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 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.
We’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.
terrain of pastures.