When building a coop it can be fun using scrap materials, brainstorming ways to be creative, and save money. But all to often where you scrimped ends up costing you more later. One decision you might make for example, is to choose chicken wire for your flock’s enclosure. It’s cheap and easy to handle, but I think in the long run you’ll find it wasn’t at all worth saving those few pennies.
First of all, chicken wire is NOT predator proof. There are countless animals who can chew right through the stuff. Secondly, if you’re penny wise, you certainly aren’t going to fancy wasting expensive chicken feed. Wild birds are the biggest culprit in feed waste. One little sparrow might not eat much, but that tiny sparrow will soon bring 100’s of friends who will devour 3 pounds or more in just one afternoon! These little guys can fit through the holes in chicken wire, not only costing you money, but they’ll poop everywhere. I think we can both agree, we don’t need any more cleaning added to the chore list! I’ve said this before, but it’s just plain smarter to build everything right the first time! Use hardware cloth on chicken coops, and enclosures. It’s stronger, and an extra perk is it’s tidy appearance. The ends can be finished nicely, it doesn’t bend making your coop look like a train wreck as time goes by.
You’ll find hardware cloth at Home Depot or similar building supply stores. Check your local feed stores too, sometimes they’ll sell by the foot so you don’t have to buy more than you need.
Skunks (also known as polecats in the USA) are medium size mammals, probably best known for their ability to spray a liquid with a strong, unpleasant odour. There are four species of skunks: the hooded skunk, the striped skunk, the spotted skunk and the scarce hog-nosed skunk. The most common of the four being the striped skunk.
Here in urban Phoenix there are two major enemies occupying the top spots on the list of chicken predators. The Coyote and two hawks in specific.
Coyotes aren’t usually seen during the day, sundown seems to be when they’re most active. They’re rather greedy too, seldom stopping at one bird. It’s not uncommon for them to wipe out half the backyard flock. Not only should the chicken yard be secured with a fence buried at least a foot in the ground. Concrete around the bottom as well would be ideal. Don’t assume that a six or seven foot block wall perimeter fence will keep out a coyote, it won’t.
If at all possible, having a raised chicken coop that can be completely closed up at night is the best way to protect your birds. The top of your chicken yard or run needs to be enclosed with aviary netting, because in-flight predators are next on the list of chicken enemies.
The Red Tail Hawk is not fussy about what time of day they snatch a chicken from the flock. These birds are very intelligent, so you’ll need to be creative if you’re going to outsmart them. They are indeed capable of carrying off an average size chicken.
Red Tailed Hawk
Below is our resident Harris Hawk, smaller, and not capable to carrying off an average sized chicken. However, be aware that these birds work as a team. Where there is one, there is usually two more. They are patient and relentless towards their goal, give them the slightest invitation and they will take it. Once they find a flock, they will circle over head, then sit on a nearby roof, or fence. This could go on for days while they intelligently calculate their plan of attack.
Harris Hawk in Phoenix, AZ
Don’t Forget this Guy…
There is at least one Bull snake slithering around our ranch. These predators are more of a problem with chicks or very young birds. Keep in mind when reaching to collect eggs that they have the same agenda! Look before you reach! They are harmless to humans, but they can be quite startling just for their size alone!
Remember, respect predators for their place in society, your job is not to prove where your place is on the food chain – it’s merely to prove you are smarter.
By no accident, this magnificent Harris Hawk stopped by the ranch this morning for yet another attempt to feast on my flock. His near success last time prompted me to hang aviary netting atop the chicken yard – and he looks pissed!
The handsome Harris hawk hunts cooperatively in pairs or trios. They surround their prey, and flush it for another to catch, or take turns chasing it.
MEASUREMENTS: The Harris’ Hawk has a body length of 18 – 24 inches, a wingspan of 3 1/2 – 4 feet, and weighs 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 pounds. These hawks are found in semiarid habitats like savannas, chaparrals, scrub prairies, and mesquite and saguaro deserts. They range from the southwestern United States through Central America and into much of the drier habitats in South America.