Hey all, so I've been whipping up some new garden designs/layouts for the upcoming and was trying to figure out how to best integrate my chickens into the mix. I'm on a new piece of property where the previous owner had his chickens in a basic coop and run system. The ground has been scratched down and overgrazed over the past three years with some woodier, weedier elements starting to rear their heads. (Japanese knotweed among others *shudder*.) Anyways, this is obviously not an efficient system for getting the chickens to forage, so my first thought was just to center the chicken coop and then split the run up into 4-6 paddocks and reseed. Sacrificial area directly around the coop, etc, etc.
But as I'm laying out the new garden plan, I'm trying to create a nice living fence around the outside boundary of the property--a thorny, fruit-bearing fence--and it kind of lends itself to a nice shady lane between the garden space and the living fence. I want a nice buffer zone around the garden in the "negative space" for beneficial plants that provide biological rather than physical/agricultural products and services. So it wouldn't be strictly pasture, but it'd be tending more towards a mixture of beneficial species with a mixture of clovers, turnips, radishes, and other forage sources mixed in. It's sort of a take-off on some of Sepp Holzer's larger paddocks for pigs and such, but done on a smaller, more contained scale since that's what I have space for.
Over time more of the garden space is going to move towards patches of perennial nut- and fruit-bearing crops anyways, so it makes sense to try and integrate the chickens over the long-term. I've seen the "chicken moat" amongst other designs that require a ton of fencing material, are kind of an eyesore, and require a fair bit of work to keep up. Does anybody have any ideas for something along those lines, but that allows for a little more free ranging without letting the birds get into the garden? I've considered just fencing a perimeter around the whole garden and putting a mesh fence alongside the living fence, but I've also considered moving the chickens along the lane in a moveable coop. Any thoughts or opinions or shared experiences?
As an aside--and this might be better in its own topic--what are people's advice on improvised/budget fencing? I don't have a ton of predator pressure, so it's more for containment than anything else, but fencing gets pricey in a hurry...
Keeping chickens out of a garden is tough. They love lettuce, they love broccoli leaves, they love to scratch in the garden soil.
You might be able to make something from thin prunings (as in the water sprouts that grow straight up on the limbs of shaped appletrees) but to keep chickens out you'd have to do some weaving. It would be lovely, but also time consuming.
The chicken moat is a good idea, but you're right, rather fencing intensive.
Finally, it's hard for me to imagine any environment without a fair amount of predator pressure for chickens. Chickens are delicious and they are so easy to kill. Raccoons live everywhere and they are a huge hazard for hens, carnivorous little monkeys that they are. I did well when I lived in Wisconsin (the first 10 years) because I had a really good dog, and we set up a "dog moat" for the chicken pen, but a year after that dog passed we lost five hens in short order, despite the presence of two (lesser) dogs!
Floating row covers on the garden? You have to be religious about keeping them in place, but they do work.
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