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What kind of fence for chicken paddock do you use?

 
Kevin MacBearach
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I tried chicken wire tied to the plastic posts I normally use for electric fence wire. Didn't work well at all. The plastic posts bent due to the weight of the wire and there were gaps at the bottom where chickens could squeeze out. Some flew over the top of the wire as well. I need something taller and less heavy. What's the stuff that Paul was using at the end of his article? I couldn't find any name for it. Or maybe there are other materials that are just as good.

Appreciate any suggestions.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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I just started using black plastic netting with metal t posts. I love the stuff as the t posts get reused for just about everything around here, I can attach electric wire to it if I want to, the netting is also flexible and mobile.

I just took another pic of a relatively new pen - I'll try to post it tonight.

Also, I have about 4 or 5 inches of it 'dragging' the ground and I put a board or brick on it to hold it down. This is done to the inside of the pen so the babies don't squeeze out under it.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Interesting. What' the name of the netting, or what's it's original purpose? Did you get it at a hardware store, or Home Depot? T-posts seem a bit heavy to move around, even if it's just once a week, and I'm assuming that you use pieces of wire to connect the netting to the posts? I wonder if there's a lighter weight post that would be as sturdy as a t-post.

How long have you been doing the paddocks like this? Any downsides?

 
Craig Dobbelyu
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I'm using electric poultry netting from premier1 It's durable, easy to move and does a decent job of keeping the chickens in. A 6 week old bird can squeeze through if it wanted to but once they catch a zap they learn to obey it. I'm pleased with it so far. The only thing I'm having trouble with is the fact that I live on a very uneven ground so it takes a little more effort to keep the wires from making ground contact in some places.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Here is a shot of some pics I took today. The metal posts are pretty easy to pick up and move around. I have sandy soft soil though so it might not work for everyone.

I just hook the netting to the little hooks on the posts.

In the larger areas there are not bricks or logs on the bottom of the fence because the bigger birds don't seem to try to get under the fence.

I buy the netting at Lowes in the same section as the chain link and stock fencing.
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plastic netting for poultry pens
 
Julia Winter
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That black plastic netting is great for keeping chickens in, it just won't do a thing to slow down predators so you need some backup plan (typically canine, in my experience) to keep predators away from your birds. It also looks nice, being almost invisible at a distance. We used it for our chicken run in our back yard.

Once my dog died this past February, the rabbits started cutting little openings in the black plastic netting just so they could pass through the chicken run, as far as I can figure! This was when the hens were shut inside (they have a sizeable room inside where they stay through the winter). When I started letting them out, they kept wandering out into the yard until I found and repaired each and every opening made by bunnies. . .
 
David Hartley
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For a permanent fixture; 4x4 posts and inch square fabric works. Six (or more) feet high. If shorter, don't use a top plate for the fabric; so the chickens don't have something to fly up to.
 
Patrick McLendon
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The Premier1 electronet fencing works really well for my farm. I have the stakes with the double prongs and it is sturdy and has held up well.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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I stopped doing free-range a couple months ago and am trying out the movable paddock system for the health of the soil and grasses but also for my sanity. Don't want the chickens in the garden, among other things.

I made this coop with wheels and put 110' of 7' 5" high deer netting around it. I move it every week, or so. Unfortunately the chickens get out of this either by flying out, or going under, even though I have many stakes holding down the net. I've clipped a few wings but they still get out....

Another thing is the ground, especially where I have them now under the orchard trees, doesn't seem to react positively to the chicken's scratching on it. It got very dry and hard, whereas it used to be soft and moist, and had a lot more biological activity.

