The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Chicken-proofing livestock panels

Chicken-proofing cattle panels

I made a big mistake when our livestock panels were delivered.  There are lots of different kinds of livestock panels, some with holes the same size all over and others with various types of small holes at the bottom.  I'd ordered the ones with very little holes down low working up to normal-sized holes halfway up the fence, but what actually came just had two rows of medium-sized holes at the bottom then had large holes the rest of the way up.  Unfortunately, I didn't notice the substitution until the panels were halfway unloaded, at which point I thought it wasn't fair to complain and figured we'd work with what we got.

Of course, once we put our first batch of chicks in the starplate coop, we realized that young chickens have no problem slipping right through those holes.  So we moved on to plan b --- add an expanse of one-inch chicken wire along the bottom of the panels to keep chickens in.  In some ways, this negates the awesomeness of livestock panels since it takes as long to attach the chicken wire as it did to put up the panels in the first place, and the panels will also now be harder to move.  But the chicken wire does keep the chickens in.

Chicken pasture

And we do get keep many of the good qualities of the panels.  I've enjoyed the way cattle panels can be curved into any shape imaginable --- a great asset if you have an irregularly shaped area and want to enclose every inch.  Plus, the heavy metal will keep Lucy from gnawing dog doors wherever she wants them, and will also allow the fences to stand up to bigger livestock if we ever get them.  Finally, I especially enjoy the way cattle panels are Anna-friendly fencing --- easy enough that I can put them up all by myself.

Our little flock is now enjoying the first paddock and I'll be adding chicken wire to new paddocks as they're needed by the pullets and cockerels.  At the moment, there are no gates at the far end of the pasture --- the chicks are still young enough that they don't venture that far from the coop.  I have a feeling gate-building will be on Mark's agenda in a week or two, though.  That's definitely a task too complex for me.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Anna, we did the same thing with livestock panels and found that clothespins were a quick and easy way to chickenproof our hog panels long enough to get our Freedom Rangers big enough to be hawk-proof. You can see it here:

Comment by Sooz Thu May 1 11:11:00 2014
I've enjoyed following this project so much. I've been holding off on a new chicken pasture project because I want to do something well thought out this time. It looks like you guys are definitely going in that direction. Love it!
Comment by Sara Fri May 2 16:06:14 2014
Maybe a little late, but you can make a super simple but functional gate with 2x4 wire fencing..the cheap 4 ft tall "dog fence" works great here. You secure one side (the "hinge" side, except there's no hinge needed..if it's on a post, you can just tack or wire or zip tie it securely on that side...can also be secured in the middle of a fence run between posts, because it's lightweight)...for the "latch" side you run a stiff rod down through the wire "gate"...a 3/4" length of pvc pipe works great here, but a broomstick would work, old fiberglass tent rod, etc...just weave the pole down through the "gate" wire in a couple places to keep it upright, then put a loop of stiff rope or baling wire on the fence or post that you want to latch the gate to. To close the gate, stick the bottom of the gate pole (pvc pipe or whatever stick you used) into the loop of wire on the bottom, then hook the other loop over the top of the pipe...voila...quick but effective gate on the cheap (or free if you're like me and have scraps of stuff laying around, lol). If this makes no sense at all, let me know and I'll see if I can upload a picture. These are handy for temp gates but also will last many years. Eventually, if the gate gets a lot of use and the angle of opening is extreme, like 180 degrees, then eventually the wire fencing on the hinge side will snap from being bent and unbent, I suppose, but I've never actually had one of these fail. I've got one on the side of my house between the house and patio fence, and it's been used for 10+ years, still works fine. These are better for keeping dogs and other critters "out" than "in", especially the dogs, but they are great when you need a gate that's not standard size or where you don't want to have to build a heavy wooden gate.
Comment by Cheryl Thu May 29 11:23:28 2014
come to think of it, you could make a gate with one of those livestock panels. Wire-tie or use rope or strong zip ties in a couple places to make the "hinge" side, then just overlap the "latch" side but instead of trying to thread a pole down through the panel, use a couple of swivel snaps to snap the gate wire to a matching fence panel wire. Would have to be on a straight run, but would work fine, especially for something you're only getting into once a day...two snaps and it's opened or latched securely.
Comment by Cheryl Thu May 29 11:30:16 2014

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