So now that I am an expert Chicken Tender (NOT), I have found that the most important thing you can do for your chickens is keep them safe. Specifically, keep them safe from predators. It is your responsibility and they rely on you to do so. Predators can be anything from house cats, hawks, raccoons, dogs, snakes you name it! Anything that could consider your chickens or their eggs SUPPER.
Before I go into some of the helpful steps that I have taken to keep my flock safe, I will tell you that as a new Chicken Tender… ACCIDENTS DO HAPPEN. Honestly, I must tell myself that because losing any of my bird babies is a direct reflection of the care, I give them.
The first time I lost a bird, I lost all four at the same time. My first four babies. RIP to the Golden Girls. Not even Betty White made it through this one.
Not that you can really tell by the picture besides that there is no covering for my chickens, they are not protected AT ALL. This time the predator was a neighborhood dog. He dug a little and pulled back the fencing and got in. He scared two to death, literally, and he got a hold of the other two. It was the saddest day of chicken keeping that I have ever experienced. We had an exchange student from China staying with us and I remember him just standing there watching me cry. I’m sure he figured out right then and there I was a nut… at least when it came to my chickens.
Fast forward to now. I now have 27 birds made up of 20 chickens (one roo), three turkeys (one female, two males) and four Cayuga ducks (one male and three females. Yeah, he is in HEAVEN). I have gone above and beyond to keep these babies safe. I’m sure I over do it. Never the less, I have had an accident or two. We lost three chickens to our own dogs. How, you say? Well, I didn’t even consider that they new babies where smaller and could get out of the ‘smaller than normal size chicken’ hole. Again, completely my fault.
So, to give you some tips on your coop and remember this is my OPINION. There are hundreds of articles and helpful sites that I suggest you research before buying your chickens. Just give it a google. But either way here are my suggestions.
1. Make sure you cover your run.
We have covered our run, which is 50 ft x 30 ft, with deer netting. It was around $15 for one 50ft x 25ft. We bought two and use the remainder of the second one to patch and repair the first one. The netting not only helps keep our flock in, but it also keeps other over head predators out. I honestly thought we would catch a hawk or something but nothing so far!
2. Chicken wire is mainly to keep chickens IN
Ok, so I know what you are thinking, because I thought it too, chicken wire is for CHICKENS. Well, yes and no. Chicken wire is perfect for keeping your chickens in, but it is NOT strong enough to keep predators out. It is easily bent and broken if the right stubborn animal is trying to make a snack out of your bird babies. We currently have chain-link fencing for stability and chicken wire on top of that to secure the run. I have used hardwire cloth in the past. It is sturdier and has smaller mesh.
Side note: Make sure you cut the wire outside of the run area and pick up any pieces that break off. YOU DO NOT WANT TO DEAL WITH BUMBLEFOOT. (Google if you dare!)
3. Don’t forget to go DOWN
Why? Because the predators won’t. A lot of your predators are diggers, meaning they will dig under your coop walls to get into your coop. I didn’t consider this with my first coop and my babies sadly paid the price for it. We added a third layer of chicken wire that goes out past the bottom of the coop about two feet. This way, if something does dig, it will take them a long time to do so. Hopefully long enough that we notice and can stop them.
4. Please “Mind the Gap”
This right here is why I lost the last three ladies. We have a chain link fence with a normal chain-link gate. I knew the grown chickens were too big for the hole beside the gate, but I never even considered it after transferring the new babies out to the run. Turns out they could just jump right through the small hole. The dog-Os took it from there. Since then, we have covered the hole with a pipe and then a layer of chicken wire that’s held tight with a bungee cord. Not pretty but they are safe again.
5. Get your birds off the ground
It may be piece of mind, but I feel that the coops being three feet or so off the ground gives a second layer of protection. Not only do the predators have to make it into the coop, they now must figure out how to scale the chicken coop!
6. PEW. PEW.
I have NEVER had to protect my flock with means of killing another animal. However, I am prepared to do so. You must protect your flock from predators and sometimes it’s either your birds or the predator. I have seen what an animal can do to coop and chickens. The neighborhood dog that killed my first flock, tore the bottom boards of the coop off to get to them. I’m not saying I would have the heart to kill a pet but I would definitely scare the dang thing if I knew it would save my babies.
7. COOP CAM FOR THE WIN!
Ok, this step is optional but so worth it. Yes, we have a coop cam. I used it when we first put the babies in with the established flock to make sure they were going into the coop at night. We caught on video, when my rooster died which ruled out predators. Now if I hear anything outside, I can check on them from my cozy bed. It also helps when I am away and want to make sure my babies aren’t too sad I am gone. 😊