Overrun: How I made my chicken run predator-proof November 7, 2012
In an earlier post I mentioned the damage done by hurricane Irene to our enclosed chicken run. Our run hadn’t been predator-proof for almost a year. Things have been very busy at My Pet Chicken and it took a scheduled one-week family vacation this summer to finally pull me from behind the keyboard and put on my tool belt. Instead of just replacing what was originally there, I decided to try some enhancements.
One of the best things about keeping chickens as pets is that if you have a proper setup with a secure coop and chicken run, and automatic feeders and waterers, you can go away for a week with minimal flock oversight. A quick call to friends to have them check on the chickens every couple days in exchange for any eggs they collect, and you’re done. Here’s how I made our run secure so we could go on that vacation without worrying.
The walls of our thousand-plus square foot chicken run are made from 7′ tall, heavy-gauge vinyl-coated chicken wire, buried 10″ deep to keep out burrowing predators. (Chicken wire isn’t the best choice for predator protection, but that’s all we could find in a 7′ height, and the heavier gauge and vinyl coating add to the quality and durability of the material. If you want the safest possible run material, choose a heavy gauge, half inch hardware cloth.)
Previously we were using plastic deer netting to cover the run. It’s light and inexpensive, and will keep out birds of prey, but a determined predator could rip into it. Plus, stretched straight across the top of the run as it was, in the fall and winter it would collect branches, leaves, and snow, causing it sag like an overloaded paper plate an all-you-can-eat BBQ. So this time I decided to use 1″, medium weight aviary netting. It’s made from knotted nylon fibers that are much stronger than the deer netting, but also heavier. To prevent the aforementioned sag, I decided to construct an A-frame structure to support the netting and provide additional height to the middle of the run.
I started by building seven A-frames out of two by fours with a notch at the top – to hold a two by four cross support to be strung between the As. I decided on an angle of 30 degrees for the As, to create decent stability. For roosting, 18″ above the ground, I added two by twos, completing the “A” shape.
Then, I strung the A-frames together in the middle of the chicken run (with some help!), attaching two by fours between them, along the top. For increased stability, and to offer the “girls” even more roosts, I attached two by twos between each A-frame at a similar height to the roosting poles on each of the seven “A”s.
Next came the aviary netting, which I draped over the chicken run walls and A-frames. I sandwiched the wire to my coop walls by screwing a single piece of one by two on top of the netting, and drilling it right into the coop wall. Then, I attached the netting to the wire walls of the run by sandwiching it between two one by twos, screwed together, as shown.
The netting was only twenty five feet wide–not nearly wide enough to cover our whole run, so I joined pieces of the netting by overlapping them 18″, and then using zip ties to “stitch” them together. I kept some small trees in our run for shade, so to accommodate them, I cut holes in the netting and shirred them by affixing 1/4″ hardware cloth to the netting with more zip ties. (Man, did I go through a lot of zip ties. They are so handy…)
So far, so good. We’re able to keep the door from the chicken coop to the run open at all times, so the chickens can come and go as they please–and we can avoid those heart attacks around 3:00 on the occasional afternoon we’ve forgotten to let them out.