Lastly, the moving of the coop and netting to the next paddock is becoming tedious. There's got to be another way than this. Yesterday I moved the pigs, goats, and chickens to new fresh spots on the pasture. It took a fair amount of time that I would have rather be doing other things. The pigs and easy, the goats so-so, but the chickens takes lots of time and effort to get the set up right. And they still get out. Because of this, I'm investigating the "Korean Natural Farming" technique of the stationary coop that self cleans and provides it's own bugs and ferments. The quest continues.....
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Kevin MacBearach
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Couple more shots of the set up. I don't like how the chickens hang out in one spot, usually the spot closest to where they think I come to the coop with their food.
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Jay Green
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You might try using the deer netting around the garden instead of around the chickens. I've found it to be a much better use of fencing and the chickens don't fight so hard to get INTO the fence as they do to get OUT of it. In this effort you won't have to move the fence anymore and work is much reduced, the soils don't get compacted and over worked as they forage far and wide.

Learned that one years ago...easier to fence an animal out than in.
 
Kevin MacBearach
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Jay Green wrote:You might try using the deer netting around the garden instead of around the chickens. I've found it to be a much better use of fencing and the chickens don't fight so hard to get INTO the fence as they do to get OUT of it. In this effort you won't have to move the fence anymore and work is much reduced, the soils don't get compacted and over worked as they forage far and wide.

Learned that one years ago...easier to fence an animal out than in.


That's true. But there's a couple problems here where I am. First, my wife doesn't want chicken droppings everywhere. Second, and this is my biggest worry, there's a Christmas tree farm next to us that is regularly sprayed with Roundup, and the chickens were always trying to go over there to scratch around. So I don't really have a choice at this point. I have to find a contained system.
 
Con Elder
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I use that portable electrified netting as well. There's already an electric fence in field so i just put the crocodile clips on it. I use cardboard that surprisingly stays in place to keep grass from earthing wire; plastic pegs to hold down netting to keep hens in (any bit of a looping plastic peg will do); timber posts to support the frail plastic posts, tied together with some bicycle tubes.

My hen house can be hitched onto and moved around with tractor. It's a metal frame with metal sheeting mounted on the frame of an old trailer that was lying in the yard. When there was a builder here doing some other job he put it together for us. It has a small door in the back for them to go in and out, and a large door in the front for me to go in and out, about once a day to collect eggs and give them some fresh bedding material. Pretty low maintenance. Soil is so rich that i'm thinking of planting fruit in existing site after i move them.

I agree it's a bit of work setting it up somewhere else, but in fairness i suppose not too bad if you've a little help. Going to let them into areas i've planted with young trees next. Don't know if they're destructive with young trees? Might put up wire netting around them.

Not sure if my setup is any different to yours.
 
Alison Kouzmanoff
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I'm having a problem keeping my chickens in. My chickens are around 10 weeks old and at least one of them can fly over a 6.6' fence. I plan to solve the problem by clipping her wing, although I would rather not. Kevin MacBearach talks about his chickens flying over his 7.5' fence but in the other photos the fencing looks to be about 4' high. And electric netting is only about 4’ high. Why don’t the birds fly out?
 
Con Elder
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Two of mine occasionally fly out, so i let them fly back in as they like. One has stopped flying out herself, so it's actually just the one now. She follows me into house, around the yard and all. The dog does'nt mind her either, if anything he protects her as they both stay around the house, so it's fine. Spose if i lost one, i'd consider clipping wings, but i quite like them having that bit of freedom. Most of time they stay in their enclosure anyway.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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Alison Kouzmanoff wrote:I'm having a problem keeping my chickens in. My chickens are around 10 weeks old and at least one of them can fly over a 6.6' fence. I plan to solve the problem by clipping her wing, although I would rather not. Kevin MacBearach talks about his chickens flying over his 7.5' fence but in the other photos the fencing looks to be about 4' high. And electric netting is only about 4’ high. Why don’t the birds fly out?


Some breeds are more likely to fly than others. Heavy birds tend to stay on the ground. Although I think that any very motivated chicken could fly over the electric net, most stay inside because that's just where they want to be. That's where the good food and water is. That's where the cozy egg laying places are. It's also the place where all of their friends are at. Perhaps the reasons why chickens routinely escape is because they don't like something about where they are at or the "grass is greener on the other side".

