Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary, 17 Barker Road, Lebanon, CT, 06249

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How We Build Our Predator Proof Pens

The pen diagramed below measures 20' x 20', which is good for 2-4 ducks or 2 geese. Bigger pens with less birds in them tend to require less maintenance, are less likely to become parasite infested and they have a better chance of staying nice and grassy, which is good for webbed feet and also a great source of vitamin A.

Keep in mind, this is how WE build our pens. There are other ways of doing things.

 


The Foundation

Our foundations go at least 18" down into the ground. We dig trenches where the perimeter fence will be set down. The trenches are at least 6 inches wide and 18 inches deep. We then pour cement into this perimeter ditch and allow it to set. After that, we nail 2" x 4" boards down on top of this cement foundation. These boards are the anchors for our perimeter fencing.

Did you know? In our larger pens, the cement foundations can be as large as 12 inches wide and go 4 feet into the ground!


The Support Structure

Support beams should be placed 10 feet apart in a grid formation throughout the entire pen and on its perimeter.

Option One (wood):

Some of our pens are built utilizing 4" x 4" pressure treated, wooden beams as support poles. Metal foot brackets are screwed into the base of the beams allowing them to rest firmly on top of concrete pads (or on the perimeter cement foundation).

Cross beams are constructed out of various sizes of pressure treated lumber and are bolted and bracketed together.

Option Two (metal):

Some of our pens are built using metal "dog kennel" poles and brackets. Metal poles can be cemented right into the ground to hold them firmly in place.

Cross beams can be made of metal or wood (or both!). They are mounted utilizing brackets that attach to the metal poles.

 


The Perimeter Fence

Your budget will likely determine the quality of your perimeter fencing, but more importantly, you need to consider the type of predators you are trying to keep out.

Option One (more affordable):

Tip: This option can work with either a wooden or metal support structure. If you are using a metal support structure, you can purchase tension brackets to clip the metal fencing into place over the poles.

Our pens that are out in the open are built differently from our pens that are set off in the forest. Our pens set in the open grass don't need to be quite as tough. This makes them more affordable.

We purchase PVC galvanized wire with the smallest weave possible. Home improvement stores commonly carry wire with 1.5" x 2.5" grid spaces. We always purchase fencing that is 6 feet high to make it easy and comfortable for us to walk through our pens. The length of the roll (or rolls) obviously depends on the size pen we are constructing, but they usually come in rolls of 50 feet.

Then we purchase a roll of 6 foot high, 1" hex wire (also referred to as poultry wire or chicken wire). We tend to buy this in 100 foot rolls. If we can find PVC hex wire at the time of construction, all the better!

  

We put up this hex wire around the perimeter poles and then we put up the PVC galvanized wire over the top of it. This makes a thicker, 2-layer fence with a tighter weave that prevents dogs, coyotes or raccoons from biting through it (because they can bite through poultry wire).

Option Two (more expensive):

Tip: This option works best when you have a wooden support structure.

Our pens that are set off in the forest are built with tougher materials. Why? Because predators are better camouflaged in the woods and feel more comfortable there. This means they have more time to try to break in without being seen.

When building our forest pens we utilize a more expensive PVC welded wire mesh as our perimeter fencing. This stuff will keep everything out!

Tip: Keep in mind that this option is not only more expensive, but it is also pretty heavy and harder to cut to size (you will need very good, heavy-duty wire cutters).

We use black, vinyl coated, 16 gauge, 1/2" x 1/2" mesh that we buy in rolls of 72" X 100', but other color and size options are available. Visit Louis Page Inc to order (remember to ask for a lift gate delivery truck). We nail this fencing to our wooden support structure using "U" shaped fencing nails.

  

 
In the above photo, you can see we used this same material for our perimeter fencing and for our pen's ceiling.

Option Three (making use of what you already have):

We had a pre-existing dog kennel already in place on the property. We purchased roles of PVC welded wire mesh and simply zip-tied them into place over the existing pen. This keeps our ducks and geese from poking their heads through the holes in the chain link, and it also keeps raccoons from reaching into our pens and pulling at our birds (which is one of their deadly tactics).

We purchased anti-fatigue mats to cover up the hard, cement floor, which is not safe for webbed feet.

We use Soft Floor Interlocking Tiles, Item #FM28, Green (other sizes and colors are available). Visit Mat Depot to order. Caution: this product is not always ideal for geese who may pluck it apart. Goose options coming soon!

The end result was a great quarantine pen that doubles as an infirmary.


The Door

Whether you construct a metal or wooden door frame and door, be sure to avoid dangerous gaps between your gate and your door frame. The fit must be snug to keep predators out.

Gates or doors should be padlocked; raccoons are excellent latch picks (as are people).


