This is my coop and run. Don’t judge, it was built for nearly nothing but time. It houses a variety of poultry, and usually only does so in the winter and at night as the kids get to free range during the day. It is split in two parts, a small bit that goes off the back of the coop (including below the coop) and the Annex, which is the larger area predominately pictured. The Annex was added on later and is occasionally used to isolate birds that are injured or are with young. Usually i will close off the Annex in the warmer months to allow grass to grow so there is something for the kids to eat if i have to keep them in the run for a few days. But i digress.
One of the biggest troubles a poultry owner will have is predators, and aerial ones are the toughest. You can deter ground based ones, or live trap them, or put up fences to dissuade them, but aerial ones are a bit tougher to deal with. Some, like hawks, are protected by law so your options are a bit more limited. And while the kids are out free ranging they are more exposed, but i’ll cover that a bit later. While they are in the run, they need some cover to keep the locals from swooping in for the free buffet.
When i first built the run and Annex i ran those cross pieces and put some of that cheap plastic tree netting over it. It worked fine. Chicken wire did as well, except for when your hat would catch in the low hanging bits of it. The problem would come when winter would sweep through and we’d get one of those nice wet, heavy snows, and the netting would become a solid, heavy sheet of snow. It wouldn’t break, but it would stretch, and sometimes those wooden crosspieces would break (or the screws would). There’d be squawking, screeching, netting and wood frozen to the ground, a real mess. Then there would be complaints filed anonymously (presumably by the chickens, the ducks aren’t really the complaining type), piles of chicken poop left strategically where i walk, dirty looks, hushed whispers. It was just ugly.
So this year I thought i’d try something a bit different. It’s a technique i saw when i had worked in the Caribbean, used to keep seagulls out of picnic areas. Along one edge of the Annex (test area) i put a coated inch and quarter deck screw in every 12 or so inches. Along the opposite edge i did the same, adding one additional screw. Then starting at one end of one edge, i ran some bright green braided fishing line, Bravefishermen Super Strong Pe Braided Fishing Line 60lb (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MYN0G1E/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1), from one screw, across the run, to the opposing screw and then back to the next one. I’d pull the line a little snug, but not too tight, as it isn’t necessary, and every few screws i’d wrap it around the screw a few times to keep it from slacking a bit too much. The spool was 300 meters and was just barely enough to do the full Annex. The offset of screws at the other end forces the lines to open up and cover more of an area. And while birds have a great sense of eyesight, the green should help to deter any that might want to divebomb in for a snack. And i’d like to see snow pile up on this. And if any of these lines break, it’ll be super easy to fix.
Outside of the Run: There are many methods for helping keep the kids safe when free ranging, the most effective is a person, but who wants to be a chicken shepherd? Some large farms train dogs, but here at Handy Homestead i use two approaches with mixed success. The first is cover, so long as the birds have places to hide, they won’t be quite as vulnerable. The roosters will keep an eye out and when they sound the alarm a bit of cover can really save their nuggets. The second is other poultry, in my case, geese. Geese are jerks, annoying and loud. But they are large, mean, and very protective. I have seen them chase off some predators simply by employing their natural ‘jerkness’. Guinea fowl can help too, but man are they annoying.