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Our girls (ex battery and Blue Orpington) free range in our large garden and into the surrounding fields. We have 2 Cubes with extended runs and have been keeping chickens for over 10 years. This afternoon around 2.30 we heard squawking and rushing outside saw a stoat chasing a terrified chicken. The stoat continued to attack the girls while we tried to grab them and put them into their runs. In the 30 years we have lived here we have never seen a Stoat. What I would like to know is are the girls safe in their run and house? Can a stoat get through the wire of the run and through the ventilation slot in the cube? How can we make our very large, rural garden and land safe for our girls to free range? Do we consider our girls safety or their quality of life? I know they will be very unhappy if they are confined, but having witnessed the vicious attack, fear for their lives. Any advice gratefully received.

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What a terrible shock for you - were your girls hurt at all?

I don't know if they can get into the house and run (I'm sure someone will be on later about that) but I would say that you need electric fencing for your chickens to enjoy the garden now as he knows you have chickens and will surely be back.  😟

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Our first fox attack came as a surprise as well Ruthy. We now only free range with a few chickens, knowing that in exchange for complete freedom comes the ever-present risk of attack. All our others are in a 'fairly' secure electrified enclosure sub-divided into smaller enclosures around coops and runs.

I'm not sure instinctively chickens are happy unenclosed, as ours stay close to the house, barns, trees and bushes and rarely venture into the open, so they don't use all the space they have. Here we have many aerial predators though. I'm surprised you have escaped, or your chickens have, attacks in 30 years as it sounds like a fox could take them all at any time. Perhaps it's time to build a secure enclosure?

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Personally, I would build a secure enclosure with leccy through it, but while you are planning that, cable-tie some small gauge weldmesh around the bottom of their runs; stoats 'can' climb, but might well be put off by this. Stoats are protected in Ireland, but not in mainland UK, so if you know of someone with a ratting terrier......

A neighbour's ferret used to get out of its (frankly ramshackle) cage on a regular basis, and would end up in my garden. It was pretty tame so I could scoop it up and take it back before it set on the flock, but I made it plain that if it happened again, then my lurchers 'might catch it' :wink: funnily enough, I haven't seen it loose since.

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The cube run is easily accessed by rodents so I think it’s vulnerable to a stoat incursion.  As DM says get some weldmesh over it.  As for getting into the cube through ventilation shafts etc, I’m not sure.  I seem to remember, years ago, something small squeezing in via the trays at the back which weren’t properly clipped in place. 

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