Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Chicken moat

Chicken moat

My husband and I homestead on 58 acres, most of which is woodland.  On three sides, our land butts up against other wooded properties, and the fourth side is bordered by a seldom-visited hayfield, so the whole place is deer heaven.  Keeping the deer out of our one acre cleared zone (home to chickens, a huge garden, and a young orchard) has been a neverending struggle.  This year, we finally figured out a long term solution --- chicken moats.

Chicken moat map

Chicken moats are a permaculture technique of using linear chicken pastures along a boundary to keep deer at bay.  The pastures repel deer by striking at the deer's Achilles heel --- fear of being stuck in an enclosed space with nowhere to run to.  Although our resident deer could jump over each 5 foot fence enclosing the chickens, they'd then be stuck in a small space that would require yet more leaps to escape.  We check on our chickens at least twice a day (often much more often), so the confusing fences are mixed in with recent human scent.  The whole package has served to keep our back and mule gardens completely deer free all year, despite deer damage in the unmoated upper garden.

Garden fence

Building a chicken moatWe're currently working on a new chicken pasture to protect more of our southern boundary, and in the process are learning another useful feature of chicken moats.  We started our homestead from scratch, and it feels like the forest is always encroaching on our edges --- it's hard to know when to stop mowing and let the wilds take over.  A chicken moat at the border of our garden puts a solid end to the mowing zone, which will help us feel more in control. 

I'm already thinking of training hardy kiwis up the pasture fence to triple the utility of the chicken moat.  Maybe in a few more years, our chicken pastures will have four or five purposes, all for the price of a few rolls of chicken wire and some T-posts.

Our chicken waterer never spills in the uneven terrain of pastures.

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