There can be no doubt that the world is out to get chickens. Sturdy housing needs to be provided, or there will be trouble.
Although our cats or dogs never got to the girls during their time in the brooder, we took no chances. We used a hinged storage container with locks. We cut a window in the top and used 1/4 inch welded hardware cloth, screwed in place with wood trim. It worked well, and was tested often by fat cats checking out the new “chicken exhibit ” in the house.
When the girls got their first feathers in and the weather outside was usually in the 80’s, they moved to their tractor outside in our yard. I will say they were about six weeks old, but really it was closer to five.
They were ready, and I was ready to stop cleaning out the brooder three times a day.
So much poo. I am not even kidding.
We bought the plans for this chicken tractor at http://www.thegardencoop.com , and it took us a few weekends to put together.
It is sturdy. The girls are comfortable in it. It is movable. It is also heavy. I get my workout every other day when I clean it and move it to its new spot. It is giving me great shoulder and thigh muscles. I only suggest to just watch where you put your hands inside. (See: Chickens are Messy). It’s really nothing more than what a good hose with spray attachment can handle, though.
As we have an abundance of raccoon, coyotes, foxes, feral cats and dogs, and wild pig In our area we needed something that could hold up under some stress. It has so far, survived an attack by our 95 pound lab mix in a fit of jealous doggy rage. Not too worse for wear.
He was sorry after. In his defense, he has kept our yard bird, squirrel, raccoon and opossum free the last seven years. He patrols a strict airspace. He chases off anything that comes in it. That includes airplanes. None have landed in our yard yet, so I guess he keeps those away as well.
He felt very displaced when we were spending so much time with these “birds” and not with him.
He has since worked out a trade with the hens. He keeps the many patrolling hawks out of the yard while they forage and they will keep making the magic tasty treats (i.e. poo).
This is why we tell people we don’t want our dog’s kisses.