I’ve recently created an enclosed area of our yard for the Silkies to roam around and peck in most days of the week. It immediately surrounds their coop and is about an 8′ x 6′ area. I used some nice, 24″ high decorative metal fencing that is pleasing to the eye and very effective in keeping them contained. Yet it’s still low enough for my daughter to easily step over to spend her happy afternoons with her hen sisters.
I made this decision primarily based on the dwindling appearance of my bountiful backyard. The continuous scratching at the grass while looking for bugs and such was taking it’s toll, as were the numerous dirt bath locations. Not to mention the poo everywhere, including our patio.
Now to the dramatic part: Living in the suburbs of Southern CA has it’s plusses in regards to keeping backyard chickens. One of the most significant ones in my eyes is that there are fewer large animals to worry about. So far, I haven’t had any close calls with hawks or coyotes, but what you may not realize or appreciate is that the biggest threat to your flock may be living next door.
A few days ago I’d decided to let out three of my hens to roam the entire yard. They still do this 1 or 2 times a week. The other 2 were in the nesting box. Soon a wood chipper whirrs up across the street to demolish a poor cypress that has been cut down. The 3 silkies start panicking at the noise and quickly manage to find their way to the furthest most point in my fenced yard, up a steep slope. Directly on the other side of this fence lives a pit bull. I’ve been well aware of this dog, even to the point of her jumping over the 5 foot fence when she saw my hens out about 4 months ago. I had a long talk with the owner about it and he assured me of her sweetness (her name is Bella, after all) and that she couldn’t hurt a fly. He put up some pretty flimsy chicken wire at the top of the fence and it seemed to be effective. I never saw the dog peek over again and honestly hardly ever heard her. Back to a few days ago: I’m holding three chickens walking down the slope to place them back in greener pastures. I’m about 15 feet from the coop when I see Bella’s face watching me over the fence. My daughter was standing next to the coop and before I could say “eggs” the dog was over the fence and a foot from my heels. This pit bull who supposedly wouldn’t hurt a fly looked ready to prepare herself a chicken dinner. Dogs have instincts that sometimes cannot be anticipated. I scrambled to get the 3 hens locked inside their coop and one even fell from my grasp. Luckily Bella stayed just outside our enclosed area and my yelling helped keep her a few feet away. She was growling, staring at the hens and looked ready to pounce. I got them locked up and I whisked my daughter inside. Things could have gotten ugly and I’m so thankful that all were safe. My dog-loving neighbor came over, leashed the coop-circling dog and helped me bring her back home. The owner assured me they would put up an electric fence, but did not tell me when.
Bella’s owner are renting their house and I happen to know who the owners are. I contacted them about the incident and apparently the lease states that they are not to have any pets. Looks like something is about the happen.
My concern is the safety and security of my daughter and animals. I need to feel confident that letting my daughter or hens in the backyard on their own for a few minutes is perfectly safe. And that’s that.