When I came in from the barn Tuesday morning, I saw a message on my machine. It was from my sister. Our brother who lives with Mom called to tell her the two hens I’d raised from day-old chicks and dropped off on June 2nd were dead. A raccoon had broken through the chicken wire and had torn apart the young birds. Mom was very upset.
I called Mom and learned the murdering raccoon had previously visited their backyard and had made a mess of their compost bin and garbage. I wished I had known this, but in the 29 years I’d lived there, we had never had a problem with wildlife. The neighbours’ cats and dogs had been the only animals causing destruction at that time.
Mom said she didn’t want to try raising chickens again. The loss was too hard to go through a second time. My brother was dismantling the cage and the coop. It is a sad ending to what could have been a few years of fresh eggs and great companionship in the backyard for a senior. Now, it’s just a bad memory.
I didn’t attempt to convince Mom to try again. She’d made up her mind and under the circumstances, I understood.
I explained to Mom that I had learned the hard way about what constitutes chicken wire and what doesn’t. The wire sold as chicken wire should never be used to protect chickens against predators. It may fend off smaller, weaker animals, but it won’t keep out racoons, foxes and larger animals. One night about four years ago, we had two chickens snatched by a fox from our small coop. We had followed the fox trail through the tall grass and found the carcasses.
We reinforced the chicken wire with wire netting, also called steel cloth. The square holes are about half an inch wide, big enough for a small finger, but not a mouse. Since then, we haven’t had any problems with predators getting at our hens.
This spring, when I decided to construct movable cages, also known as chicken tractors (except I use them for ducks), I ignored the chicken wire. Instead, the entire pen is wrapped with steel cloth. These pens will not only fend off stronger animals, they should last several years longer than any made with chicken wire.
You can read about my decision to buy the chicks for Mom in a previous blog, Two Chicks for a Mother Hen.