Songbird Netting on My Chicken Run Was a Mistake!
Birds bring out the best and worst in me!
by Kim Ellsworth
I enjoy listening to songbirds chirp their chorus while I pretend like I’m a Disney princess, but when their thievery puts a dent in my wallet, then I get angry.
Those little chirpers have an opportunistic side when it comes to food and, while that certainly doesn’t compare to my hens scratching up my plants for one measly worm, being the target of robbery is something I just can’t tolerate.
After months of buying chicken food like it was going out of style and serving up steak prices on a farmer’s budget, something had to be done.
I caved and bought songbird netting; I was ready to starve those little thieves out!
The Birds Kept Getting In
My chicken run is composed of wood fencing on one side and chain link fencing on the other. The roof is also a mix-up of wood and poultry wire, so I figured that I only needed to cover most of the exposed areas.
The netting went up easily enough with just a handful of zip ties and a staple gun.
I secured the netting anywhere from one to three inches from the ground in some places, while I let it drag on the ground in other places. Also, areas that had overlapped netting were left to rest on top of each other without being furthered attached together. These small mistakes were my downfall, and more aptly, the downfall of the little birds.
For areas where there was even an inch of opening at the base of the fencing, the little thieves would just hop right under the netting. Their attacks didn’t just come from the air; there were ground thieves as well!
Since the netting was composed of one-inch holes, apparently the smallest birds were able to squeeze right through it! If the hole lined up perfectly with the chain-link opening, then the birds had a golden opportunity.
If that wasn’t enough, places where I failed to add netting, such as between the chain-link door pieces, soon became the new poop-covered door to their banquet room.
It was ridiculous! But I pressed on with the plan, since I figured that I was now feeding dozens of birds instead of hundreds. I had to be better off, but I was wrong. The netting turned into a grave mistake!
The Netting Became a Death Sentence
Do you know what “birdbrain” means? It means being forgetful or just plain stupid. It means forgetting how you got into a place and then making epic mistakes when trying to get back out.
When I showed up to spoil their morning breakfast, those little thieves got birdbrain and headed straight through the fencing and caught themselves between the fence and the net. At this point, I’d go into savior mode and try to wrangle the little feathered friend out from inside the chicken run. But as I tried to help it escape, it would slowly fall closer to the ground.
If the bird was lucky, it either rolled out of an opening between two overlapping pieces of netting or I caught it.
If the bird was unlucky, it tried to squeeze through the netting, got tangled in the process, and never made it out. There were many days where I’d visit the chickens and find a dead bird wrapped up in the netting or lying stiff on the ground in the chicken run.
Due to the growing number of battle victims, I turned my bushy hedge into a cemetery and tossed them in for the bugs to enjoy.
This wasn’t the worst of it! My one-year-old puppy helped take my death machine to the next level.
My Puppy Sealed the Deal
On the days when my puppy followed me to the chicken run, he would wait excitedly outside the run while I went through my daily rescue mission.
Only he played the part of the devil’s advocate.
When my puppy wasn’t there, the birds might get lucky and roll out an opening or all the way to the bottom and fly off. When my puppy accompanied me, it became a game of cat and mouse. The further down the bird would roll, the closer they’d come to the waiting jaws of death.
My dog had no qualms about biting the bird through the netting, and once that became their fate, they were either killed instantly or stunned enough to roll out the bottom as a ready-made breakfast.
It would be quite comical to watch, me rushing to the rescue and my dog doing tricks for his meal if it wasn’t so horrific!
I Changed the Game
Like all good horror stories, something good came from it. After four months, I tore the netting down!
Not only were the songbirds free to enter at their own risk, but I also let my chickens out to free-range. It hardly seemed fair to let the songbirds dine and dash while my chickens were stuck behind bars being thieved from. So, I did the next best thing.
Now it’s a true game of hunting for the prize between the songbirds and the chickens. They both have access to chicken food, and they both have access to nature’s sweet treats.
Unfortunately, the songbirds are still ahead, since those little thieves can eat my newly planted seeds while the chickens can only gawk at them from a distance. Dang birds! The battle isn’t over yet.
Originally published in the August/September 2019 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.