A Chicken Moat!
Oh, I loooooooove this! If you have not checked out Make magazine, get over there. Most of their ideas involve doing cool stuff with high-tech gadgets, but some of it is delightfully, low-tech, like this plan for a garden surrounded by a chicken moat. Let the birds patrol the border, eat bugs, etc.
They'd get the benefits of free-ranging without destroying the garden. Other ideas to really make this fabulous:
1. Plant a Row for the Chickens--be sure to plant leafy greens right up against the moat, so the chicks can stick they heads through the fencing and graze. Grow peas up the fence for this, too. If you really want to make them happy, how about strawberries? I've heard that French farmers feed their chickens marigold petals to get that bright orange yolk--how about planting marigold & calendula, too?
2. Cover crops, pollinator crops, green manure: fence off one section of the moat at a time and plant clover, rye, vetch, fava. Let it all bloom! You'll attract pollinators to the garden and it's great for the soil. Once it's done blooming, take down the fence and let the chickens turn it into compost. Keep a couple sections going at a time so you always have something in bloom to attract the good bugs.
3. Speaking of compost...just toss everything in the moat! Brilliant!
4. Don't forget to screen the top of the moat, too, so the chickens will stay in and the hawks and racoons will stay out.
Honey, can I have a place in the country? Pleeeeeze?
MAKE: Blog: HOW TO - Make a "Chicken Moat"