 

The Digging Predator Barriers

Our digging predator barriers are buried underground and skirt around the entire perimeter of our pens as a further preventative to keep predators from burrowing under and into our enclosures.

We use vinyl coated, 19 gauge 1/2" x 1/2" wire mesh that we buy in rolls of 36" x 100' for our digging predator barriers (other sizes are available). Visit Louis Page Inc to order (remember to inquire about the necessity of a lift gate delivery truck)

Standing outside of our perimeter fencing, we dig a trench that goes 6 inches down into the ground and 2 feet out and away from the perimeter fencing.

We unroll our vinyl coated wire mesh in front of the each side of our pen. We allow for a couple extra feet of mesh to extend out from each corner of the pen before cutting the mesh. This makes for a good overlap that protects entry from the corners of our pens.

We position the wire mesh so that the top 6 inches overlaps the base of our perimeter fencing. We then secure the top of this mesh to the perimeter fencing using either heavy duty zip-ties or a hog ring device.

The next 6 inches of mesh reaches down into the trench. Then we bend the remaining 2 feet of mesh out towards us and press it down, so it's laying flat at the bottom of the trench.

We do some quick cutting and folding at each of the corners as we move around the pen. We secure the overlapping layers of mesh together with hog rings.

Finally, we refill the trench and bury the mesh underground (except for the top 6 inches that are mounted to our perimeter fence).


The Aviary Net

Ducks and geese need top cover to prevent owl, eagle and hawk attacks in addition to keeping raccoons from climbing over the perimeter fencing and into our pens.
 
We use PVC galvanized wire attached to our cross beams in some of our pens, and we utilize aviary nets in some of our other pens.
 
We use: Extra Heavy Weight, knotted 2" mesh, with a 125 lb breaking strength that we buy in rolls of 52' x 155' (other sizes are available). Visit Louis Page Inc to order (remember to ask for a lift gate delivery truck).
 
 
 
 
Tip: The weight of snow can bring down netting or top fencing with inadequate supports. Braced crossbeams offer added strength, but during heavy storms, we still need to do some frequent clearing.
 
Tip: In this photo the tree-tops were not yet pruned, but we do keep them under control to prevent them from stretching or damaging our netting.

The Solar Powered Electric Fence

Whenever utilizing aviary nets, we also rely on electric fencing around the top border of our perimeter fencing to keep climbing predators (like raccoons) from chewing their way through the netting.

We own a solar powered electric fence charger to avoid any increases in our monthly electricity bill. We also have a back up battery and a plug-in electrical charger for less sunny seasons. Fortunately, we rarely have to use it.

We construct our own jigs to support the electric fencing and simply zip-tie them into place on our metal pens or screw them into place on our wooden pens.

Tip: The electric fence will likely short out during snow and ice storms. Fortunately, predators aren't usually out in this weather. Remember to always shut off your charger before you start clearing snow and ice from the electric fence.

Tip: We have a high voltage meter on hand, so we can test our electric fence at any time and confirm it's functioning properly.


The Water

We began our sanctuary with Kiddie Pools. We always sank our pools into the ground, so our rescues would not trip over the lip. Duck legs especially are very easily injured.

We upgraded our pools to cascading concrete ponds and pumped stream water up into them. They worked very well, but had to be re-faced every year because they crack in cold weather. This was fine in the beginning, but after a while we had too many ponds to work on every spring and it became pretty inconvenient (and costly).

Tip: The one foot lip around the edge keeps ducks from pulling dirt and mud into the ponds while they are floating on the water.

We upgraded once again to preformed pond liners with built in "plant shelves" for the ducks to use as steps to get in and out.

Tip: If you are going to use sheet pond liners, do NOT lay rocks or pour round stones around the edges. They can lead to serious foot and leg injuries.

Tip: Many garden stores display the most expensive brands, but can often order the less expensive version. Our bean-shaped, pre-formed pond lingers hold 50 gallons and cost about $70 (before negotiations!). Our larger ponds hold 220 gallons.

In our larger enclosure (The Courtyard) we constructed our own concrete pond. The excavator rental for this kind of project costs about $1000. We built our own concrete forms for a few hundred dollars more. And the cement cost about $500. I know this sounds like a lot, but if you were to try to have someone install this for you it would cost close to $10,000 dollars! By doing the work ourselves, it only cost us about $2000 dollars.

Stream water naturally comes into one pipe and drains out the other. We also have a pump in this pond that moves the water up into the ponds in our other pens.

We have a few natural water sources on the property. Only human-imprinted ducks and geese are led to these fun places and they are chaperoned closely at all times.


The Pump

We use a Savio Water Master 6500 GPH, solids handling submersible pump, 750-1100 watts

 

 


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