If you’ve ever had a fox attack your chickens before, I know you'll understand how important it is to make sure your chicken coop is fox proof. It is absolutely devastating to find your pet chickens after a fox or a dog has ransacked your coop. Unfortunately, many people think that foxes only live in rural areas and are unlikely to be a problem in urban areas. This may be the case in your area, but don’t be too sure. Take steps now to protect your chickens, rabbits, birds and guinea pigs from these predators.
Increased Foxes in Metro Areas
There have been recent reports that numbers of foxes have significantly increased in some metro areas in Australia. Twice as many foxes have been trapped in the Perth area during 2016 compared with the past year. Increased urban development means that bushland areas are reduced which leaves foxes no choice but to head closer to the suburbs and houses.
As manufacturers of chicken coops, we’ve had many customers tell us about the brazen foxes in their area and the devastating results. Some have come as close as a back porch in the early morning, and that’s in a metropolitan area! Others have reported that foxes are game enough to even eat the food that is left out for dogs and cats. I would strongly suggest that all owners of backyard chickens safeguard their chickens, before, not after a fox is noticed in the area.
Predator Proofing a Chicken Coop
The best way to keep foxes out of your chicken coop depends largely on the style of coop and run that you have. If you have a mobile chicken coop that has a run attached to a housing section, it’s important to make sure that foxes can’t tunnel underneath the outer edges of your coop. Even if you’re on reasonably hard soil, foxes can be quite determined to access your coop.
One of the best things to do in this case is to wire a large mesh floor to the base of your coop. If it’s attached to the base itself, it will be able to be moved along with your coop when you move your chickens to a fresh area of your backyard. Chickens love to have area to scratch, so you want to make sure that this mesh floor has large enough squares to still allow your chickens to scratch, but small enough that a fox won’t be able to enter. We’ve found that mesh with 10cm x 15cm rectangles is ideal. If you stood this mesh upright, a fox may actually fit through, but when it’s wired to the base of your coop, a fox will not be able enter the coop due to the angle of their burrowing.
The other option is to create a mesh ‘skirt’ around the edge of your coop. This allows your chickens more room to scratch, as there’s no need to have the mesh under the coop as well, but makes moving your coop a little harder. We’ve tried both methods and the skirt is very cumbersome, but may be the preferred option by some.
It’s also important to make sure that your mobile chicken coop is made from strong enough mesh. Unfortunately, some of the imported coops that we've seen on the market are made using very light ‘aviary’ style mesh. We’ve been told about foxes that have chewed through this thin mesh to gain access to the chicken coop. So just make sure that the coop you purchase, or make, has strong enough mesh. I would suggest mesh that is 2.5mm thick. We’ve found that this cannot be damaged by foxes trying to chew through, or children who love chickens and clamber all over the chicken coop!
Fox Proofing a Fixed Chicken HouseIf you’ve got a chicken house that stays in a fixed position, the main issue is making sure that the run area is fox proof. Most people with a traditional chicken shed and run erect a permitter of high chicken wire to form the run. This wire should have holes no larger than 80mm in diameter. As this style of run generally has no ‘roof’, it’s important that the walls are high enough to prevent a chicken from flying over as well as to prevent a fox from entering (around 1.8m high is generally adequate).
The other important consideration is that the chicken wire at the bottom of the fence is dug into the ground, not far below the surface to a distance of about 50 or 60cm. As mentioned, foxes will dig to gain access to your chicken house. If the wire is dug into the ground, the foxes will hit the wire wh
If you've ever found the time to sit and observe the interactions of backyard chickens, you'll no doubt understand where the term 'pecking order' originated. While you might debate who 'rules the roost' in your home or workplace, you can be sure that there is a clear 'King' or 'Queen' that dominates your backyard chicken coop.The concept of a 'pecking order' was coined back in the 1920s by biologists who discovered that backyard chickens maintain a hierarchy with one chicken pecking another of lower status. In the absence of a rooster, one particular chicken will dominate all others. The 'pecking order' concept was transferred to human behavior in the 1950s.
Chicken dominationWhile owners of backyard chickens may not be aware of such a hierarchy, the chickens most definitely know their place in the coop society. If you have chickens in your backyard, take a moment to simply look at the condition of their feathers. There will be one chicken that will stand out with its beautiful crop of feathers entirely intact. If you take a little more time to sit and watch the action in your chicken coop, you'll see that this 'top chook' has been given the right to peck any other chicken in the flock, with no retaliation. While you may not be able to make out the order entirely, there is a definite hierarchy. Each chicken knows whom they are allowed to dominate and whom they need to step aside for in terms of eating first and having the privilege of the best laying boxes and perches. The favourite laying boxes and perches are generally those that are the highest in the chicken coop, and therefore the greatest distance away from predators.
