It’s taken me a while to write this post. I’m angry, sad, and more than a little disheartened about keeping chickens.
Last week, foxes broke into our chicken run and killed 20 of our 21 chickens, and both of our Indian Runner ducks.
They dug underneath the gate to gain access, despite the fact that I’d laid chicken wire under it to prevent digging. They simply tore through the chicken wire, just like they did a few weeks ago when we lost four chooks.
Since that first attack, I’d secured all around the base of the pen with heavy wire, pavers, and railway sleepers. I was even putting stuff across the gate at night to prevent them from digging under it. But it wasn’t enough. They managed to move some pavers and timber enough to dig under the gate.
You can see the hole wasn’t very big – not much bigger than my fist.
The foxes killed everything they could get at. But they couldn’t get most of the bodies out through the small entry hole. They only took two of the smallest chickens away with them.
That’s what angers me the most about this whole thing – they slaughtered everything in sight, 20 chickens and 2 ducks, just to take 2 chickens away for food. It’s such a senseless waste.
The one surviving rooster wasn’t in the pen. So when I locked him up the next night, I made sure to check all the reinforcing around the pen and put a wooden pallet in front of the gate to stop anything getting under again.
But that night, the foxes tore a hole straight through the perimeter fence of the pen and killed him. The fence had a layer of normal 2-inch chicken wire and a second layer of half-inch chicken wire over the top to keep chicks in. They simply tore through both.
So we now have no chickens at all, just the two muscovy ducks that were housed separately.
But you have to look for the silver lining in every cloud.
I’m going to go back to the drawing board, and build some new chicken pens. They’ll have strong welded mesh fences with buried corrugated iron perimeters to stop anything digging underneath. Chicken wire just doesn’t cut it for keeping predators out. I’ll build a number of smaller pens instead of one large one. This will reduce the chance that the whole flock can get wiped out at once like happened this time, and it also gives me more flexibility in managing breeding, isolating sick birds, and looking after mothers with chicks.
As an additional line of defense, we’ll also be moving up our plans to get a dog. We were originally planning to get one next year, but we’ve now started looking and if the right dog comes up we’ll grab it. We want to get a puppy so it can grow up around chickens and ducks, with strong protective instincts towards them.
I’d like to hear about any good predator-proof chicken run designs you’ve seen, and would love to see photos. Please leave links in the comments below!