Avian Aqua Miser: Automatic, poop-free chicken waterers

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Temporary chicken fencing for the backyard

Grazing chicks

The most common equipment used to make temporary chicken pastures is electrified netting.  This option is very efficient in medium to large operations with large expanses of mown or grazed pasture, but the backyard enthusiast will run into trouble because:

  • Electric nettingIf electrified fence touches the ground, it won't work.  That means you have to keep the grass and weeds you're fencing through mown down and you also have to be careful not to let the netting touch your berry plants, your fruit tree leaves, etc.
  • Electric netting is very delicate.  Again, it's best suited to large expanses of open pasture or lawn.  If you're trying to put up electric netting in the woods, you'll ruin your equipment in short order.
  • Startup costs are high for electric fences.  If you're pricing out the cost of building permanent fence to separate a couple of acres into small paddocks, electric fencing will win big.  But if you're just looking to keep your chickens in bounds within a series of small paddocks in your backyard, the $200 plus cost to buy the electrified netting and charger looks much worse.
  • Chicks can go through the holes.  Big poultry keepers won't put their chickens on pasture until they're over a month old, but I like letting smaller chicks have access to greenery.
  • Electric netting will shock you, your dog, your cat, your kids, and anyone else who comes close.  I have a deep-seated aversion to being shocked, so I just don't like having electric fences around where I might accidentally rub up against them.
Weigh down bottom of fence

Temporary fencingWhat's the alternative?  I wanted to graze our chicks in the berry patch and forest garden, so my husband and I cobbled together a temporary fence out of materials we had on hand for use in the garden.  We used two 50 foot rolls of 4 foot tall Tenax trellis material (about $32 apiece) and about ten of the cheapo fence posts you'd use to put up trellises in the garden (about $3 apiece).  We added some bits of wire to attach the ends of the trellis material to the permanent pasture door and some heavy objects to weigh down the bottom of the fence.  Even though I included one at first, there was no need for a gate --- I could step right over the sagging portions of the fence.

If we'd bought the fencing and light duty posts new, the setup would have cost about half as much as buying the charger and netting for a similar-sized electrified system.  Plus, I know from experience that if you take the trellis material inside when you're not Tenax chicken fenceusing it, the plastic will last at least five years.  We found our temporary fence to be easy to put up and move --- about 20 minutes for two people for the system described here --- and chicks don't fit through the holes.

One problem was jail breaks.  We bent the bottom foot of the fencing in along the ground so that the chicks were less likely to slip out, but a few still squeezed through gaps created by uneven terrain.  I'm not sure I'd recommend this system if you have wilder chickens who run away Chick at fencefrom rather than toward people.  Very flighty adult chickens (like bantams) might also fly over top of the fence.  Finally, you should be aware that these fences won't keep out predators or your dog (but neither will electric netting or even permanent chicken wire fences.)

For everyone else, though, having the equipment to make a temporary pasture is a great way to get the best of both worlds --- the flexibility of chicken tractoring when you want it combined with the health benefits and easiness of day range.  If you've come up with an even easier or cheaper method of making temporary chicken pastures, I hope you'll share your ideas in the comments.

A chicken waterer in the coop was the only reason our chicks ever left their rich new pasture.

99 cent pasture ebook

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Thanks for this great info. Since I'm planning on getting chickens in the Spring, I'll likely make use of this info. I have several of the posts already and we picked up the fencing in a failed attempt to keep the dogs contained. One figured out he could slip under the fence. The other figured out that she could easily jump over if we made it shorter to keep in the other dog.

Do you have any tips on acclimating dogs to having chickens around?

Comment by Greg S mid-morning Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
I actually wrote a whole post about how to introduce your dog to chickens. It's best read in combination with the entire lunchtime series linked to from the bottom of the post. Good luck!
Comment by anna at noon on Sunday, October 9th, 2011

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