You might remember the trouble I had with foxes last July. We lost our whole flock of chickens (20+), as well as our two Indian Runner ducks, in a single night.
I’ve held off on getting more chickens until I could secure the pen – obviously I never want something like that to happen again. We did get some ducks along the way, but I’ve been locking them up in the shed at night and letting them out into the pen each morning. We also got a dog not long after that attack, and I’ve been placing her droppings around the perimeter of the pen to ward off predators.
It’s taken a while, but this weekend I finally got some time to put my Predator Protection Plan into practice!
My original plan was to create a smaller secure pen, and turn the remainder of the existing run into separate breeding pens. It would have been less work in the short term, but then I’d have to make sure each breeding pen was also built securely. If I could completely secure the perimeter of the existing large run, then I could later build simple breeding pens inside it without needing to fox-proof every one of them.
I originally built the frame of my chicken run a bit like a post-and-rail fence, with one rail at ground level and another about 3 feet (1 m) above the ground. This made it easy to attach the chicken wire and bury it in a skirt around the pen. You can see what I’m trying to describe in this older photo:
Note: clever though it sounds, burying a skirt of chicken wire around the pen didn’t stop the foxes from digging under. The wire was a very light gauge, and although galvanised, it rusted and was easy to break through. In a later attack, a fox even chewed right through a non-rusted piece of this wire! Chicken wire keeps chickens in, not predators out.
I bought sheets of “ripple iron” (like corrugated iron, but with smaller corrugations) from a recycler a while ago for $4 each. I dug trenches between the posts on the inside edge of the pen, about 1.5 feet (45 cm) deep. I then screwed the sheets of ripple iron to both of the rails and backfilled the trenches.
I got five sections – each with three pieces of ripple iron – done on Saturday, despite the rain. I’ve still got one section to go, and then I just need to secure the pen door.
The ducks enjoyed all the digging, and received a good few worms as reward for their patience. Below are the Indian Runners now – they’ve grown a lot since we got them as week-old ducklings in October, and should be laying soon! The front two ducks in the line are Pekins, and the warty grey-and-white one at the rear is our Muscovy drake.
Construction went a lot smoother than I was expecting, and I was really pleased with the end result. I can’t see a fox getting through that!