HENS - PROTECTING THE FLOCKS
Predators get hungrier as the days get shorter and the nights colder.
Our first fall and winter with our lovely hens ended in tragedy that taught us valuable lessons regarding the importance of protecting our flock by fortifying their coop and pen. One October evening we arrived home after dusk to discover a mother fox and her four kits munching on five hens. (I did get some satisfaction when adrenalin helped me heave a pumpkin accurately in the direction of the mother fox and swipe her scrawny body into exiting our property fast.) It turns out someone had left the side gate open, making an easy entrance into what we imagined to be a safe haven for our flock.
The second calamity involved a fisher cat digging underneath the wire pen. Just when we thought we solved our nighttime beast dilemmas, November blue skies and bare trees invited a hawk to swoop down in front of us and carry off a lovely leghorn for supper. The final incident involved a sneaky raccoon that climbed up and over the eight-foot fortified predator proof pen and dined on our two pet bunnies. These attacks lead me to find a permanent solution to our predator problems and our flock has lived happily ever after.
First, we dismantled the wire pen we originally put up. We dug a 24-inch trench around the pen and placed the predator proof wiring underground and fortified it with a layer of barbed wire. Once the walls were securely in place, we added a roof of predatory proof aviary netting over the top. This netting works well in areas prone to heavy snowfall as it is allows most snow to fall through, but any left can be poked off and removed with a broom. A second advantage to this type of netting is that it moves so much when critters climb on it that they retreat. Sadly, when the hens are roaming about the yard there is little to be done when hawks are circling except keep the ladies inside the coop when we aren't around to scare the wing-creatures off.