Chicken coop introductionsIf you've just taken the step to acquire backyard chickens or are about to do so, be prepared for a short period of intense fighting between your new pets. This fighting determines whether a chicken is dominant or submissive and therefore where they sit in the pecking order. Interestingly, if you remove a chicken from a well-established flock for only a day and then put that bird back in the chicken coop again, fighting amongst the entire flock will reoccur to re-establish the appropriate pecking order. This is also found to occur when a chicken is injured, with their place in the pecking order significantly down-graded as a result.
Adding New ChickensOf course when you add new chickens to an existing flock of chickens the pecking order needs to be re-established. While it's unlikely that you will be able to prevent fighting
It might seem obvious, but have you ever wondered if a rooster is a necessary addition in your chicken coop for your chickens to lay an egg? There seem to be many myths or ‘old wives’ tales’ circulating about eggs and the rooster’s role in egg production. This article, aims to answer some of these commonly misunderstood issues.
You may have had chickens in your backyard chicken coop for many years, or perhaps you're new to the chicken scene. Either way, some of the questions and related answers below might seem obvious, but read on, as it’s likely that you’ll be surprised at some of the answers.
No. Hens, like female humans, don't need a male in order to ovulate. If the aim is to produce baby chicks, then fertilization and therefo
I love backyard chickens but I’m definitely not a fan of mice and rats. Just because you have chickens in your backyard, doesn’t mean you also have to have mice or rats in your chicken coop. Obviously it’s not the chickens themselves that attract mice or rats, it’s the spilt or poorly stored grain or pellets that can attract these unwanted visitors.
Rodents are looking for food, water and shelter. If your chicken coop provides a secluded corner that your chickens can’t access, food and water, these little creatures might just decide to stay. Interestingly, chickens are actually omnivores which means that they eat both vegetable and meat materials. Chickens happily eat insects, worms, carcasses as well as seeds, grains, weeds and other plant material. This means that a mouse that is a bit slow running through the coop, might find that he becomes a light snack for one of your chickens. I wouldn’t however, rely on your chickens to keep your mouse problem under control.
Owners of backyard chickens should always take preventative measures to keep away these undesirable visitors that can bring with them a range of diseases.
Keeping mice out of the chicken coop
While the first, logical thing to do would be to prevent mice actually entering your chicken coop, this is much easier said than done! Mice can fit through very small spaces, so small that we may overlook potential access points because we assume that they’re too small.
If you have a fixed chicken coop made with iron walls, a concrete floor and fine mesh, you may be able to keep them out. But if you’ve got a mobile chicken coop or you regularly free range your chickens, there’s likely to be a tiny gap somewhere for these determi
Kids love having pets and parents love that pets can teach children responsibility, kindness and empathy. If you don’t already have a pet, it’s likely that your children are regularly pestering you about getting a dog or a cat or even a rodent, rabbit or guinea pig.
The pet that may not have immediately come to mind is the humble backyard chicken.Recession Proof Pet
Keeping chickens as pets is a growing trend world-wide, and it’s not difficult to understand why this is the case. For some it may be the desire to get back to basics and being self sufficient, but for many people it’s the realisation that chickens make gr
If you’re thinking of adding a few new spring chickens to your backyard flock to boost the egg count, here are 5 tips to make the transition process as easy as possible for you, your older hens and the new additions.
Most people are familiar with the concept of a 'pecking order' in chicken society. Many people however, do not realise the implications of adding new chickens to an existing flock, which has previously established each member's place within the chicken hierarchy.
You might not realise it, but chickens know whom they are allowed to pick on (those beneath them in the hierarchy) and which other chickens they must be submissive to. Adding new chickens throws the hierarchy into confusion, with a new order needing to be established. During this phase, fighting will occur amongst the chickens in order to determine who is submissive and who is dominant, and in the end, which bird will be the 'top chook'.
1. Use two coops side by side
If you happen to have two chicken coops (or chicken tractors) or are able to borrow a small coop for a week or two, you have the option of putting your new chickens in this second coop, which can then stand alongside your main coop. This gives both groups of chickens the opportunity to get familiar with each other, without any physical contact. After a week or so, you can then integrate the new chickens into the main coop. While it's likely that there'll be some fighting, it will be less intense due to the precautionary, 'familiarization' stage that you've undertaken.
