This is what happens when chickens get free access to your strawberry plants.
So, yea, it was pretty clear that if I wanted to have any kind of garden--container or otherwise--we needed to find some way to keep the hens away from the plants.
Initially, I was thinking of some series of wire mesh cages to go over my containers. That seemed rather complicated and elaborate. Plus, I have garden beds and containers all over the yard. I'd have to make the whole place a crazy fortress in order to keep the hens away from all my different fruits and vegetables. Clearly, the easiest and smartest solution would be to fence in the chickens. I'm not sure why I didn't think of that sooner, like three years ago.
Luckily, our chicken coop is situated in a part of the yard that's free of garden beds and largely unlandscaped. Even more luckily, I have a husband who is good at building things. Thus, our new chicken pen was created in only 2 short days.
Dakota used the same nice heavy gauge wire fence that he used in the run, and some green metal fence posts, to build a spacious enclosure in the bottom left corner of the backyard. Here's the fence that starts at the left side of the run and extends to the fence we share with our neighbors. I planted a few rosemary bushes just below this section to help hold up the hillside, and I'm going to plant some lavender on the uphill side this weekend.
After the fence was complete, he built a nice gate out of wood right near the door to the run. We kept the coop itself outside the fence, so we can still easily get to the nesting box, and I can re-plant the green roof (for the third time) without the worry that the chickens will destroy it immediately.
The new pen setup is working really nicely. We go downstairs every morning and open the door to the run, and all the girls head out into their free range area to dig and frolic to their hearts content. All our fruit trees and most of our plants are on the non-chicken side of the fence, so they are now safe from chicken claws and beaks. The hens all seem really happy with their new contained freedom, and Linda's head is completely healed.
I feel good knowing our hens have lots of space and fun stuff to do while we're away from the house. After all, the whole reason we got chickens was to get eggs from happy, healthy, free range chickens.