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Fortify your Coop!

UPDATED 8.29.2011 I added a little more info on hardware cloth sizes and durability.

We don’t live in a perfect world, but we can work towards having a near perfect coop.  While chickens are inside the coop, you want them safe from outside critters.

Q: How about chicken wire?

A: Chicken wire is a great, cheap way to make a simple coop, but that stuff is far from predator proof. In fact, it’s downright predator-friendly.  It is thin, and critters like racoons can break it apart.  Further, the spaces in between the wires are big enough that predators can often get their hands through and pull their prey – your beloved chickens – to the wire and eat them in piece-meal fashion.

Overall predator-prevention rating by itself: F!

Q: How about a coop made of welded wire horse fence, like 2 in.  x 4 in. wire fencing?

A: This is definitely more durable than chicken wire and does have its uses in predator prevention.  For instance, if you have a dirt floor on your coop, you could use it 6 inches on either side of the coop boundary to make a digging barrier.  While perhaps not 100% predator prevention, it sure is going to deter a predator from having to do a 1 foot tunnel to get to its meal.  Further, it is durable as a day run and will keep predators from breaking it, if set up.  This however, won’t keep critters like rat snakes, rodents, or young predators (skunks, racoons, etc) from slipping right through.  Believe me, I have a garden with 2 x 4 inch. wire and watched a young skunk just waltz right in and out between a rectangle of wire.

Overall predator-prevention rating: C-   if as the coop by itself, A for bottom/floor enhancement.

Q: What about galvanized hardware cloth?

A: Ahh…now we’re getting somewhere.  Hardware cloth comes in different sizes, from 1/8 to 1/2 inch.  1/2 inch or less is small enough to keep a critter from reaching through. Depending on the gauge,  it’s durable enough not to break apart when pulled. The 1/2 inch hardware cloth is generally still 19-gauge, even with manufacturing shifting more overseas. The smaller the dimensions, often the weaker the gauge.  Many professional coop builders use 1/2 inch hardware cloth as part of their predator prevention design, as there is no such thing as a fully predator “proof” setup, most likely!

Further, like the above options, it offers good ventilation options.  You will pay more upfront for hardware cloth over chicken wire, but consider the cost of replacement chickens, predator traps, time investment, and you may also agree that it’s a great upfront investment.

Overall predator-prevention rating: A!

Coop built with hardware cloth

1/4 inch hardware cloth is our chicken coop building material of choice

You can see our homemade coop  is made of 3/4 inch PVC pipe, 1/2 inch galvanized hardware cloth, 2 x 4 treated lumber, plywood , and  2 x 4 inch horse fencing for the barrier at the bottom (we were just too lazy to cut it back, so it larger than 6 inches outside the coop). We also use a 19 x 30-ft. tarp on the top (not shown above), which we adjust according to seasons. We built it about 2 years ago, and it has worked great. We have since the photo above pimped out our coop further…but that’s a different post 🙂

What do you use for your coop and how has it worked out?

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