What is a Chicken Moat and How to Build One

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The concept of a moat to protect a piece of property is not a new one. In medieval times, a wide, deep trench was dug around the perimeter of a castles property and usually filled with water. This ditch or moat served as a unique natural defense system and deterred enemies from approaching the stronghold. This same concept can be applied to the modern garden. However, instead of using depth and water as the natural barrier, you use chickens.

The idea of a chicken moat has been around for decades and utilizes the power of your feathery friends to defend your garden from bugs, weeds, and other animals that post a threat to your vegetables such as rabbits and deer.

So what exactly is a chicken moat?

Rather than merely fencing off your garden and hoping for the best, the chicken moat makes the best use of space and serves as a home for your chickens and a benefit to your garden. Essentially, a chicken moat is a double layer of fence around the perimeter of your garden with a few feet in between for your chickens to graze. This strip of land, and the parallel fences, allow chickens to roam freely around your garden, but never actually in it, which saves your delicate plants and vegetables from their overzealous foraging.

The fence also provides a barrier from possums, groundhogs, and rabbits that would otherwise feast on your veggies. Chickens love to scratch at the dirt and eat bugs that could potentially prove harmful to your plants, but they also keep the track free of weeds (since they eat the seeds) and prevent them from spreading into your garden.

A chicken moat gives your chickens plenty of room to spread out and can even cut down on feed costs since they can primarally eat bugs in the summertime.

If you want to raise backyard chickens, and you have a garden, this method can help with the success of both!

Tips for building a chicken moat

Plan carefully

Grab a piece of paper and a pencil and sketch out your garden layout. Then design your moat and the location of your coop and entrances accordingly. Planning is an essential step to avoid mistakes and make sure that your chicken moat is precisely what you need in your garden.

Determine your needs

Every chicken moat will vary depending on the size of the flock, scope of the garden, and natural predators. Consider adding a wire roof if you experience problems with hawks or other aerial predators. Otherwise, a 6-foot high fence should be adequate to keep your chickens in.

Be sure to include a coop

Chickens need a little more protection than just a run. Add a chicken coop (you can build one or purchase a premade coop) where your chickens will be able to access it. It is a good idea to encourage them to enter the coop at night and shut the door to prevent any nocturnal predators from having easy access to your vulnerable birds. You can also add a wire roof on the closest section of the moat that can be closed off in case you need to prevent them from roaming the moat for a more extended period.

Build your outer fence first

Brace your outer fence at all corners and ends with sturdy diagonal posts, and then add your inner fence. It is also a good idea to partly bury the wire of the outer fence to deter any animals from burrowing under.

Don’t forget about the gates

When you are constructing your moat, pay special attention to the gates. Depending on the size of your garden, you may want to have two or three. Make sure that you can still have easy access for watering and your gates are wide enough to allow a wheelbarrow, tiller or small garden tractor to enter.

Choose durable fencing

Purchase a more durable gauge than regular chicken wire. Though chicken wire may save you money at the moment, you will have to replace it quicker than a heavier wire, and it is easier for predators to breach.

Have you ever built a chicken moat? Let us know in the comments below!

-Taylor Ramsey

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