Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Mulching trees in the chicken pasture

Tree mulch box

Chicken fencing around treeOne of the stumbling blocks in creating a forest pasture from scratch is protecting the trees while they get established.  Previously, I'd been surrounding new trees with a cage of flexible plastic netting, which does keep the chickens out but also keeps the gardener out.  The result?  Weeds grow, I don't water, and about half the trees die from neglect.

Although I haven't come up with anything better for that first critical rooting year, I'm considering changing over to mulch boxes for years two and beyond.  The idea is that a raised wall holds the mulch in place around the tree's roots, so even though the chickens scratch for bugs, the mulch just moves around instead of dissipating into the pasture.  We'll also be able to mow right up to the edge of the mulch box, so weeds should be much less of a problem.

Mulching a tree with woody debris

I filled some of these mulch boxes with leaves raked out of the woods, but I'm more confident in my second experimental choice --- summer-cut saplings.  We had a couple of  helpers come in over the summer and cut back the young trees (and briars and vines) in the powerline pasture, and they left the woody debris lying in piles.  I figured the slender trees, with leaves still hanging on, would make great mulch around my fruit trees since the branches would make it tougher for chickens to scratch the mulch up while the leaves would fill in the gaps and coat the soil.  To hedge my bets, I also stacked rotting logs on top of the brushy mulch.

Since our laying flock is foraging in the woods at the moment and we won't be hatching any more broilers until late winter, I won't have data on how these mulch boxes work for quite a while.  I'll be sure to post an update, though, once I get an idea of whether they're a success or failure.

The Avian Aqua Miser never spills or fills with poop.

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