Increasing numbers of people are turning to keeping chickens and other poultry in the garden and there’s a need to make sure they are kept safe. This is a two way process; as well as making sure that your poultry are safe from foxes and other predators, you’ll need to make sure that the poultry are unable to cause problems for people too.
Chickens are easily the most popular poultry to be kept in gardens with ducks next in line. Geese and turkey are also popular but because of their increased size over chickens and turkeys they really need a smallholding at least, or a very large garden, so this article will focus on ducks and chickens. The advice here can be applied to smaller poultry such as quail and guinea fowl too.
Chicken Wire Fencing
Let’s take a look at keeping poultry safe from harm first, as many of the steps that we can take will also cover that second element of poultry safety. The hen house or coop and run must be surrounded by fencing strong enough and tight enough to deter the majority of marauders. Everyone thinks about foxes here as they are as much a pest in urban areas as they are in the country. But there are dogs and now even mink to worry about in some urban areas and badgers and polecats in more rural areas.
A chicken wire fence is the obvious solution, with a hole size of 50mm, smaller if you think mink might be a problem. It should be at least two metres high. An outward projecting overhang of around 40cms at the top at 45 degrees would help too although some experts think just a loose section at the top is enough as it doesn’t provide the support a predator needs to scramble over. A lower fence would stop a fox getting out with its loot but that won’t be much compensation if it’s run amok and killed all the birds anyway. Make sure the fence is securely held down at the bottom too and check regularly for signs of digging.
More Attractive Options for the Garden
A two metre high wire fence obviously isn’t an attractive element of garden design. If you wanted to make it less intrusive you could halve the height and continue the wire over the top, providing a roof. Or if your garden is secure you could give them free reign and lock the birds in their housing every night, as foxes rarely hunt during the daytime.
If you go with this option, securing the actual poultry housing and letting the birds run loose during the day, then you need to check the housing regularly to make sure that a predator hasn’t started to make their way into it. Raising the housing off the ground is the best way to do this. You can easily check the floor and corners for damage and debris build-up that could hide the work of rodents. Rodents might not attack chickens or ducks but they could go for eggs or the young.
Keeping People from Harm
The second aspect of safety is to separate poultry from people. This isn’t a problem for mobile adults and older children but people who are unstable on their feet could be upset by a duck or a chicken and young children can be scared by them, particularly mothers protecting their young.
Perimeter fencing and gates would be the answer here. If you have a fox-proof run for your poultry then this problem is already resolved but if you are going for the open grazing option and shutting the birds away at night, then you need to think about barriers. Because you aren’t thinking about predators here you can put in something that’s a bit more decorative than chicken wire, wooden fencing or a hedge, for example.
Take a Relaxed Approach
Either way the best approach to poultry safety is probably to accept that there’ll be some losses along the way and try not to let that stop your enjoyment of the birds, their eggs and the occasional roast dinner.