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My free, chook proof (so far) scavenged garden fence!

Since we moved to the hinterland I have been keen on getting a vege garden up and running for a couple of reasons. One, because the shops are so far away and two, because the soil and weather should allow us to grow veges!

So I waited a few months to see where the sun fell, where the rain water flowed and what sort of winds we had - actually I had too much unpacking and rearranging to do to worry too much about anything else, but while I was hanging curtains and putting boxes in the trailer to go to the dump, I was noting the sunny spots, the drowned out tank over flow patches and the areas that never got any sun!

Once the inside of the house was sorted (well, lets say its liveable) I turned my attention to the prospect of a small herb and vege garden. I have no money to spend on this garden so it was going to be small by necessity rather than choice. I also have a flock of hungry chickens who think that all things green are for their dining pleasure (goats may be less destructive than my horde of chooks!) so it will need a chook proof fence. Permaculture principles state that a vege garden needs to be close to the house or I wont go and get the veges... So with these points in mind -

Here's what I did...

I decided to start small and expand - better to have a small success than a large failure was my theory - and chose a morning sunny corner. This bush was already there and has had a prune - you can see the dirt showing that it was much larger. My initial theory was that the shrub could stay - but I wish I had taken it out at this stage rather than when I was almost finished building the garden...

I collected bits and bobs from around the yard and our junk pile. Some Koppers logs from a defunct front garden and a couple of hardwood planks decided the garden dimensions. Four star pickets became the corners and an old piece of dog fencing became my base fence. I thought the chooks would be able to get through the wire - especially if they are motivated by the sight of fresh green lettuces and so I started cutting branches and weaving them through the wire to make the holes smaller.

I put the star pickets in to hold each corner and then wove the picket through the wire to hold it in place.

The Besser block is to raise the down hill corner a bit - partly for aesthetics and partly to raise the corner so the plants don't get water logged. I put one of the middle posts on the inside of the garden to keep the fence from sagging outwards. I started this fence with fairly robust branches.

I cut the dog wire to the right length and then curved it around a star picket gate post to fix the ends of the fence. I happened to find a bit of dog fencing wire from the fence that got taken out that fitted the wood base of my garden. So I ended up with four corner star pickets and two star picket gate posts that support my fence.

I haven't got a photo of it, but when I was filling the garden with an old compost heap that I dug out of a neglected part of the garden, the chookies could walk in and out of my garden at will through the branches and wire and enjoyed digging in the dirt I was putting in there. The gaps in the fence were big enough for the smaller chooks or the bolder chooks to get through. I started collecting skinnier stick to put in the gaps and then decided to put taller ones in as well to discourage the chooks from flying over the fence.

The stick that I used as the palings were reasonably heavy and this down hill corner was "sagging" a bit so I used a piece of wire across the corner (the bright shiny piece in this photo) to pull it together and provide a bit of stability. This fence isn't going to survive a decent storm but as a temporary, lets try a garden here fence, it will do!

The gate is the original door to the "hospital cage" that got an upgrade when the Quail spent a month in it waiting for their big cage to be erected. It was originally off a home made aviary. I put a few long sticks through the gate to discourage any chooks from flying over it too.

I used a couple of cable ties as the hinges and a coloured rock as the lock. Its a very light gate. A determined possum or wallaby would be able to get in but I'm hoping the presence of the dog and the six foot high chain link fence around the rest of the yard is deterring them from coming near my garden at the moment!

Before I planted anything in the garden, I put a couple of "bait plants" in there for a week or so. Nice big green seedlings in a pot were sitting enticingly in the sea of brown compost. I had the gate and fence finished and the chookies hadn't been able to get in for a while but I wasn't prepared to plant it out and discover that they needed the motivation of expensive seedlings to prove they could get in.

The chooks showed a lot of interest in the bait plants but after a week they hadn't got in. Nothing else had touched the plants and so I took the risk and planted out a punnet of mixed lettuce and Asian greens seedlings - so far so good. I haven't planted anything close to the edge as the chookies can still get their heads through some of the holes.  There's a couple of sprouting onions and potatoes in there too somewhere!

I think the tall sticks also deter the cockatoos and other parrots as they move in the wind and aren't strong enough to take the weight of these birds. So far they haven't shown any real interest in the garden and the few seedlings have remained unmolested.

Its certainly not a garden for the pages of "Better Homes and Gardens Than Mine" but if you are into rustic or interesting garden fencing, then this free, chook proof (so far) one might be the one for you!

It took a bit of time to collect the right sized branches and sticks. I weaved them through the fencing but found that they bunched up a bit and in some places I have five sticks in some places where I'm sure one well placed one would've been sufficient. I could have wired the branches in place or cable tied sticks to stay where I wanted them but I'm trying not to use plastics these days and didn't have an easy to bend wire to hand. This style works for me as I collected sticks on my afternoon walks with the dog and wasn't in a hurry. Its still cold at night here, around three degrees and so I wasn't in a rush to get the seedlings in, just in time for a cold snap or a frost.

Ultimately we will put in a large covered completely animal proof garden that (hopefully) will provide all our greens and a few other veges - but until then, this will be our place to learn and see what works and what doesn't. I'm sure you'll see a few more posts featuring this garden in the future!

What free garden fencing have you made? Post some pictures or links in the comments!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for using items that
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for not spending any money on the garden and fencing!
Time cost: About 2 weeks to get the basics in place plus waiting time to see if the chookies could get in. 
Skill level: Confidence and desire to do it!
Fun-ness: Great fun to see my veges growing on the inside of the fence and the chooks on the outside of the fence!


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