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:
- If 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
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
What’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
you take the trellis material inside when you’re not using it, the plastic will
last at least five years. We found our temporary fence to be easy
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 from 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
reason our chicks ever left their rich new pasture.