Keeping chickens out of planter boxes - options?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by NerdDoc, Dec 30, 2013.

  1. NerdDoc

    NerdDoc Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 21, 2013
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    So, I'm trying to think up ways to build some raised beds that will act as "walls" for a chicken run, but I'm wondering how tall they'd need to be to keep my chickens from getting into them. PS: I don't have any chickens yet - my wife and I are still looking for the right piece of acreage.

    I'm wondering if you all clip your chickens' wings, or if you prefer to put a wire roof over the top of everything to keep them in and keep birds from swopping down on them?

    Here's what I'm thinking:

    2 foot high planter boxes that run about 10-15 feet, parallel to each other with about 2 feet of "run" in between them. These boxes would only be about 6-8 inches wide, so that they were narrow enough that the bushes planted in them would drop their fruit down into the run eventually (mostly in the fall).

    Option 1: clip wings to keep them from flying up onto them
    Option 2: create removable sections of panel that lay on top of brackets on the inside walls and create a wire roof over the run

    Also... if I plan on having a fenced (8' - to keep deer out too) area of about 1/8 or 1/4 acre for them to free range in, would there be enough to keep them busy that they'd leave the actual plants in the boxes alone even if they could get up on them? Only planning on about 20 or so birds total probably. If I go this route, I may not need to worry about building a "run" unless they'll need a small one off of their coop during the winter...

    Thoughts, suggestions?
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    A 2’ high wall or fence will not keep a chicken in, even if you totally remove all flight feathers. They’ll just jump up. Chickens also like to perch. If the top of your “fence” is solid and looks like something they can perch on, they’ll jump up there just for fun. You’ll also find that chickens are murder on plantings, especially if you mulch them. They love to scratch in the mulch and will remove all your mulch. They may even dig up anything you plant in there. The only thing that will keep them out is some kind of fence. That kind of stuff is just too attractive to them for them to leave it alone, no matter how much room they have.

    Another concern I have with what you mentioned is that one way chickens have learned to live together in a flock is that the weaker runs away from the stronger if there is a conflict. With your “run” only 2’ wide, a weaker could not pass a stronger without invading the stronger’s personal space. That could easily trigger a fight. If the weaker is trapped in the end of that 2’ wide space, that fight could get really bloody because weaker could not run away. I suggest your run be at least 4’ wide to give the weaker a chance to get by the stronger without setting it off. Once the pecking order is set that’s not as big a deal, but the pecking order can get adjusted at any time, even in a settled flock. And try not to create dead ends where a chicken can get trapped and can’t get away.

    A run 2’ high is plenty high enough for chickens, though you won’t be able to get in there. I find it inconvenient when I can’t get in there and stand up straight without bumping my head, but the chickens don’t care. Your removable panel idea is not bad, but you may find you need a way to lock them down to keep them there. If they are too heavy they could be hard for you to move them. If they are too light, a raccoon could easily move them and get to your chickens.

    You’re in a great place to start thinking about this stuff, but keep in mind that he weaker needs to be able to get away from the stronger and you can avoid a lot of potential behavioral problems.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. NerdDoc

    NerdDoc Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 21, 2013
    Eastern Washington
    Excellent suggestions, Ridgerunner. Thank you! I enjoy tossing around ideas in my head, building them there first, and then moving them into SketchUp once they seem feasible enough. I appreciate all of your suggestions.

    Here's what I'm thinking now... 6' fence on the side of the chicken run, 6' wide run. Plant bushes in the box, and the vines will grow through. Could even train grape vines across the top on an end if you didn't need to walk through it... or make that part 8' tall and have an arbor over the top ;)

    This setup lets US eat 1/2 of the blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc. that would grow in the boxes, and lets the chickens get the other 1/2. Could plant clover on the ground if the run was big enough that it wouldn't be over-grazed...

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013

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