Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Moat adjustments

The poultry moat here is so called because it contains ducks and a goose as well as chickens.

Peaceful rural scene
Everyone gets along better than some would have us believe, but the arrangement is not perfect. There have been altercations in the past between roosters and ganders as to who's king of the barnyard. At present, Susannah, the goose, is a widow and she constantly guards the ducks, some of whom are older than her in duck/goose years but whom she regards as her children. All seems peaceful.

Birds who act like banksters.
Lately the hens have taken to pecking and sipping eggs, however. We've tried all the usual remedies but recovery has been slow this year. They occasionally have a go at their own, but have a yen for the duck eggs, which lie about on the ground. The ducks have noticed, and are laying farther and farther away from the barn, usually in the grass margins of the deer fence, or hedge-in-progress.

We'll be separating the flocks. The ducks will get the "north pasture," because it has better grass for Susannah, and the chickens the "south pasture" as it tends to have more things chickens like, such as pill bugs. Both areas are part of the moat, surrounding much of our acre in a sort of crescent shape.

It's not a full moat, which would surround the garden on all sides. The ideal looks like this:

a) House b) garage c) wellhouse d) garden shed e) barn/poultry house f) garden beds g) fruit trees h) chicken moat i) optional goats/sheep j) truck access k) walkway l) shade trees such as mature cherry or walnut. Not shown: plantings of tea, spices, berries, grapes, lavender, etc. m) place for humans to zone out.
Whereas we are dealing with an acre that has been split diagonally by a seasonal creek, and has a house and driveway that lie right up against the garden on one side.

Moat in red
We can extend the moat along the driveway to the gate -- done that before -- at present there's a blueberry row in that location.

No hurry. A major point of chicken moats is the migratory habits of slugs. Slugs don't seem to migrate across our driveway. They're self-sufficient locavores, laying eggs in the garden, and not inclined to migrate away. So we let the birds in all winter, and they mine for the eggs.

Why we like to keep everyone in a "moat" at Stony Run is, it's where we and the garden and future cowpasture aren't, and it's where the orchard is. Unused dropped fruit doesn't have to be carried to the flocks, bugs associated with said fruit are disposed of, and the land in question thus has stacked uses, which is one of our permaculture goals.

All good; on the other hand, separating the flocks means we will do twice the barn maintenance, with the current barn demoted to a chicken house and the construction of a duck house elsewhere. And chickens and ducks and geese have overlapping (and relatively non-competing) pasture and bug requirements, which was a good thing when they were together -- now some bugs that were being snapped up in all areas will get a pass in the north pasture, and other bugs will get a pass in the south pasture. We really don't know the ramifications. It might not matter much -- and then again, it might. Thoughts?

Meanwhile, we're pretty sure we'll be finding the duck eggs -- and finding them intact.


  1. What about periodically swapping the chickens and ducks for a few days? Then the grass can recover on the duck pasture, and the chickens can eat the bugs...

  2. That's a good thought, though birds want things to be the same every day. Maybe this could be achieved by opening up some kind of chook tunnel periodically.


Stony Run Farm: Life on One Acre

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