When we think of chicken fencing, one of the first things that comes to
mind is chicken wire, often referred to as poultry netting. It's the
traditional material used to keep chickens within whatever boundary
we've established for them. And, it works very well doing just that, it keeps chickens inside their enclosure. But that's not good enough.
Chicken wire is easy to work with, but its big drawback is it offers little resistance to large and determined predators trying to get inside a chicken enclosure.
We're making a mistake if we think because poultry netting keeps chickens in, it'll keep large predators out. That's just not the case.
If we are to have chicken fencing that works well as a protection for our flock, it has to withstand repeated attacks by large and determined predators that have an eye on our poultry. Just imagine a hungry predator trying to get through your chicken fencing...they have all night long to do it, all while you're sleeping.
Also, take a look at it from their perspective; a flock of chickens represents free food. It's up to us to make that food more costly to the predator in terms of their time and trouble. When our flock becomes too costly a source of food, they'll go elsewhere. Perhaps they'll wander over to the neighbor's flock of chickens, protected only with poultry netting.
When it comes to chickens, the predators I most
often face are fox, coyote, raccoon and skunk. Fox are sneaky and they dig. Coyotes are strong, they dig, and they work in teams. Raccoons and skunk are excellent climbers. It's less common, but we've also seen evidence of mountain lion in our neck of the woods.
One alternative to poultry netting is welded wire, similar to what's shown below. It comes in a standard thickness, but in varying patterns, and is often sold in a roll, just like chicken wire.
If you've ever had any dealings with welded wire fencing, you know that it's much stronger than chicken wire, and it's commonly available in the form of rabbit fencing for a garden. I've also seen it used as a trellis material for beans, peas and cucumbers. The problem with welded wire is it can be bitten through by a domestic dog. I've seen it, and that's why I don't trust it to withstand a hungry predator like a coyote when it comes to my flock of layers.
The chicken fencing I like most is chain link fencing. A salvaged roll of it is shown to the right. I like this material because it's tough, durable, and easy to work with.
Think about a common application for chain link fencing. Dog kennels and dog runs are made of it, right? Because it's dog-proof. That's what I'm talking about!
If it can keep a dog inside a kennel, then it can certainly keep wild dogs and other predators outside of my chicken yard. And, that's exactly what I'm looking for.
When I speak of chain link fencing, I'm speaking of industrial grade fencing (9 gauge) like one might find at a school yard or warehouse, not the lightweight (11 gauge) aluminum material that one might find strung between backyards in the suburbs. And, I'm talking about scrap or salvaged material, so it isn't pretty, but it costs far less than new residential fencing that one might find at home improvement stores.
Using chain link fence fabric provides for an inexpensive and very durable form of chicken fencing that will put your mind at ease with it comes to the threat of determined predators...any time of the day or night, and whether you're at home or not.
In the photo left, you can see how I mount my chicken fencing above a power pole foundation and support it with T posts pounded into the poles. If you look closely at the lower left portion of the photo, you'll also see that I drape the fencing material down into a trench for a depth of about 18 inches. This creates a barrier against digging. Predators can't dig their way inside, and chickens can't scratch alongside the power poles and undermine them.
The benefit of heavy duty chain link fencing is it's a material that offers superior protection and will last a lifetime. If you feel confident standing outside of a dog kennel, knowing the dog can't get at you, then that's the same kind of protection you'll be offering your flock when you use this type of material as chicken fencing.
Photo right shows the chicken fencing installed on the lower side of the power poles, hanging in a trench that I back fill with soil. You can imagine how challenging a barrier this would be even if digging underground with a trowel or shovel. You'd either give up, dig much deeper, or start a new tunnel elsewhere...only to find another piece of buried fence fabric.
If a fox or coyote is so determined to dig a hole that circumvents the fencing buried under the power poles, or they're able to destroy or dismantle the above ground chicken fencing, I'd say they've more than earned their meal. I just don't see predators investing that level of effort for a meal when there are ground squirrels and rabbits all readily available for much less effort.
Using electrical conduit and elbows, and standard fence fasteners and gate hardware, I create my own gates. They cost much less than a commercial gate, and I can make them as tall and wide as I need to get vehicles and heavy equipment through. My suggestion is to make your gates at least wide enough for a pickup truck. Even a gate wide enough for a garden tractor is much more convenient than simply having pedestrian gates in your chicken fencing.
Take a look at the photo below to see details of one of the gates in my second chicken yard. The threshold is made from a power pole split in two down the middle. Beneath it hangs an 18 inch long piece of chain link fencing that serves as a barrier to digging. The corners of the gate are closed in using large spikes and a scrap piece of fence tubing. Fence fabric is held tight on the gate using commercial fasteners and twisted wire.
Attaching the chicken fencing to a post is simply a matter of using fence staples. The arrow pointing left shows a deformation of the fabric from using a pry bar to stretch the fencing taut. The arrow pointing right shows one of several fence staples sunk in good and tight to hold the chicken fencing in place.
Using T posts as upright supports, the fencing is attached using bailing wire or some other strong scrap wire. This helps keep the fabric from waving about in the wind. Surprisingly, a long stretch of fence fabric can be supported in this manner with strong corner posts being 50 to 60 feet away. I see no problem mounting an electric wire on my chicken fencing to help protect against climbers like raccoons and skunks.
too long ago, a pack of five dogs visited my place and took the
opportunity to harass my chickens. They were going berserk at the idea
of getting in among all of those feathers, but they just couldn't find a way. Some folks
were sounding the alarm at my place. There was great concern about the safety of the chickens. After all, it was a pack of five large dogs, and they were having a big time out there chasing the flock around the outskirts of the chicken yard
I wasn't concerned in the least because I knew that there was no way those dogs could get inside the chicken yard, not with chain link fabric installed as my fencing material.
It's a great feeling knowing that
predators can chew away all day long at your fencing and never
make a dent in it. Peace of mind is worth the extra effort and additional
expense I've put into building my chicken yards. And, you can bet that I sleep well at night too.