Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Garden Chicken Moat

As you may have read before, Farmer B and I are on the quest for the perfect attached run for the chickens. They currently have a run-less coop and a separate hoop-run that we move around the yard every couple of days. We know there has to be a better method, so we've (meaning "I've") been researching the heck out of chicken run alternatives.

One alternative that I found fascinating is the Chicken Moat. When I mentioned this to Farmer B it led to an interesting discussion about whether chickens can swim. (This has been much debated, but yes they can swim, although usually NOT by choice. Who knew?) Instead of a water-filled moat, this is a ground-level fenced-in "moat" around a vegetable garden.

picture from Mother Earth News

The chicken moat is a fenced area that runs along the perimeter of a garden that keeps the vegetable garden pest-free as the chickens scamper around the moat snapping up weeds and bugs. I read about it on Mother Earth News and think it is a great solution for someone with a vegetable garden and serious carpentry skills. I envision little drawbridges, turrets and dragon stencils around the edges, but that's just me. You can click here to see some great photos.

Another really cool idea for people with a raised bed vegetable garden is to build a chicken run that is the exact size of your raised beds.
picture from Garden Girl TV

Each season you place the chicken run on top of one of your raised beds that is out of commission for the season. That bed becomes the flooring for the chickens who will scratch around and prepare that bed with all their nitrogen-rich chicken poo for the next planting season. Each season you rotate the chickens to a new raised bed where the process continues again. You let them do the work for you.

Yes, you there - you chicken - you lay fresh eggs AND prepare my garden bed for next season's planting!

Garden Girl TV has some great photos of a chicken run on a raised bed and even a tutorial for making a raised bed run.

As cool as both of these ideas are, sadly neither one will work for us. I think we'll end up renovating a chain-link dog run into a chicken run if we can acquire one on FreeCycle or CraigsList. We don't have the time, energy and mad carpentry skills to make a nice, fancy wood and wire chicken run, so I think adapting a pre-made dog run to meet our needs is the way we'll go.


Erin said...

Simply awesome! I think my husband would faint from the thought of all the work involved if I showed him that picture! It is a great idea, though! I like the idea of using a recycled dog run, would be easy to cover for shade and not too difficult to move.

Kate and Crew said...

Erin - LOL - a lot of work is right!! To modify a dog run the most important step is to reinforce the run with hardwire cloth (to stop predators from reaching through and grabbing the chickens) and to dig in some wire below ground (to stop predators from digging under the fence). It's definitely the least labor-intensive route we've found...although probably not the prettiest. I have a fantasy chicken run designed in my head, but I'm afraid that's where it'll stay.

What have I become that I'm admitting to having a fantast chicken run in my head?


Daphne said...

I've always thought the chicken moat idea was wonderful. My mom did something similar. The turkeys' run was along two sides of her garden. The run for the ducks and geese were along another side. She was only lacking one side. It really helped keep the grasshopper population down. Where I live I rarely get grasshoppers, but I can see that it would keep my slug population down. If only I had chickens.

Berry Patch said...

Okay, that is just way too cool of an idea. Have you considered a chicken tractor? That's what we're currently using.

Ribbit said...

What about looking under baby supplies on craigslist or freecycle. They make those portable "fences" to keep crawling kids in check. It may not be as sturdy as you'd like, but I bet you'd find it quickly and be able to set it up and take it down as you need it while you look for something else.

Kelly said...

From what I have seen lots of folks use the dog kennels, you can link multiple runs together and attach the opening to the hen house. Garden Girl's rasided bed chicken run was pretty cool, makes so much sense!

Ribbit said...

Honey, I've got to tell you. My 5 yr old was looking at your chicken pictures and said, "Mom, did you know chicken comes from chickens?" He continued with, "It's like how milk comes from cows. I've seen that, but I have never seen chickens make chicken. I wonder how they do that."

I didn't have the heart.

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