If you’ve got chickens, you know that they can present a real challenge when it comes to keeping them safe and happy. There are two chicken questions that we hear from our members more than any others. First is, “What is the best type of housing?” And the second one is, “How can I keep my flock safe from predators?” These are both difficult questions. And they’re both the type of question where if you ask 3 different experts, you’ll probably get 3 different answers.
For housing your flock – the options are endless. Simple coops, coop and run combos, chicken tractors, free range, etc. If you’re a fan of Joel Salatin, you know that he is a big proponent of pastured poultry. If you’re active in the permaculture community, you have probably heard a lot about the benefits of chicken tractors. There are countless different ways to house a flock, and the best option is often different for each different scenario. What works on one family’s rural acreage might not work on another family’s suburban lot – and vice versa.
For predators, there are several good options. But again, the best solution often varies from one situation to another. Rural flocks need to be protected from coyotes, bobcats, bears, and more. Urban flocks are more likely to be hunted by raccoons, feral cats, and neighborhood dogs. Livestock guardian animals like dogs and donkeys are a great option, and permanent fencing is another common choice. But no protection is fool-proof, and unfortunately most of us lose a bird from time to time.
If you caught Paul Wheaton’s presentation on chickens during the Home Grown Food Summit, you know that Paul has made a good case for pastured poultry paddocks as the best habitat choice for many flocks in many different situations. If you missed Paul’s presentation, you can catch up by reading our free eBook 6 Ways to Keep Chickens by Paul Wheaton. The key reason why this system of housing is the best is the paddock. This means you create a small, enclosed area for the flock. It’s easy to move around, so that your chickens keep getting fresh plants to forage. If you move it frequently, they won’t get a chance to completely wipe out the vegetation in any one spot. Another big benefit of this system is that the concentration of chicken poop is drastically cut down, so that the poop can be easily broken down by the elements and microorganisms without creating a massive clean-up effort for you. It’s a great system, no doubt.
Many people shy away from the pastured poultry paddock method because of the predator issue. It’s easy enough to move around a small enclosure of temporary fencing that’s only 3 or 4 feet high, but it’s also easy for some predators to jump or climb in and out. That’s where Premier 1 Electric Poultry Netting comes in. The folks at Premier 1 have designed a great solution that lets you keep your flock moving from spot to spot, without compromising the safety of your birds.
Premier 1’s electrifiable poultry netting comes in rolls, available in different sizes from 50 feet to the standard 164 foot length. The netting is held upright by 0.6″ PVC posts. Each post has a spike that you drive down into the soil for support. A standard 164 foot roll weighs only 23 pounds, including the posts, so it’s easy to pick up and move from place to place. If it is cared for well, a roll should last 10 seasons without needing any significant repairs.
For predators, the horizontal strands in the netting can be energized so that any predators that touch it will receive a brief electric shock. Predators quickly learn to stay away, and they look for their nightly meal somewhere else. The netting is available in 42″ and 48″ heights. It has proven to be effective against dogs, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, foxes, opossums and even bears. Energy sources for the netting are purchased separately. Premier 1 offers a wide assortment of energizers, including battery-powered and solar-powered units.
A standard 164 foot roll of netting costs $159, and Premier 1 offers free ground shipping on many products. I should mention that the [Grow] Network isn’t making any money on this promotion. We think Premier 1 makes a great product, and we think this product can help many of our members to create a better living situation for their small flocks – so we wanted to share this information with you. Premier 1 also makes comparable products for horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and more. So if you’re looking for a portable paddock system for any of your other homestead livestock, be sure to check out their products and recommendations.