Foxes and Chicken Coups

/Foxes and Chicken Coups

To fox-mesh, or not to fox-mesh, that is the question.

Possibly the most common questions we are asked relate to fox-mesh, what is it, how it is used and is it necessary.

What is it?

Technically, fox-mesh is similar to sheep yard mesh (if you are a farmer) in that it is made of 4mm gauge wire (which makes it relatively stiff) and the squares in the mesh measure 100mm * 100mm (4” * 4” in the old scale). The size of the holes are large enough to allow the chickens access to the ground, yet small enough to inhibit a fox from entering the chicken tractor. Yes, the chickens would prefer not to have the mesh under their feet, but if you asked your chickens I am sure they would definitely prefer fox-mesh to an encounter with a fox. (I have not had this independently tested, but I’m on pretty safe territory).

Why would I want it?

The top and walls of your chicken tractor are constructed in such a manner as to be impervious to any predator wandering the wilds of Australia. Therefore, assuming that your chicken tractor is placed on a flat piece of ground, and the doors (both front and top) are closed then there is no way for vermin or predators of any significant size to enter the chicken tractor and cause harm to either the chickens, their eggs, or their food supply.

The one predator that is smart enough to attempt to dig underneath the walls of the chicken tractor is a fox – most wild dogs tend to bark and attack the coop rather than attempting to dig. The question therefore is, do you live in an area with foxes, and if so, are they able to attempt to dig under the walls of the chicken tractor. If you have working dogs on the property, or your ground is particularly hard then you may not need fox-mesh. Otherwise, if you live in an area where foxes are common you probably will need foxmesh.

Now, my chicken tractor has arrived, I have assembled it and I have this piece of fox-mesh. What to do with it?

Well, there are 4 schools of thought about what you should do and the ideal answer depends on how you intend to use your chicken tractor, how often you are planning to move your chicken tractor and how keen you are on a little extra effort every time you move it.

The simplest thing to do is to weld it on the bottom of the tractor. This is a little extreme as it makes it pretty difficult to remove later on if you move house or change your mind, but on the upside it is permanent and it is done. You’ll never have to worry about it again, and this is not a bad idea if you intend to move your chicken tractor rarely if ever.

The second option is to attach it either with cable ties or tie wire. Tie wire generally works best, but cable ties are perfectly adequate if there is nothing for the fox-mesh to snag on during moves. This option also gives you flexibility if you change your mind, or you need to dis-assemble the chicken tractor when you move house. In my experience, most customers go for this option.

In both of the options above it is important to note that attaching the fox-mesh to the bottom of the cage causes one major problem. When you move your cage and the chickens are inside there is nothing for them to stand on which will cause leg injuries. The only two ways around this is to move the cage at night (when the chickens are roosting and nothing will wake them) or let the chickens out during the day and move the cage when they are not inside.

The third option is to not attach the fox-mesh to the cage at all. Simply place the fox-mesh on the ground and roll the chicken tractor on top of it. The weight of the chicken tractor is sufficient so that the fox cannot push the cage off the mesh (foxes don’t have opposable thumbs after all). Therefore moving the cage becomes a process of rolling the cage off the mesh, moving the mesh to a new location and rolling the cage back onto the mesh. This is a more labour intensive operation, but it does come with advantages. It is easier to clean the mesh when it is not attached to the bottom of the cage, and also it gives you the opportunity to have the chickens off the mesh during the day if appropriate. Likewise at night, or when you leave the property, they can be rolled back onto the mesh meaning that you don’t have to worry about them when you are not there.

The fourth option is not to put the mesh underneath the chicken tractor, but to butt the mesh around the chicken tractor. Commonly referred to as a ‘skirt’ this stops the fox from digging and does not interfere with the chicken’s feet. This is ideal from the chickens’ perspective, but from your perspective it is the most labour intensive. Each time you move the coop, you will need to move the sheets of fox-mesh individually. This is a bit like buying a gym membership – we all intend to do it, but are we going to? If you decide that this is the ideal solution for you, call us first as this option is not available on our website at this time.