2. Introduce new chickens at night-time
It has also been found that introducing new chickens to a flock at night-time can help to minimize the fighting that occurs. Grab a torch and place the newest additions amongst the older chickens on the perches. At night-time t
While chickens are fairly robust animals, summer can be fatal for your feathered flock. It’s important that all backyard chicken owners are able to identify when their chickens are in distress and what to do about it. As chickens are unable to sweat, they use other ways to try to reduce their body temperature in summer.
Chickens will pant when they are hot to try to remove moisture from their bodies by evaporation. They also hold their wings out slightly to get cool air closer to their bodies. If you visit your chicken coop and find your chickens looking lethargic and their combs are faded and dry, it may already be too late as they are likely experiencing heat stress. The best thing is to be proactive b
If you’re interested in getting backyard chickens, you’ve likely wondered what type of chicken is best for your backyard. As there are hundreds of breeds of chickens in existence, it can be a little overwhelming when deciding on a breed.
Chickens vary in lots of different ways including bodily size, feather colour, extent of feathers, comb type and egg colour. Breeds of chicken also vary in terms of their main use. Some are best for eggs, others for their meat, some are more for ‘decorative’ purposes, and some are considered ‘dual-purpose’.
In order to determine which breed is best for your situation, let’s look at some of the most common qualities that owners look for in their new backyard pets.
1. Egg size – do you want full size eggs for cooking or are you happy with a smaller sized egg?
2. Quantity of eggs – some breeds produce more eggs on average in a year.
3. Mother hens – certain breeds are better for rearing chicks.
4. Family friendly, docile chickens - will your chickens also be pets for your family?
5. Standard breeds versus rare/ pretty chickens.
Good egg size
One obvious difference between standard and miniature (or bantam) chickens is the size of the egg they produce. A bantam egg is around a half to a third the size of an average egg from a full sized chicken. Bantams also produce fewer of these smaller eggs in a year. For example the Isa Brown breed of chicken will produce around 260 eggs per year, compared with only 150 small eggs from various breeds of bantam chickens. So if eggs are important to you, it’s best to go for a full standard sized hen.
Quantity of Eggs
Different breeds of chickens seem to be able to produce more eggs than others. As mentioned, the commercial hybrid ‘Isa Brown’ tends to lay more eggs per year compared with other chickens. Isa Browns can produce up to 300 eggs per year in it's first year. Then generally around 260 eggs per year, compared with 250 from the Black Australorp and around 200 from the Rhode Island Red. White leghorns are also a higher volume layer producing around 195 eggs per year.
Broody Mother Hens
From time to time chickens go broody or ‘clucky’ meaning that they tend to sit on their eggs in the hope that they’ll be able to hatch some chickens. Of course some poor hens still do this even though there’s no rooster in this pen to make this possible. While the chickens are broody they will stop laying new eggs and sit on their eggs, or whatever eggs they can find, for an extended period of time. If a chicken actually sits on fertilized eggs, in 21 days they will hopefully hatch into chicks.
Often bantam breeds such as ‘Silkies’ regularly go broody, so these are a good choice if you want some hens to do the sitting. Other breeds such as Rhode Island Reds or Australorps have had their broody instincts bred out of them, so you have a chicken at maximum egg laying capacity. If you decide down the track that you’d like some chicks, purchasing some fertilized eggs and hiring an incubator may be the way to go, because it’s unlikely these ‘unbroody’ breeds will get broody just when you need them to.
Family Friendly Chickens
If you’ve got children, you might like to get a breed of chicken that doesn’t mind being handled. If you’re not too fussed about getting eggs and want the chickens more as pets, then various bantam breeds might be the way to go.
Frizzles are unusual but attractive looking bantams that have curly feathers that point upwards instead of sitting flat again the body. Pekin is another popular breed of bantam that looks like a ball of feathers. They even have feathers on their legs and feet. These are very placid creatures and are excellent pets for children. Silkies are also very placid and make great pets for children. Like many bantam breeds, Silkies are great broody hens.
If you want a breed of chicken that is great a great layer and also good with children, Australorps are a good choice. These are black in colour with a beetle green sheen to their feathers. They are great with children and other pets and lay really well.
Most backyard chicken owners will realise the importance of having their chicken coop well ventilated in hot weather. Fewer would realise that ventilation is still very important when it's freezing outside and even when snow is falling!
Chickens generate a great deal of moisture, both from the water vapour from their breath as well as from their manure. It may not occur to you that chickens don't really urinate as such, but produce very moist manure. Chicken manure is 75-80% moisture. They produce much more moisture than many would expect. As such, their chicken coops can easily get quite humid from the heat and moisture they produce. Damp air holds germs and viruses which can then lead to respiratory problems in your chickens.
Ventilation in Winter