schwartz
Posts: 13
Location: Fergus, Ontario, Canada
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Good advice about the setting the door to open a bit late... thanks!   And good to know about Kitchener hawks, we see hawks all the time here and maybe they've learned tricks from their nearby cousins lol.  We set the fence posts to be six feet high so that if we need to enclose it we don't have to stoop to walk through/ clean...so lots of room for netting.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 308
Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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Coons:  anything your fist can fit through, a coon can fit through.  Chicken wire WILL be shredded by a coon.   Coons will climb any wire that is not electrified. Stand back and look at the perimeter, is there anything that can be used to circumvent your defenses - tree, fence, shrub, vehicle, storage bin...

Rats/Mice: will dig under, unless excluded by mesh buried or brought out at least two fett from base of enclosure. Can fit through anything a quarter or nickle will fit through. Will climb any mesh not electrified.

Birds of prey: netting, mesh, or sting lines 2 inches apart to safeguard from aerial attack.
 
pollinator
Posts: 383
Location: Canadian Prairies - Zone 3b
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You're obviously not taking chances. Good. My only thought: I wasn't clear if your bigger run had the fencing sunk below grade to deter digging.
 
master pollinator
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Location: Vermont, USA
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Did you say that the chicken yard is enclosed with 4" hardware cloth?  So, if the openings are 4" it's like fencing for larger livestock.  I doubt that will keep animals out.  You might add the 1/2" HW cloth along the lower part of that fencing.  Raccoons like to reach in and pull off the chickens' heads.  Charming, eh?

Bird netting could go a long way to deter the birds of prey, but in winter it won't hold up to heavy snow.  It droops and tears.  But perhaps the hens won't be out in the yard in winter?

Everyone tells us that an electrified perimeter is the way to go, and some barrier from above.
 
pollinator
Posts: 372
Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
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Maybe we've been lucky, but we have not had any issue with predator losses of our hens except one coyote raid when it was really snowy a couple years ago.  And we have a minimum security setup for the hens, not a Ft Knox like setup you all are discussing.

I did lose a few meat chickens to ravens a few years ago.  Last year at least by keeping broad-breasted turkeys with them the ravens stayed away, even with little or no other measures taken to keep them out.
 
pollinator
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I think you are going to be fine. If you can't tolerate losses at all, they need to be indoors. I have no idea how to keep a weasel out for instance, and they are sport killers. The only hawk kill so far was in a wide paddock, narrow paddocks have been very successful. Ground-based predators

There are so many predators with different tricks I shoot for a few losses a year from a dozen birds. I will say if you raise your own I think you will select for survival traits and have less trouble in future years. The main mortality we have had (admittedly NOT in Canada) has been foxes. They haven't eaten one, just grabbed through the electric net and let it go after getting zapped. At this point based on the footprints in the snow, the foxes are "trained" and give it wide berth.

I do think electricity is far far more effective than static fencing. A 36" fence will keep out anything but a mountain lion. Maybe even that because it is psychological.
 
gardener
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Where I live raccoons and possums  are nocturnal unless something is wrong with them.
Rats, mice and voles are of no danger to any of my mature chickens as long as they are awake.
Based on that,  my chicken yard is fenced against dogs and  coyotes, with 4" or even larger openings.
The hens are in the coop by dusk,  and the coop has no openings bigger than 1/2".
When I had a combination coop/run, only the bottom 2 feet of fencing had 1/2" sized openings,  just to sure that raccoons couldn't spook them into reach.
The rest was chain link and such, but I wasn't worried about rat sized predators at that time.

I don't have a lot of hawk pressure but If I did I would try wires,  chicken wire or snowfencing overhead.
I do have a lot of natural cover for the hens, mostly for shade/food.

 
Posts: 74
Location: North Carolina
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Possums are the danger at my place. Nothing like opening the door and finding your fave giant cochin hen gutted and beheaded. My rooster had been killed two weeks before. Now I have a pair of geese who patrol the yard. The other night I saw a possum on my security camera coming up the driveway toward the back yard.  By the time I got out the door, down the steps and around the house the possum was coming back down the drive. Gandolf and Galadriel were at the back gate, wings open, raising hell. Cleopatra was sitting on the fence watching the whole scene play out. Pretty sure I head her purr.. "Nicely done" to the geese.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1482
Location: Victoria BC
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Mink or other weasel family types are the big thing that comes to mind. Are you sure you don't have any of these around? Because they will not even notice a fence with 4" openings as an impediment...

In my experiences at several sites, they will hunt in broad daylight unless there is a reason(dogs) not to.
 
