Winter is on its way, with an increase in hungry varmints who'd like nothing better than chicken for dinner.
The three most important areas to secure are the chicken yard, the windows, and the latches that keep everything closed.
Fence the chicken runWhen we rebuilt our chicken yard hubby said poultry wire would be adequate (and cheaper) because they're just chickens and it would keep them in just fine. I said that our goal isn't to keep chickens in, but to keep predators out.
An even better option might be hardware cloth, but that was way out of our budget for the amount of fencing we needed.
Along the groundTo keep predators from digging underneath the fence and into the chicken yard, run a foot or two of fencing just under the ground all the way around the run. In other words, dig out about 6-12 inches of the dirt on the outside of the yard, about two feet wide, and lay the bottom of your fencing in this trench, then backfill the dirt.
Cover the yardTo thwart hawks, owls and predators that can climb the fence, cover the top of your run. Remember that raccoons are heavy, so use appropriate fencing that will hold the critters' weight.
LatchesAll doors in the coop and yard should be fastened with critter-resistant latches. Raccoons in particular are pretty savvy at opening latches such as hook-and-eye hardware, slide-bolts, or the simple wooden slat that turns to hold a door shut.
WindowsWindows should latch securely from the inside. Hook-and-eye or similar hardware is sufficient because the varmints are outside and the latch is inside.
Cover windows with hardware cloth, not screen, to keep critters out. Screen is too easy to rip apart. (You should see what our cats have done to the screen on our front storm door.)
Check for weak spotsReady-made coops sold at farm stores usually have a compartment for egg-laying with a lift-up top to make egg-gathering easy. Some of these have a fatal flaw: the often-flimsy wooden floor in the nesting area is simply laid inside. A predator can push upwards and gain access to the coop easily. Check your coop to make sure the floor is secure and safe. Replace with a thicker floor if needed, and screw it to the coop securely.
Another way to make this area safer is to include the area underneath the nest-boxes inside the fenced run area so critters don't have access to the floor.
Each year before winter do a security check of your chicken coop and run, fix any weak spots and replace anything that needs to be more secure. By mid- to late-winter, predators have a harder time finding food and begin venturing closer to homesteads in search of a meal. Don't let your hens become their dinner.
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