It's the one thing most people forget, but it's also something that should be done daily make sure your flock is safe! It doesn't take long; it will probably take 2 minutes or less. What is it? A daily coop damage inspection should be a part of your regular maintenance routine!
Having a predator-secure coop is not enough. The truth is, if you have determined predators, they can do enough coop damage that they can break into any coop over a period of days, so it's up to you to catch the coop damage in time to take steps.
How to do a 4 Point Daily Coop Damage Inspection
- Look for splintered wood near doors and windows could mean something has been trying to strong-arm its way into your coop---pry open a door or window, break a lock, or just pull out screws. Make sure to check locks and latches every day, and replace weak wood with strong, or reinforce with metal.
- Look for chewed wood, especially at corners and near windows and doors, can mean raccoons or opossums, or even just small rodents are trying to get in. You can reinforce corners and edges with metal plate, or welded wire hardware cloth. Be especially wary if your coop has a wooden floor that you can't get beneath to inspect. If they're tunneling up or chewing in from below, the first sign there is a problem might be when you lose a bird.
- Look for bent wire, which can mean something is trying to squeeze through your run, or pry up the security on your windows or ventilation. Don't use "chicken wire" or "poultry wire" to make an area secure. It's not! Chicken wire is designed to keep chickens in, not to keep predators out. Welded wire hardware cloth is more secure against predators... but even then, it will need to be tight at edges and corners.
- Look for digging under the coop, or at a fence/run line. The simplest way to deal with this is usually to create an apron, in other words, a wire barrier that extends horizontally on or slightly beneath the ground, to a foot or so out from the fence. Predators will not be able to dig through the wire, and they generally can't figure out how to get around it.
My coop is not quite a Fort Knox... or do I mean Gringotts? But it's quite secure by most measures. This isn't by virtue of my amazing coop building skills, or even by virtue of my not-inconsiderable chicken world contacts allowing me to get a professionally designed coop.
Instead, we converted our cellar house into a coop. So what we have is a big coop with secure double walls made of strong barn wood, set on a stone foundation---designed to resist coop damage from predators!
Nothing can tunnel in through the stone. The exterior walls are board and batten, then there is insulation... and we have interior walls, too.
But that doesn't mean I skip the coop damage inspection. In fact, I do a 4 point Coop Damage Inspection every day. In the industry, we call this a CDI. (Actually, no we don't. There's no industry name for this; I'm being silly. )
--Did you do your CDI today?
--Oh, yes, every day! You can't go without the CDI if you care about your chickens!
Back to the point at hand. Two mornings ago during my, ahem, CDI, this is what I found:
What creature is responsible for the damage is not always obvious, but we happened to know it was a raccoon, simply because our little dog Reggie had alerted us to one the day before, barking at the coop. A raccoon had gone straight inside the pophole door in broad daylight---this is unusual for raccoons, who normally operate nocturnally---to eat eggs and chicken feed.
When Reggie began barking at the coop, I knew something was up. He doesn't bark at the chickens---how lucky am I that he's not interested in chasing them like most dogs are? I stepped inside to see if something was amiss and spied the raccoon, one grubby hand full of chicken feed, the other hand holding a cracked egg. His yolky little face was startled and he went out the pophole like a shot. I chased him (or her?) out of the coop twice more that day, with Reggie alerting me each time.
Good boy, Reggie.
Durn raccoons. The little bandit just returned at night when we were inside sleeping. Finding the automatic coop door in front of the pophole closed and secure, the raccoon must have decided that the easiest spot to create an ingress would be the door frame of the human door.
This is not the first time a predator has tried to get in, of course.
This weekend, we'll have to rebuild that area of the door frame where the raccoon destroyed it. In the meantime, it's secured in a temporary way, and we caught the raccoon.
I'm glad I look for coop damage---I mean, perform my 4 point CDI---every day.
Even a secure coop with double walls on a stone foundation won't stop predators from *trying* to get in. The key is to catch the damage before they are able to get all the way through and potentially hurt or kill your birds.
Do you do a Coop Damage Inspection every day? If not, how often do you do one? What kind of damage have you found--any?