I’ve had this farmer fantasy in the back of my mind for several years now, but made only pitiful progress in the last few years. It was so bad, in fact, that Hubby liked to call me Mr. Douglas (from Green Acres, for those of you too young to recognize the name). Continuing to move forward in spite of my lack of success, I acquired a hen and two chicks last year. We built a chicken tractor and I made plans to move it throughout my garden area to take advantage of the chickens’ natural tilling, pest removal, and fertilization behaviors. Needless to say, this didn’t last long as we had made the tractor so heavy (and safe) that it took enormous effort to move. I call it the Ft. Knox coop. It was time to move to Plan B.
We moved the new coop/old chicken tractor to a location right beside the existing garden and built a fence around the entire area. It was odd-shaped because of the nearby dog pen, so the final dimensions were 28′ wide, 30′ on both sides and 40′ in the center. A dividing fence in the middle and attached to the coop made each space 14′ wide. This allowed seventeen garden boxes, most 40″x40″. A chicken wire apron was added around the bottom, 2′ vertically and 1′ horizontally on the outside to prevent digging, and bird netting was zip-tied to the top.
Each side has its own gate just as the coop has doors on each side. This arrangement has proven to be very safe and, other than a fox making an attempt to get through the hardware cloth before we had all of the welded wire up, we’ve had no intruders. The fence has proven itself to be enormously handy for growing winter squash, pole beans, cucumbers, and peas. The fertility as well has been improved at least 200%. The chickens keep adding poop and scratching it in, keeping it from being too hot when I plant. September and March are the times to switch usage. The east side is sunnier, bummer for the chickens in mid-summer, and the best location for the winter vegetables. The west has a little more afternoon shade which gives the summer vegetables a welcome break during the hottest parts of our Florida summers.
As you can see, I am Mr. Douglas no more.