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The basics of a pen is to contain animals to a specific area for management or safety. This can give you a lot of freedom to design with resources you have to meet your and your animals’ needs. There are a few design differences to keep in mind for birds, or dogs.
First up the birds (chickens, turkey, guinea, ducks, geese, etc). If you are keeping birds locked in a run, you will need a predator proof fence. Chicken wire isn’t going to cut it. It is not strong enough to hold up the long term. Save yourself time and money and invest in welded wire. Bury 4-6 inches into the ground to keep predators from trying to dig in. You will need a fence at least 8 foot tall as well. If hawks are a problem, you’ll need some kind of overhead protection. That could be a physical fence top, or string wires across the top.
If you free range your flock, I highly recommend having a shed or night base for the birds to gather in that is protected. I lock my birds in at night, but I know people who don’t. The main thing is you will have to protect your flock somehow. I use a combination of geese and guardian dog. Our house has fields around it that in the summer, create a natural fence the birds don’t like to go into. The LGD knows his border and keeps the land predators pushed out, keeping the birds safe. The geese keep an eye on the sky and alert the LGD if there is an issue. It really is fun to watch them work together.
Mobil chicken tractors are also an option, but you have to have an open landscape for them work. In my home, I have too many trees for that to be a feasible option.
Now the farm dogs. This is probably the easiest. Once a farm dog knows his home base and his boundary, you really don’t need to keep them in a physical fence. When introducing a new dog or puppy to the farm, have a kennel or tie line to help them learn this is home. Then gradually let them out with supervised time, walks around the property. As they show themselves trustworthy, you can leave them free all the time. Keep the tie out handy for the times they do go too far, and you can tie them back up. For a time.
What about if you have a dog that just won’t stay home, or will not leave flocks/animals alone? In this case you will need some kind of fence or collar. Full disclosure. I have 2 cattle working dogs that will herd and terrorize the chickens non-stop. I have a pet safe wireless fence that keeps them in the front yard. The birds stay outside their fence, and everyone lives in peace (most of the time).
For a dog prone to wandering, I’d recommend a gps hunting collar. I had one for our LGD to keep him on the property, because we have such a small land base (3.4 acres). However, I must be within .5 miles to keep connection with his collar. The good news he’s most prone to wondering at night, so I keep the remote by my bed. I am looking at upgrading to a collar that connects to my phone. Currently, he is running without a collar and if he leaves, he is tied back up for a time.
Fence for bird flocks and farm dogs, doesn’t need to be complicated. It is important to keep everyone as safe as possible. A few tools and thinking through your landscape and you’ll have the best adaptable solution for you.
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