Keeping the chickens out of the garden with a woven birch fence

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Posted Dec 23 2015 by Steve Byrne of Lackan Cottage Farm
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After a number of incidents where our hens ran riot through the vegetable garden, we realised that a permanent barrier was the only way to keep them at bay, and so looked around for a solution. Inspiration came when we visited the Ulster American Folk Park, and saw a woven birch fence. Our own woodland is almost entirely birch, and we had a good collection of thin branches left aside from the previous season’s thinnings.

Wwoofers Isabelle and Josiane came from Quebec, Canada to volunteer on the farm for 3 weeks, and having spent days clearing and mulching young trees, they were up for the challenge of building our own woven fence.

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The idea is simple. Take thicker pieces, around two inches, axe a point onto them and drive them into the ground every couple of feet – if the material you have to weave is thin or short then put them closer together; if your weaving material is thicker you’ll need them further apart. We found that long thin branches of around finger thickness were ideal.

We laid the fence a few inches at a time, the full length of the fence, and kept the woven branches pressed well down to ensure that it was good and solid. Once complete we simply trimmed off some of the thin ends, and cut the upright posts to height.

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At first the task seemed quite daunting – the fence is 60 feet long and curves in an ‘S’ shape, though this actually gives it strength. Isabelle and Josianne made a start – and within a couple of days the fence was starting to become solid. As it grew in height the uprights were pulled into line. And now its a sturdy and beautiful chicken proof barrier that I admire every time I walk down the growing field.

Two years on, the fence is as solid as it ever was, keeps the hens out, and is still one of my favourite things here on the farm.

We’re intending to plant a living willow fence behind the birch so that in time we can weave it together, and eventually once the birch has had its day, the living fence can take over.

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