Andrew Mayflower
pollinator
Posts: 372
Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
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AngelinaGianna Maffeo wrote:Possums are the danger at my place. Nothing like opening the door and finding your fave giant cochin hen gutted and beheaded. My rooster had been killed two weeks before. Now I have a pair of geese who patrol the yard. The other night I saw a possum on my security camera coming up the driveway toward the back yard.  By the time I got out the door, down the steps and around the house the possum was coming back down the drive. Gandolf and Galadriel were at the back gate, wings open, raising hell. Cleopatra was sitting on the fence watching the whole scene play out. Pretty sure I head her purr.. "Nicely done" to the geese.



My German Shepherd was going nuts when let outside to pee before bed time a month or so ago.  Went out to where he was and discovered an opossum trying to set up residence under a pile of branches.  Evicted it with the 20ga.  In the morning when I cleaned up the carcass I realized it was a female with LOTS of babies.  Lost count, but there had to be over a dozen, thankfully mostly dead from the cold overnight temps.  Last thing I needed is an opossum family setting up residence right next to the chicken's area.  
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I did forget to mention my dog, who , while hardly a trained livestock guardian , certainly acts as deterrent.
She has killed rats, and possums and and fought racoons.
She is hardly any bigger than a big racoon herself , but don't tell her that!
I always call her off of racoons , lest she get really hurt, but she has drug one out of the coop on one occasion and down off the fence a couple of times.

In fairness, she did kill one of our chickens,but since then she has mostly just enjoyed startling them.

 
Anne Pratt
master pollinator
Posts: 327
Location: Vermont, USA
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Tj Jefferson, can you say more about narrow paddocks?  My chickens are outside all day (except when the terrifying white stuff covers the ground, freaking everyone out) and our only clear danger is hawks, since our coop is more or less Fort Knox.  We consider meat birds (not free ranging) but don't want to make them into little targets.
 
steward
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Anne Pratt wrote:

Everyone tells us that an electrified perimeter is the way to go, and some barrier from above.



Tj Jefferson wrote: I do think electricity is far far more effective than static fencing.



I'll give a nod to electric fence, it's what I use with great results. So good, I have not lost a chicken to a four legged predator since first using it some five years ago. I use portable electric net style fence. It's cost effective, and can easily be moved. Electric fence works great when 1) the energizer is not undersized and has enough oomph to hurt, 2) the energizer has adequate grounding. I think that fence energizers that are advertised as "up to 7 miles" or "up to 16 miles" is not an accurate way to size them. I think to myself "7 miles of what? One strand? Five strands? Slick wire? Poly Wire?" All those different scenarios put different load on a fence energizer even if they're all 7 miles long. All fence energizers have an output rated in joules, and that's what sets one apart from another. Joules is the energy, the "punch" that an electric fence will provide. Weak energizers (like 0.15 or 0.25 joule) may be good for keeping tame animals within confines, such as a pet horse for example. (Just for an example I looked at an energizer on tractor supplies website just now, marketed as for up to 18 miles, but with a 0.2 joule output. Not adequate against hungry predators in my opinion). Keeping hungry and opportunistic predators out of confines requires an effective pain barrier. I currently have a 1 joule energizer servicing three 100ft lengths of electric net. If I'm not paying attention it will zap me through my boots, and it hurts. I can imagine what it must feel like on the nose of a raccoon or fox or coyote that is not wearing any boots. When electric fences hurt badly, animals remember, and they rarely, if ever, try a fence a second time.

My electric fence has been great. I have been fortunate with little aerial predation on my adult birds. I have big, heavy 6-8 lb hens like orpingtons and brahmas, too big for a hawk to carry off, but I imagine if times got lean they would stick around and eat one on the ground. I did one day earlier this spring set my automatic coop door timer too early, and the door opened when it was still dark, just before twilight, and I lost a hen to what I believe an owl. The entire neck and head were gone, severed cleanly with just 5 or 6 feathers on the ground and the body untouched. Never seen anything like it before.

 
Douglas Alpenstock
pollinator
Posts: 383
Location: Canadian Prairies - Zone 3b
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James Freyr wrote:Electric fence works great when 1) the energizer is not undersized and has enough oomph to hurt, 2) the energizer has adequate grounding.

... and I lost a hen to what I believe an owl. The entire neck and head were gone, severed cleanly with just 5 or 6 feathers on the ground and the body untouched. Never seen anything like it before.


Agree, a deep ground rod is essential. If the soil around the rod dries out, it insulates the system and the fence loses its bite.

I remember the owl scenario growing up. Exactly the same clues at the crime scene.
 
Posts: 154
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How did people manage before electricity? It's been only 200 years since man started to harness it. I am just curious, in general, to know how people managed without electrical fences.
 
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