The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Troubleshooting chicken moats

StileThis year, Mark build a bunch of chicken pastures that act as moats around a large portion of the garden.  I love the moats --- they keep the deer out, make the edges distinct, and just make me feel relaxed.  We have had a couple of issues, though, that I'd like to remedy before boxing in the rest of the boundary.

Lucy's job is to patrol the perimeter, and that's a bit tough when she can't get there.  We started to notice gaps gnawed in our fences, and then realized that Lucy was making bolt-holes so she can spring off in any direction to reach the edges of our homestead lickety-split.  The trouble is that deer and chickens come in those holes and end up in the garden, which defeats the purpose of the moats.  Surely there's a way to give Lucy better access to the perimeter without compromising our fences, but I'm not sure what it would be.  I was pondering stiles (like in the photo above), but an agile chicken or (if we go there) goat could prance over top just as easily as a dog could.  As crazy as it sounds, I'm now thinking of installing dog doors in select locations in the pasture fences, but any other ideas would be appreciated as well.

Lost chickenThe chicken problem is similar to Lucy's dilemma.  Since we started letting our chickens free range, we've had chickens stuck partway home multiple times.  As dusk falls, chickens seem to use a compass sense (maybe based on magnetism?) to figure out how to shorten their peregrination and head straight back to the coop.  The problem is that there's often a fence in their way, so they end up huddled in a corner, not realizing that if they simply walked at right angles for a few feet, they could get home.  The chickens do seem to learn the terrain after a while, so we might just have to plan on leading chickens home a few times when they start free ranging.  Maybe another solution would be to make all exterior fences convex instead of concave?

I'm curious to hear some creative solutions to our moat problems, so I hope you'll leave a comment with your ideas!

Our chicken waterer keeps the flock well hydrated after their long walk.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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As far as letting the dog get in and out I was thinking of a row cover type hoop (with fencing as the fabric) that lets the dog run through but won't allow deer through due to the small size and keeps the livestock from having a hole to escape from. This may allow smaller animals in though, I'm not sure if that's much of a problem? Or if the holes could be closed at night since they would be smaller?

As far as the chickens getting home, I've found if ours don't have a visual connection to where they want to go they will keep looking. We put a small piece of plywood next to part of our fence in our small coop because one chicken always seemed to stay on that side because she saw the other girls close by but didn't know how to get over to them.

Comment by Brian Tue Nov 1 11:25:25 2011

Excellent point about line of sight. We have a terrible time getting chickens to go around a partial fence if they can see through it. Perhaps adding something more solid to the bottom foot would help with that problem.

Your dog door idea sounds good if you don't have chickens, but would let our little scoundrels through to areas they shouldn't be in. I'm thinking of a rectangular door frame with a medium-heavy rubber flap to let Lucy push through while making it too tough for chickens.

Comment by anna Tue Nov 1 17:38:04 2011

I was thinking more like this: To create a tunnel through the coop (along the perpendicular fences so you don't break up the pastures.) This would keep the chickens and the dog separate. The tunnels would have to be strategically located so the chickens can't hop on it then over the fence.

Now that I re-read what I wrote I can see this may require a fair amount of resources, but maybe the idea will spur some other ideas.

Comment by Brian Tue Nov 1 19:24:33 2011
I was actually thinking of using tunnels like that to move chickens around at some point, but made out of remesh bent into a hoop. The trouble with it for my system with Lucy is that we let our chickens free range sometimes outside the pastures but (supposedly) not into the gardens. Lucy, on the other hand, should have free range everywhere. So if we made tunnels for Lucy to get from the outside world into the inner garden world, free ranging chickens could follow her lead. That's why my doors have to be Lucy friendly but chicken unfriendly.
Comment by anna Tue Nov 1 20:03:18 2011 make your own electricity, hot water and heat! with wood ;) plus you can sell extra power to electric company. just google wood gasification for more options.this is in response to one of your post in archives.
Comment by warren flanamnk Wed Nov 2 00:13:11 2011
We have considered a similar system --- the Jean Pain Method but decided it doesn't fit the scale of our property. I suspect systems like that work much better on large farms with lots of mechanized equipment.
Comment by anna Wed Nov 2 09:02:54 2011
that,s not wood gasification look at site i sent you. gasification is turning wood into a syngas. here,s another 1.
Comment by Anonymous Thu Nov 3 22:25:58 2011 lok please.
Comment by w e flanamonk Thu Nov 3 23:03:05 2011
Comment by we flanamonk Thu Nov 3 23:38:09 2011
Comment by we flanamonk Fri Nov 4 00:04:40 2011

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