Try to find out what motivates and enables them and then work on those things.

My chickens usually stay in the fence but they woke up two days ago to find they were now sharing their paddock with two piglets. All was well until the piglets woke up and went to investigate the chickens. In two seconds all the hens were airborne. Only two went over the fence, while the other 15 ended up in or on their coop. Within about 15 minutes all was quiet again. They just needed a few minutes to get to know each other.

 
Kevin MacBearach
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I think the next type of coop I'll build will be a permanent one with a roof on it and a deep little floor. Like someone said, chickens aren't ruminants, they shouldn't be grazing in paddocks. And after trying them on the pasture, I can't see any benefit to the land after passing them over it in a paddock.
 
Julia Winter
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I think one of the points of chickens in pasture is for them to follow the larger animals, like the pigs and the goats. I remember reading about Joel Salatin's farm and how the chickens are sent into the pasture exactly X days after the cows, so the maggots in the cow piles are big and juicy. They break up the droppings, spreading them out, which I figure is good for the pasture.

My own hens lived mostly on deep litter, albeit without IMO's (I would like to learn how to cultivate those!). I would let them out more or less depending on how much energy I had for cleaning up after them. (This is a suburban yard, so they're doing things like kicking mulch all over the place.) We fastened plastic clamps to the fence posts in their run, so I would dig a big handful of dandelions (or some other weed) and attach them in a bunch to the posts. I found that they could eat the leaves much more efficiently if they were anchored--when I just tossed in the plants, they would try to eat them and end up flipping them all over the place.

I've found that if I let them out in the late afternoon or early evening, they don't do as much damage and I can close them in again once they go in to roost. Maybe you could let the chickens out for short periods of time late in the day and they'll just run from pile to pile and leave your mulch/garden/porch alone.
 
Jay Green
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:I think the next type of coop I'll build will be a permanent one with a roof on it and a deep little floor. Like someone said, chickens aren't ruminants, they shouldn't be grazing in paddocks. And after trying them on the pasture, I can't see any benefit to the land after passing them over it in a paddock.


The benefits to the land from chickens comes slower than with ruminants but it definitely comes. After a few years you notice the lawn/pasture is a deeper, more lush growth and the nuisance bug life is not so prevalent, the earthworms are more drawn to the nitrogenous droppings that are dispersed into the grass with the rains of spring and fall. It's slower, but it definitely shows up.

I had chickens ranging on my land way before I got ruminants and could see the increased benefit to the orchard and pasture starting to show up already....adding the sheep just completed the picture. Both animals step lightly on the land, do not pug grass crowns or overgraze the pasture and their droppings are smaller and more easily dispersed into the grasses and soils. They don't require as much water either, so less resources and food is required to keep them overall than in keeping cows or pigs and they do less damage to the soils and growth.

To me, hair sheep and chickens were the perfect combination to improve my orchard and pasture, while not being as work intensive or as expensive as other livestock. One perimeter fence contained both species and let them free range within that space with considerable freedom and without overusing the grass/soils.

My current place has definitely been improved by the use of the chickens....last spring I ran 54 CX all over this meadow and can see good results this spring in the lushness of the grasses in some areas that didn't have that good of growth.



 
Kevin MacBearach
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Julia Winter wrote:I think one of the points of chickens in pasture is for them to follow the larger animals, like the pigs and the goats. I remember reading about Joel Salatin's farm and how the chickens are sent into the pasture exactly X days after the cows, so the maggots in the cow piles are big and juicy. They break up the droppings, spreading them out, which I figure is good for the pasture.

