Sunset

Every time I see a photo of chickens roaming free in nature, I sigh. We have, as you know, a nice garden here at the magazine's offices, but we can’t let our chickens explore it unless they’re supervised. Left on their own, they’ll eventually drift over to the kale, the cabbage, the strawberries, and whatever else we’re raising to eat…and new seedlings don’t stand a chance.None of us have time to stand around being chicken-sitters, so the birds don’t get out much. This pains me. Even though they have a pretty big yard—it’s about 60 square feet—they’re obviously so happy when they’re allowed to wander around the garden, all alert and vigorous, pecking and scratching and clucking. They get to fully be chickens.

A while back, Johanna came up with an idea for a super-simple moveable enclosure made from a roll of chicken wire and some rebar. It worked pretty well, but the materials were heavy, hard to handle, and left snags and rust stains on office clothes.

She also made a teeny-tiny chicken tractor:

That was fun, but 2 square feet of ground is only fun for so long. What we need is  a lightweight, hassle-free enclosure big enough for all the chickens. So I’ve started researching.

 

Courtesy PetSmart.comDog gates could work, but they get pricey when you buy enough to make a decent-size pen. And they look too low--our chickens could scale that in a second.

A chicken tractor like this one, made with metallic tubing, would be easy to lift, but intimidating to build if you're clueless with tools.

Courtesy Karl O’Melay at backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=47038

 We need something that’s ridiculously easy to put together. Also, because we change our garden’s design a lot, it has to be malleable, so we can plop on whatever path or open spot is available.

Maybe something like this? It uses lightweight PVC pipes, chicken wire attached to the pipes with baggie ties, and a tarp to shield the birds from the hungry eyes of hawks:

Courtesy Robert Plamondon, www.plamondon.com/chicken-coops.html

We’ll visit a few building-supply stores and see what they have. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, we’d sure appreciate hearing them.

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