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Homesteading is a lot of fun and a lot of work. Aside from daily chores, homesteading also comes with the headaches of keeping your chickens alive and well. The biggest culprit? Predators. Chicken raising comes with its fair share of heartache, particularly if you have foxes, possums, and wildcats in your midst.

While there’s no such thing as being 100% predator-proof, you can take steps to protect your flock. Here are my favorite predator-proofing measures. Add yours in the comments!

No chicken wire

I know it’s called chicken wire, but it’s not the best option to protect your chickens. It’s designed to keep chickens in, but it doesn’t keep predators out. Opt for stronger hardware cloth instead. Use it anywhere you would normally use chicken wire, like the sides of the coop or windows.

Elevate

Digging animals are a huge threat to grounded coops. It can cost a little more, but elevating your coop is an easier way to dig-proof. If you’d like to keep your coop on the ground, bury hardware cloth two feet below the surface. Sure, it’s extra work, but it can be the difference between having chickens and having a lot of feathers. For extra dig-proofing, design your coop to have solid floors. It’s much harder to dig through wood than dirt!

Lock it up

Always bring your chickens inside the coop before nightfall. They should be locked up safely from sunset to sunrise every day to protect against predators. Remember to choose a complex lock for your coop, too. Raccoons are very cunning critters and have been known to open simple hatch-based locks.

Have guards

Hens aren’t known for their fighting skills. However, other farm animals can defend your ladies. Roosters are a bit of a handful, but if you can tolerate them, they will protect your chickens. In fact, roosters are known to herd the hens to a safe area and sacrifice themselves protecting the flock. If you don’t want the work of keeping a rooster, guard dogs can also keep your hens safe in the event of a predator invasion.

Motion activated lights

Nighttime predators despise light. To deter predators from pestering your hens, install bright LED motion-activated lights.

The bottom line

Homesteaders are no strangers to heartbreak. However, you should take every precaution possible to prevent tragedy from befalling your chickens. Use these tips to strengthen your hens’ home and protect against pesky predators.

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How to Choose the Right Fence for the Job

Good fencing is crucial on the homestead for security and also for keeping livestock safe. Each fence you install will have a specific purpose, so it’s essential to know which type of fencing will work best for the job at hand. The fence you use to keep your chickens safe will be completely different than your perimeter security fence. You need to consider the behaviors of the animals you are trying to keep in, but also the ones you need to keep out (predators).

Here are some general tips to remember no matter which type of fence you choose:
  • Your posts must be anchored correctly. No matter what kind of fence you choose, it will be next to useless if the posts aren’t sturdy enough. You can get line posts that will just hold the fence in place, which is fine for some applications, but your corner and gate posts must be anchored in place with concrete.
  • Choose your gate placement carefully. Take your time when you are deciding where to place your gates. You want them to be convenient and accessible, but also in a safe location. For example, when we moved onto our homestead, someone had installed a gate right at the top of a steep hill. It was absolutely treacherous trying to get through that gate in the winter when it was icy. As soon as we could in the spring, we moved the gate over about 6 feet to a much safer location. The size of the gate itself matters, too. A four-foot gate works for humans and livestock, but you won’t be able to get a tractor through it.
  • Make sure you know where utility lines are located. Never dig without knowing where utility lines and water pipes are placed. And, while you’re at, be sure you know your property lines and local zoning laws, too.
  • The spacing of your posts is important, too. Generally, fence posts are spaced are spaced anywhere from 8-12 feet apart. Choose closer spacing for a stronger fence if you have critters that will test it. Ten to twelve feet spacing is usually reserved for large livestock like cattle or horses. No matter what type of fence you install, it must be stretched tightly between the posts, too.
Types of Fencing and Their Applications:

There are a lot of options when it comes to homestead fencing. You don’t have to use wooden fenceposts that will rot. You can get recycled plastic fence posts that will never rot and metal ones that are easier to install. And the fences themselves can be made of plastic or metal in all sorts of shapes and sizes for different applications. So, how do you know which one to choose?

  • One of the sturdiest, and best, multi-purpose options is woven wire fencing. The wire is generally woven into rectangles or squares in a variety of sizes. Often, a woven wire fence is topped with a row or two of barbed wire or electric fence. While this fence is more expensive and labor intensive to install, it is also very effective at keeping the most types of livestock contained. It also looks nice along the property line and as fencing around paddocks.
    Since it comes in a variety of hole sizes, you can choose smaller holes for poultry and larger ones for bigger livestock. When installing it for rabbits or poultry, bury the fence about 12 inches underground to keep predators from digging under it to get to your livestock. Topping it with a row or two of electric wire works great for keeping animals from climbing over it, and it also stops animals like horses from leaning over the fence to eat vegetation on the other side, which can weaken your fence over time. One major drawback is that it can be tough to install in hilly areas.
  • Barbed wire is a more affordable option, but it’s only good for some applications. Personally, I am not a fan of barbed wire and I don’t have any on my homestead. Although it is cheaper to purchase, it is only effective for keeping large animals like cattle and horses contained. Sheep and goats will go right through it, and so will predators. That being said, it does work well in hilly areas and can be a good option for fencing in a large cattle field.
  • Electric fencing is affordable and easy to install. It works well in hilly areas, too. Electric fencing is generally spaced at about 12 inches apart, but you can space it closer or farther apart, depending on the type of animals you are trying to contain. Depending on how you space it, it will work for just about any size of livestock. If installed correctly, it is very effective for keeping predators out, too. The drawbacks? You need to purchase a fence charger and have an electrical source available (there are solar options). And, of course it will also shock anyone who touches it, including pets or small children.
  • Portable, electric net fencing is another great option for small areas. I love electric netting for certain applications. It’s great for rotating animals like sheep, goats, poultry, or even pigs around your property. You can get it in various sizing and spacing, depending on what types of animals you’re using it for. It’s very easy to put up and take down by one person, so it’s a good option for an area that you want to fence in temporarily.
    The drawbacks include the need for an electrical source and fence charger and the fact that it can be flimsy. It’s probably not going to keep large, determined, or panicked animals where you want them. It’s not going to keep humans out either. I’ve also heard of animals getting tangled up in it, which could kill them if they’re not rescued pretty quick. You should definitely supervise your animals closely until you’re sure they aren’t going to mess with it.
  • Livestock panels are useful and affordable for smaller areas. Livestock panels are rigid pieces of wire fencing that are generally come in three sizes for cattle, sheep, or hogs. They are pretty affordable and they’re lightweight for easier installation. They are quite easy to move around to create a sturdy, safe fence around a small area. The don’t work well for areas where the ground isn’t level.

No matter which fencing option you choose, installing it correctly could mean the difference between a fence that sags after just a few months, or one that lasts for 20 years or more. Hopefully, this article has given you some good information to help you choose the right fencing for your homestead and the job at hand.


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