This ‘Fowl Friday’ our focus is keeping our pullets safe from predators.  At Curbstone Valley we’re striving for a balance between the native wildlife here, and the domestic feathered inhabitants of the farm.  As much as we’d like to give our hens and pullets free run of the property, it’s neither practical, nor safe.

New Electric Fence Sign

Most of the property here is fenced in by mother Nature, as we’re surrounded by some very steep slopes.  However, this means that predators have relatively free-run here. As such, our poultry has always been ranged under at least some degree of supervision, as brazen bobcats and cunning coyotes are not afraid of making their presence known, even during daylight hours.  When we can’t supervise them, the pullets have been in the enclosed run during the day.

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are a common sight at Curbstone Valley

With so many projects going on, at various locations on the property, it’s become increasingly difficult to range the hens, and be close enough to intervene when a marauder wanders through looking for an easy meal.

Siegfried is tough, but he's no match for a bobcat

Siegfried, our Partridge Plymouth Rock rooster, although vigilant and mindful of his girls, is no match for teeth and claws.  He does do an excellent job of squirreling away the hens in the coop if danger lurks, but there is invariably a hen or three that doesn’t listen, becoming potentially easy fodder.

This is where our new portable electric poultry fence helps to bolster our defences.

This electrified net fence helps protect the pullets while out ranging

There are a number of poultry net-like fences available on the market.  We elected to go with a heavy-duty portable fence, primarily so we can move the hens around the property as we need to.

Each 100' section is lightweight, with the posts built in. It's easy to store when not in use, and easy to install

We purchased a 100 foot linear section of fence, along with an energizer, to power the fence.  We can add additional 100 foot lengths of fence as needed by connecting a new fence section to one of the terminal clips.

Terminal clips at each end of the fence enable additional 100' sections to be connected as needed

The fence is not self-powered, and requires the use of an energizer (power unit).

The fence is powered by this energizer

We chose to use an energizer that runs off house current, as we have power outlets at various locations on the property.  Portable energizers, and some solar powered energizers are available, however many require the use of sealed, non-rechargeable batteries, which can become expensive, and potentially sends a lot of batteries to the landfill.  There are many options available though in portable fence systems, so it’s worth doing your homework before investing in one.  With net fences it’s imperative to use an energizer rated for that style of fence, or the fence may melt!

The fence is not effective against aerial predators

This fence will not protect the hens from aerial predators, like hawks, as you have to have at least one foot on the ground to be shocked by an electric fence. We’ve found, at least here, the hawks, although frequently sighted circling above, don’t seem too interested in the chickens now they’re grown.  The pullets are getting quite large now, and no hawk, not here anyway, would realistically be able to fly off with one.

Hawks make the pullets quite nervous when they circle overhead

This fence likely won’t stop a determined mountain lion either, but there hasn’t been a sighting of a lion here for a few years…hence our thriving deer population.

For ground-roaming creatures though, including stray neighboring dogs that have been a problem recently, when they walk up to the fence directly it should help to provide a short, sharp correction, and teach the offender a lesson in respect.  After all, there’s nothing like 8,000 volts to a wet nose to help get a predator’s attention.

This 8000-volt fence is currently set up forward of the existing coop and run

While the girls, and Siegfried, have been adjusting to their new enclosure, we’ve left the fence terminated at each end of the existing run.  This permits the hens to still use the nest boxes in the coop, and provides a more secure hiding place if a persistent predator should wander through.  Our intention though is to ultimately move the fence around the property, but to do that we ideally also need to build a small portable shelter with a couple of nest-boxes for them while they’re on range, so the girls don’t start laying eggs in the shrubbery.

The girls now have the freedom to forage every day

For now though, the girls seem to be enjoying their new set-up.

That said, our fence isn’t bomb proof.  In part because our variable slopes here can actually make it quite easy for a predator to launch itself over the fence.  We have to consider this during fence set up.  However, on level ground, this gives the girls a fighting chance against intrusion, and gives them the opportunity to be out on range every day.

The chickens are much happier to be out running around every day

In our recent Gardening with Chickens post we mentioned that in an effort to protect your seedlings in the garden, a small fence to corral the chickens can be helpful.  Depending on your situation, a fence such as this can be useful, especially if you have over-inquisitive dogs, or your property borders on wild-land.

Don't be fooled...just like any wild predator, some dogs have high prey drive and would love to catch a chicken!

Our high prey-drive young Labrador hasn’t yet met the new fence…no doubt she’s in for a shock!

***UPDATE: Before investing in this style of electric fence, we recommend you read our subsequent post “Cat Among the Chickens“***