My own hens lived mostly on deep litter, albeit without IMO's (I would like to learn how to cultivate those!). I would let them out more or less depending on how much energy I had for cleaning up after them. (This is a suburban yard, so they're doing things like kicking mulch all over the place.) We fastened plastic clamps to the fence posts in their run, so I would dig a big handful of dandelions (or some other weed) and attach them in a bunch to the posts. I found that they could eat the leaves much more efficiently if they were anchored--when I just tossed in the plants, they would try to eat them and end up flipping them all over the place.

I've found that if I let them out in the late afternoon or early evening, they don't do as much damage and I can close them in again once they go in to roost. Maybe you could let the chickens out for short periods of time late in the day and they'll just run from pile to pile and leave your mulch/garden/porch alone.



I agree about the chickens following the larger ruminants to spread their manure around, but for me that would be for horses and cows. From my short time with these goats and pigs, I don't see the chickens getting much in the way of bugs from either of those manures, at least not in the way they do with cow manure. Right now I don't have a cow but plan on getting one next month so I'll have to figure out a way to bring the chickens to the manure when needed.

For the first time today I took a crack at making some of my chicken feed. I harvested lots of dandelion, clover, comfrey and chopped it all up with some old unsellable fruit and veges I get for free at the market. I also added the organic sediment from the fermented blackberry vine juice make for plant food. All this was mixed with their regular feed. They seemed to have loved it. Lot more work though.

Yes, I do let them out in the last part of the day. I look to see how low the sun is in the sky as my timer for letting them out.
 
Julia Winter
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Yes, I think cows are the classic, since their output really needs to be spread around. Goats not so much, but I know that Walter Jeffries has free range chickens following his pigs around. He is not going for the manicured look, and has a rather large property, so it works for him.

If chopping the leaves is too much work (and you have a lot of them) try just tossing them in there. I regularly came home from our local organic food co-op with huge garbage bags of damaged produce and off-cuts (when they go in and tear the sad outer leaves from all the lettuce heads, sprucing up the produce display). I would just dump it in the middle of their run, which was floored with a thick layer of mulch. The chickens would go through the pile and it would disappear in a few days. We have the most amazing earthworms in the chicken run, too deep for the hens to find. In the summer, I kept a garden fork in the run and when I went in there I would plunge it in and turn over a few forkfuls of soil, to expose the worms.

When we move to Portland I'd like to look into raising Black Soldier Fly larvae. It's too cold in Wisconsin, but I think people have figured out how to keep them going in the PNW.
 
Peter Ellis
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:I think the next type of coop I'll build will be a permanent one with a roof on it and a deep little floor. Like someone said, chickens aren't ruminants, they shouldn't be grazing in paddocks. And after trying them on the pasture, I can't see any benefit to the land after passing them over it in a paddock.


I don't know that not being ruminants means they shouldn't be grazing in paddocks. Chickens do graze - and they also hunt insects and other small critters - both of which activities can and do happen in paddocks. Seems to me the primary purpose of the paddock approach is to let the chickens have regular access to fresh feeding grounds and not let them beat up any one area too badly.

By the logic above, it doesn't make sense to have pigs in paddocks - they are not ruminants, right?

As to seeing the benefit - I expect it all depends on the time period over which one observes, how closely one observes and the very specific details of one's situation. For example, I really doubt that I am going to be able to detect any impact on my soil from the four chickens I have in my back yard But - if I pay close attention, I may. I can certainly tell that leaving their tractor in one place for a week made a difference in how that spot looks - but whether the soil will show improvement over time, as opposed to the current beatdown state of the plants in that area - ...

 
Kevin MacBearach
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Peter Ellis wrote:
Kevin MacBearach wrote:I think the next type of coop I'll build will be a permanent one with a roof on it and a deep little floor. Like someone said, chickens aren't ruminants, they shouldn't be grazing in paddocks. And after trying them on the pasture, I can't see any benefit to the land after passing them over it in a paddock.


