When you start with chicken keeping, one of the main considerations will be keeping your chickens safe. Before you can buy your first chicken, you must decide how you are going to house them. Will they be free-range, kept in a coop or chicken tractor or have a run? However you decide to house them, you need to be able to keep your chickens out of certain areas as well as keeping other creatures from harming or killing your chickens. We look at some options for keeping your chickens safe from predators.
Chicken fencing/chicken mesh
Chicken fencing types are diverse and offer different levels of protection for your chickens. The standard chicken mesh can keep your larger chickens within a designated area but if you are breeding, the chicks can walk right through it. The mesh also does not prevent rodents from entering the area. Predators such as a dog or fox can quite easily tear open the mesh, so it doesn’t really protect against predators either. Chicken mesh is usually made from a soft galvanized wire and has small to medium sized hexagonal shaped holes.
This is not a safe option on coop openings or even as a run which is unattended. It might be of use to cover the top of a run to keep out raptors, but won’t stop other predators that can climb from getting in. You can use it on a run that you are able to see and monitor during the day, as long as your chickens are locked up safely in a secure coop at night. Use chicken mesh inside a run or coop to segregate new chickens before they are integrated with the rest of the flock. You can also use it in the coop to separate a hen and chicks, so they don’t go into the run with the rest.
Chicken wire can be used to fence off your garden to keep out rabbits and stop your chickens from pecking new seedlings or baby vegetables. You can set it up as a cage or at around 1.5metres high around the patches. Chickens can fly over, but they usually won’t as they can’t perch on top of the wire mesh. You can also use chicken mesh in your garden around new plants to protect them until they are settled in. Chicken mesh is cheap and bendable, so it is easy to use for these types of projects. Chicken mesh will not keep predators at bay, and it rusts quite quickly. Not the best choice to protect your flock.
Poultry Netting/bird netting
Similar in design to chicken netting, poultry netting is however, made from plastic. The holes are of various sizes. You can use poultry netting to protect your vegetable patch from birds, bunnies and your chickens. Do not use poultry netting as a preventative against predators. It is a cheap solution to cover the top area of a supervised run or to protect plants but will not protect your chickens from harm.
Welded Wire (12mm or 6mm)
Welded wire mesh is also known as hardware cloth. This is a strong option to protection your run and coop from predators. It will keep out small predators such as rats and snakes as well as bigger predators such as dogs and foxes. You can also use this welded wire on the vents and windows of your coop. Make sure you sink the welded wire into the ground to prevent animals that dig to being able to access the coop or run. This is quite an expensive option and is quite rigid. It will take time and effort to set your coop and run up with welded wire, but it will keep your chickens safe.
Welded Wire 25mm
This is a bit cheaper than the welded wire with smaller holes and works well to keep out larger predators. You can look at using this on vents in the coop, to protect the top of the chicken run or for the top sections of your coop. It will protect against larger predators but not smaller ones such as mice, rats and snakes. It works best for a day run when chickens are put in a secured coop at night.
Chain link fence
Chain link is a good option for a large chicken run. It will work well for protection against larger predators during the day. Use a smaller gauge on the lower 1m to 1.5m of the run to keep out smaller predators if the run is unattended during the day . This is not a great idea for a chicken coop but is perfect for a day run to keep your chickens protected from large predators.
You can use electric fencing as a double layer defence around a run or coop. You do the coop or run as normal and then have a second fencing run around the existing wire at around 500mm away to prevent predators from getting to the run or coop. Use electric fencing to keep chickens confined if they are free ranging during the day. The fencing will keep them in a specific area while still preventing predator attacks. Electric fencing can be expensive, but it is a viable option to keeping your flock safe. Check your fence regularly for damage and ensure it is working properly. This set up also allows your chickens a much larger area to roam in safety.
Chicken tractors should have a layer on the bottom of the chicken tractor to prevent predators from getting in. Tractors are usually supplied without a bottom layer. If your chickens are living in the tractors throughout the day, you will want to add mesh on the bottom. The layer on the floor needs to have holes big enough to allow them access to the ground but stop digging predators from getting in. Check your flocks feet to ensure there are no injuries from the mesh over time.
Chicken tractors should be made from a high-quality galvanised steel and high tensile bird mesh to reduce the risk of rusting and prevent predators gaining access. There should also be a sheltered area for shade, roosting or to help chickens feel safe if there is an aerial predator about. Make sure the chicken tractor you buy can hold the number of chickens you are wanting to keep to prevent aggression or having to move your tractor constantly. Chicken tractors are designed to keep your chickens safe from predators. They should be welded together and not held with clips that can pull apart. Initially this may be a more expensive option, but it is long lasting, allows your chickens almost as much access as if they were free range and best of all, it keeps them safe from predators.
You can look at enhancing safety from predators by installing solar lights that work automatically by turning on at dusk and off at daybreak. Lock your cages at night as well to prevent people from getting in. If you bury the fencing around 300mm deep, which should be the minimum depth, your can add other debris such as stones and broken ceramic into the trench to make it even harder for digging predators. Get the best that you can afford. Laying out a bit extra at the start will ensure your chickens live a long and happy life.