Depending on where you live, the ability to contain your flock can be absolutely critical. Should one of your birds decide to fly over and visit your neighbor and this neighbor has a dog, then… their dog is sure to have fun ‘playing’.
It’s also worth noting that fences can work to discourage predators – something I have personal experience with. However, a day spent installing that extremely heavy 6 foot tall fence (that comes in 100 foot lengths) will have been spent in vain if your flock doesn’t stay on the right side of it, away from the fox!
A fully feathered chicken can fly high enough to clear a 6 foot fence, providing there is a notable motivation to do so. These birds have the flight feathers and muscle required to lift them from the ground. It’s just that domestication has really made them ‘fat’ so flying is not easy for them. They prefer to walk about on their strong legs. But, should the situation require more than what walking provides, they will fly.
An example of this would be a rooster that you might have separated from the rest of the flock for his bad behavior. For him, the motivation will be strong enough to find a way to over the fence.
Another example would be if something startles the flock. A scared chicken can easily clear a 6 foot fence.
They can also land of top it, which is actually more problematic than you might think. In this past week, I’ve had two different instances where I had to intervene on the part of a bird that found itself perched on top of the fence.
The first was when one of my Easter Eggers encountered snow for the first time and decided to go up. (She really doesn’t like snow).
The second was when a mink got into the run and one of my Orpingtons went up in order to escape.
### Important Note ###
If you find one of your chickens, perched on top of a high fence, you should act immediately.
In both of these cases, my hens needed ‘rescued’ as being on top of the wobbly fence, that high off of the ground, put them in stress. You might think that just because they flew up there, they’ll fly back down. And logically, that would make sense. But panicked chickens have very limited reasoning capability.
Also, there is the risk of injury as adult chickens are quite hefty and a bad landing can leave the bird with a broken leg.
How High Should A Fence Be For Chickens?
One of the most unique and sometimes frustrating things about chickens is that they are so unpredictable. They can lull you into a false sense of security by exhibiting good behavior for months on end. And then out of the blue, they’ll do something unexpected. This of course leaves you frantically trying to figure out a fix as once they start a bad habit, they like to keep it up.
Providing that there is no notable surface to perch on, a chicken will generally not fly over a 3 foot fence.
To give you an example, I hung bird netting (vertically) around my garden last year. This makeshift fence was just about waste high. And I can tell you that despite lots of ‘yummy stuff’ just on the other side, the flock never flew over the fence.
But, one should note that chickens will routinely jump to branches that are 4ft and 5ft off of the ground. These branches are fixed large surfaces that the bird can grip with confidence. A wire fence, simply does not offer the surface area for large chicken feet.
How To Stop Chickens Jumping Over Fence
It can be extremely frustrating when you’ve installed a fence that is meant to protect your birds, only to have your birds routinely escape to danger. All of your money and hard work is negated as yet another member of your flock falls to a predator.
But as frustrating as this can be, fences are still an incredible asset to the well being of your flock. You just have to figure out a way to keep them on the right side of it.
The best way to stop chickens from jumping over a fence is to offer a significant distraction. Aside from unintended escapes, chickens will often find their way over their protective boundaries simply because they’re bored.
Chickens need a regular amount of stimulation. Without such, they can become stressed, cranky and soon determined to get out. The more space that they have, the more they can find to satisfy their curiosity. Unfortunately, not every situation lends itself to a chicken free-ranging their day away. In these types of situations, there are a few alternatives.
- A bale of hay – Chickens love to kick with their feet. This innate behavior can start within a day after hatching, and they will do it the rest of their lives. Putting a bale of hay in their run (making sure to cut the twine), will allow them to tear it apart and spread it all over. And for the record, they LOVE this! Even my free-range birds, which will wander over several acres, will skip their regular routine to play with (destroy) a pile of hay.
- Adding a roof – Covering the roof of your chicken run (aka, the play pen) not only protects your flock from airborne predators, but keeps your birds on the right side of the fence. Simple bird netting will accomplish this. But, if you want to keep climbing predators, such as the raccoon, out then you will want to install a wire material for this roofing.
- Clipping flight feathers – Shortening the length of a chicken’s flight feathers, drastically reduces their capacity for taking flight. And seeing that they aren’t very good fliers in the first place, this makes flying over the fence unlikely. However, it should be noted, that while a chicken looses its ability to fly, after clipping their flight feathers, it does nothing to limit their ability to climb. And I’ve seen a hefty Australorp do just exactly that – right over a 6 foot fence!
Can A Fox Jump Over A 6 Foot Fence?
A fox is the bane of every chicken’s existence. Those crafty canines are absolutely ruthless. I’ve lost more chickens in a 3 hour window to a fox, then I’ve lost for all other reasons combined – in the last 3 years! Talk to anyone who has been through this before and they can tell you, a fox can decimate your entire flock in a single day. And they won’t give you any warning as to when they will act.
There is a gray fox that frequents my property and he is the whole reason why I have a fence. That being said, a 6 foot fence is not guaranteed to stop a fox.
A mature fox is completely capable of scurrying over a 6 foot fence. They are incredibly agile canines with climbing skills, that would shock you. In the right conditions, even a fence that measures 8 foot tall would still not stop them. However, they are more likely to find a way underneath your fence as going over the top exposes them and a fox doesn’t like to be seen. Fortunately, there are ways to deter this devastating predator from digging under your fence.
The first way to stop a fox is to us an electric fence. Most electric fencing is capable of putting out thousands of watts in charge. And it will only take one time for a fox to figure out, ‘this ain’t fun!’
Another way to deter a fox from digging under your fence is by burying a section of chicken wire. Simply dig a 2 foot wide trench all the way around your chicken run, making sure that it is at least 1 foot deep. Then lay chicken wire in this trench. Make sure that you overlap the existing fence by 1 foot (use 4 foot tall wire). If you’ve done it right, the chicken wire should be in the shape of an ‘L’ – laying 2ft out and 2ft up. Then fill everything back in with dirt.
A fox may start to dig, but once they hit this wire, progress will be stopped.
### Important Note ###
When installing a 6 foot tall fence, consider not making it really secure – in other words wobbly is a good thing.
Heavy bodied predators are reluctant to climb things that feel incapable of sustaining them.
For our chickens, we have a 100 foot by 100 foot fenced in run that we use when predators are about. For one 100 foot length, we use 4 T-posts that are 4 foot above ground (meaning that the top 2 ft of the fence is not secured.) And then on the corners and at the 50 ft mark, we have solid 6 ft posts.
This means that when our small 8lb hen finds itself on top of the fence, an entire 50 ft section wobbles and sways back and forth. This is less than ideal for a fox hoping to climb in.