One of the things we struggled with when looking at adding a flock of laying hens was how to keep them safe while still having plenty of space outside in the grass and sunshine. We have a lot of potential predators on and near our property including raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and a whole family of fox. We have been extremely lucky (thus far) and have not lost any birds to predators. I believe that our preparation to keep predators out is a big part of us not losing any birds to predators.
Although we do try to let our birds free range when possible, they do spend time in a predator proof chicken run. Although, I am not sure if you can call it a “run” exactly. Most “runs” are small wire cages that allow the birds their minimum space requirements. Our “run” is a fenced area that allows them almost 1000 square feet of space (and we are about to expand this, since we have of course integrated in new birds since building it.). In order to allow them maximal space, but still keep them safe, we took several precautions when putting the fencing up.
Three Ways to make a Predator Proof Chicken Run
First, we use 6 feet tall chicken wire or poultry netting. This, in theory will help eliminate predators jumping the fence. Although, I suppose a coyote or other predator could climb the fencing. The height does make it much more difficult for them to get into.
Next, we dig a trench and an apron. At the fence line, we dig down around 6 inches and then out about a foot. We then add a 3 foot section of chicken wire at the bottom of the fence. This has about a foot and a half zip tied to the existing fence and about a foot and a half laid into the trench. We then bury the fencing in the trench. This makes it so that if a predator gets to the edge of the fence and tries to dig under they hit more fencing and tend to give up.
Third, to keep hawks away, we encourage crows to hang around the property. Luckily, we already had several around naturally. So, we just throw some bird seed out for them to keep them around. Crows will, in general, keep hawks away since they are fairly territorial. If you don’t have crows just hanging out at your place you can put netting over top of your run. Additionally, you can run strings with shiny objects on top of the run. Both of these tactics should help to keep the hawks at bay.
If you aren’t looking to make a Fort Knox of Chicken runs, there are other chicken predator control methods you can use. You should take a look at all of the options and see what suits your needs and setup best.
The above three things are the ways that we have successfully predator proofed our chicken run. What ways do you use to keep your hens safe?