I don't know that not being ruminants means they shouldn't be grazing in paddocks. Chickens do graze - and they also hunt insects and other small critters - both of which activities can and do happen in paddocks. Seems to me the primary purpose of the paddock approach is to let the chickens have regular access to fresh feeding grounds and not let them beat up any one area too badly.

By the logic above, it doesn't make sense to have pigs in paddocks - they are not ruminants, right?

As to seeing the benefit - I expect it all depends on the time period over which one observes, how closely one observes and the very specific details of one's situation. For example, I really doubt that I am going to be able to detect any impact on my soil from the four chickens I have in my back yard But - if I pay close attention, I may. I can certainly tell that leaving their tractor in one place for a week made a difference in how that spot looks - but whether the soil will show improvement over time, as opposed to the current beatdown state of the plants in that area - ...



Hi Peter. True, pigs aren't ruminants. But even then, with my little bit of experience with pigs on the pasture rotation system, I wouldn't say that they are perfect for a pasture. So far they've bulldozed about 800 sq. ft. of pasture. I'm curious to see what happens with it in the coming weeks. I have to wonder if it's our desires to see everything on a pasture, that's warping our perspectives? Seems as since they all defecate, they get high marks as being beneficial, but each do very different things to the land. Ultimately I guess I just have to wait and see but it's tricky because I've got so many animals on the pasture, it will be hard to know who does what. One thing I do know is that if we didn't have these animals fenced in, the horses and cows would stay on the pasture, whereas the pigs and chickens would head toward the forests. The obvious conclusion from that would be that those animals that hang out in their natural environment have a mutually beneficial relationship with it.

But, if the important thing is the their manure, then I could always transport it to any area on the land. One thing I thought was interesting was what this family I met up in WA were doing. They had very small chicken tractors that they moved once, or twice a day. Just after they moved it to a fresh spot of grass, they would dump a few shovel fulls of well composted, and not so well, cow manure that was full of worms and other crawlies. The chickens would go to work spreading it out while they scratched and defecated for awhile before they moved them. It seemed like a perfect balance of happy chicken and happy pasture. The family told me that their pasture had improved radically from this method.
 
Jay Green
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My chickens free range on pasture and forest and the bulk of their time is spent on pasture as opposed to the forest. Forest is where preds live, so chickens will hang out on the fringe of the forest, but they won't actively live and forage only there if given a choice. Most of their food supply is in the meadow.
 
Tys Sniffen
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I use the standard metal (4ft?) chicken wire fence with random sticks not even connected to the fencing. I have, I think, 100 feet of fencing. I cut it into two pieces to make the moving around easier.


my 5 adult chickens can all fly, and can find ways out of the pen if they want to. it seems, though, that if I keep things moving, and make sure the lay pellet tin is full, they don't try to leave. Every so often I hear the rooster start complaining and I know one of the hungrier hens has gotten out and started foraging, so I go out there, herd her back in and check the food supply.

Because I'm still very new at this (a little over a month or so) I doubt there's any rule to be learned here, but for me, it's not really about the fencing, it's about if they're happy enough. Perhaps because I have them in a forested sort of area, they aren't looking longingly through a flimsy fence at juicy veggies and fruits, so they basically stay where they are.

I do agree though, that the mobile paddock thing seems like work, even with my flimsy easy set up. My enthusiasm for doing it rested on the idea that they would eat less store-bought stuff and have that healthy free-range-ness. I guess they're healthy, but it doesn't seem like they are slowing down on the expensive food. Perhaps if I had more space inside the fence, they'd have more to forage, and I could move it less...

I'm starting to wonder if Paul's experience is based on meat birds or layers... Does anyone have any 'rule of thumb' about square feet per bird for this paddock thing to work best? (more is always better, but what works?)
Tys

 
Kevin MacBearach
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Tys Sniffen wrote:

I'm starting to wonder if Paul's experience is based on meat birds or layers... Does anyone have any 'rule of thumb' about square feet per bird for this paddock thing to work best? (more is always better, but what works?)
Tys



Too many variables to know for sure. It depends on the quality of pasture, breed of chicken, the chicken's gut health, quality of feed, etc. I believe Paul was just talking about layers with this kind of set up.

