While I can't protect them all the time, you can do your best. We lost one to a fox while free ranging in November, almost lost the whole flock to a dog that was allowed to roam (more than once), and just two weeks ago spied a fox - a large male fox- checking out the run. And that's just what we happen to see. What goes on when I'm not looking. We have a game camera, but even that doesn't catch it all.
Our run needed to be large, covered in hardware cloth, provide shade, and easy enough for me to build. A sturdy box frame with hardware cloth. Check.
I began by coating the wood that would be on the ground, even though it was treated, with blackjack. More coating couldn't hurt. I made a box frame with long self tapping bold screws and attached this to the coop. I used this box as a guide for where to dig my post holes for the end supports. This is about the time I discovered that big box wood stores have a clearance bin. I know! Who knew?! It might be slightly crooked over the span of 10 feet, but if you cut that down in to smaller pieces, they are straight! Or over run orders, or refused delivery, or cracked! LOL. I just cut that bit off and paint. $2 for a 4x4x10foot cedar post is better than $20! Anyway...
|The survey crew arrives.|
I also covered the front underside of the coop with plywood to which I attached a hardware cloth skirt. It is anchored to the ground under the coop with lawn staples. The box frame has a similar skirt that flares out from the coop base 2 feet from the coop. The idea is that a predator is not smart enough to hit the cloth near the coop edge, not be able to get in, and back up 2 feet and try again. I'm not a fan of working with this 1/2 inch wire cloth, but it is a necessary evil. On the inside backs of the boards, I attached the cloth with roofing nails and disks.
I painted as I went, instead of painting around hardware cloth. The vertical 2x4s simply screwed on and then the top box frame added with deck screws.
Once the frame was up, I added the hardware cloth with roofing nails with disks and then sandwiched that with a piece of painted 1x3 using deck screws. The door was a ReStore find and cost me $10. I took out the old metal screen and replaced it with hardware cloth and white trim. It has a hook and eye INSIDE, for working inside, and two hasps on the outside to prevent low prying critter hands. The roof frame is also covered and secured with hardware cloth. Then the entire roof was covered in opaque white corrugated panels.
In the run I have a wood limb low perch, a small climbing ladder, an old barn ladder mounted up high for a roost, water bucket, pvc feed bucket, and a ramp with patio. Some climb up, some fly up.
The new double/ single row perch allows for everyone to have a space, with room to spare. I did add a large 12inch square vent on the bottom corner (our right) below the poop board. This allows for even more summer air exchange. In the cold months this will be fully sealed and weather proofed to stop the exchange.
Even on the windiest of days, with all the windows shut, it is a full 10-15' warmer inside the coop than out, and very little air is lost from the front windows. Open the first row of windows and you drop the temp a few degrees and increase air flow. Open the upper windows and you almost match the outside temp and create a nice breeze.
The old little coop has been repainted to match and moved closer to the new place, so I can use it for whatever. LOL.
I have added an overhang above the top monitor window to help with blowing rain.
So there you have it. Almost 200 square feet, inside and out. Room for 20, but I am happy with my 15 pullets, and two cockerels.
It took me three full months, a silly amount of lumber, and almost $2500.
I have also just assembled a screen door for those really hot days and night. I purchased a solid oak door at the Restore, and removed the window panel and covered with hardware cloth using large nail in staples. The white board trip screws through the cloth and into the door, further securing the wire. It has two critter proof locks on it. OH, and it is upside down, so that fresh air comes in near the floor, where the chickens are and then freshens the coop as it exits through the upper windows.