Unfortunately for our chickens they make quite a nice meal for many predators. It is very hard (and expensive) to totally predator proof a whole garden and even when we think we have, we can sometimes be in for an unpleasant surprise. So we do the best we can for our ‘girls’ (and boys) and try to keep them as safe as possible.
One of the simplest and most effective protections from predators is the wire mesh you use when building your poultry ark. ‘Chicken Wire’ will keep your chickens in but is next to useless at keeping any seriously interested predator out. A strong meshed wire should make it impossible for a fox or dog etc. to bite their way through. The size of the wire mesh should be fairly small to stop small hands reaching through and grabbing at your chickens legs or neck (if you have ever been unlucky enough to find one of your chickens near the edge of a fence with a head missing that is likely to be the reason why). Smaller holes will also stop small bodies of predators such as weasels and their varied relations squeezing through.
If your poultry ark is to be a permanent fixture then continuing the wire down 10 inches or so and then out a few inches (like an inverted ‘L’) will help prevent burrowers digging their way in. If your poultry ark is moveable then a wire ‘skirt’ laid out flat onto the ground for several inches all the way around the base should help deter diggers (it somehow seems to completely confuse them).
Minimising feed wastage and keeping your chicken feed in secure containers will help to reduce the attractiveness of your poultry ark to rodents and snakes. They also don’t like to be out in the open, so keeping the area free of little places to hide should also help.
It is also recommended to lock your flock in at night and to check that any doors or hatches you build cannot be forced open or lifted up (the same little predator hands that can reach through a fence can also open latches!).
If you are able to let your chickens ‘free range’ around your garden it is safest for them if you can be there with them. Noise and activity can deter the casual predator but will not make them 100% secure – it only takes a few seconds for a neighbourhood dog or fox to take their chances and kill or injure some of your flock.