Another thing would be how many different animals one has on their farm and how many they have to move in paddocks every so often. If you just have chickens then paddock shifting to fresh grass everyday wouldn't be unreasonable, but if you're moving goats, pigs and cows too, then it's going to be way too much for anyone.
 
Bill Rahn
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I just set up the paddock for the first time the other day. I used deer netting that was 7.5 feet cut in half and fiberglass reflector poles with zip ties to hold the netting . I originally had all the chickens get out the first day they escaped under the netting even though i had it over lapping the ground by 6 inches. I also have a problem with them not seeing the netting the roosters will chase the hens right into the netting and they would bounce off and run again and sometimes find a hole to get out. Logs and rocks at the bottom of the netting helped a lot with this though. I put my arch in the middle of the paddock maybe I should have not let them free range so long so they are not used to fences etc.?
 
Jay Green
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Could be...free rangers are very deft at getting out of enclosures and more so than birds who have never known freedom. They will spend their whole day walking the fence and looking for weaknesses..and they will be looking overhead for any way to leap the top. The only thing I've seen that will hold in dedicated free rangers is electric poultry netting or extreme, fortified fencing with a topper. The only thing we use the deer netting for now is to keep them OUT of something.
 
Brian Mallak
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I am using Premier 1 Poultry fencing. When the chicks where young they could slip through the netting. But now (8 weeks old) they cannot.
We clipped their primary feathers to prevent them from flying over.
We also have 3 RIR adults, all over a year old. None of them have every gotten out of the paddocks.
I move the chicks about every 2 weeks.
 
Julia Franke
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I'm having trouble with my girls getting out now. right now we have a 4 foot high fence, and they continue to fly over top of it.

I'm not sure if we should put something up that's higher, or assume that because they were free range (they are going too far away, so we need to keep them in their pen more), the higher fence won't help.

I don't think electric would work since they fly right over it.

So my two options are:

1) Try a higher fence
2) Put netting over the fence

What is your opinion?





 
Galadriel Freden
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Would you be able to clip their wings? It's simple to do with just a good pair of scissors. Mine can't get over their 1 meter tall fence with clipped wings.
 
Julia Franke
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I've read that you should never clip the chickens wings if they are could potentially be exposed to predators. We have hawks, raccoons, ferrell cats and all sorts of critters that may enjoy them as a snack. So unfortunately, I don't think I should clip their wings.
 
chad Christopher
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I realize this is an old thread. But chickens escape, because the grass is greener on the other side. 1000 Sq ft per chicken. Otherwise you need full enclosure, and money.
 
Julia Winter
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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I don't actually think that unclipped wings are going to help a chicken with any of the night time predators. You've just got to have them securely locked up at night. Either a secure door on a timer or you have an alarm that goes off daily reminding you to lock them up.

Could full wings help during the day? Maybe. Being able to fly (a bit - most chickens can't really fly) might give them a better chance against a cat or dog. I don't think domestic cats are much of a threat to full sized hens. Dogs are fast enough that even a fully feathered hen is unlikely to survive. I just don't think the feathers are going to make that much of a difference. For my hens, the main risk is raccoons or similar, at night.

I've clipped the flight feathers on one side of each hen. I then had to put up some netting above the 4 foot fencing where they were able to hop up onto their hutch and from there up onto the fence. I also had to wire something to the bottom of the (chain link) gate, because they were sliding under that. Oh, and a few spots I had to pound a stake into the ground to block egress. These days I seem to have them secure. I let them out near the end of the day, and I've made our big trampoline into a grazing pen for them by attaching chicken wire to all of the legs. Of course, I have to catch the hen in the pen to take her to the grazing pen, so only our tamest chickens get to spend time in the lush spring lawn.
 
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