We learned about the chicken tunnel a few years back from our friends at Very Edible Gardens and have managed to squeeze it into every appropriate design for our clients and our own gardens ever since. It’s one of those life changing techniques you learn, and then wonder how you got through life before hand without it – it’s that good… Seriously.
What exactly is it?
It’s a tunnel system that hugs your fence lines (or relevant area) to pipe your chickens across your garden and to help keep weedy plants away from your food gardens. Here are a few examples…
We recently did a design for a property with extensive food gardens backing onto a series of paddocks used for grazing animals. The grass was a significant issue in terms of maintenance and they had used round up to keep it under control, which we completely understand – no one wants to spend hours on the end of mattock weeding again and again and again. Thankfully this is where chickens can step up and do the job for us, and keep poisons out of the garden.
A chicken tunnel built by some of our design clients in southern Tasmania recently. It has been built on the external side of their food gardens which back onto their paddocks used for grazing animals.
There a a range of ways of building a chicken tunnel – we generally go for the simple options as they’re quick to build and 100% functional. We build something resembling the sketch on the right (in diagram below) and use chicken wire as the tunnel, tie wire to connect it to the boundary fence (or nails if the fence is timber) and some type of landscaping peg to secure it to the ground. You can use tent pegs if you have an abundance of them, but they tend to pop out as they’re too small. I’ve also made my own pegs out of strong high tensile wire used for fencing.
For this particular design, we worked with the existing fence line and integrated a chicken tunnel along all relevant edges, turning a negative (weedy grasses) into a positive (food for chickens). You’ll notice, in the diagram below, we have different coloured sections, this indicates how it’s possible to rotate between sections so the chickens are never permanently grazing one area only. It’s important to be able to provide different and fresh ground for your animals to keep them healthy.
Another example is from our last rental home where we made a much small chicken tunnel to create two runs for our chooks which we could then alternate them between. We also made the tunnel function as a seat for us to sit around a camp fire (which hadn’t been created yet in the photo below). So this particular tunnel is one of my favourites due to being so multifunctional.
As this tunnel was up against a concrete wall, preventing weeds from creeping in wasn’t its main job. Instead, it’s key function was to pipe the chickens across the yard without taking up too much space – essentially doubling the area available for our chickens, increasing their health and happiness.
Finally, a concept sketch I did back in 2011 (and which wasn’t actually ever implemented) for a project is seen below where a chicken tunnel is integrated into a mini market garden to prevent grass from creeping in from the boundary fence line. For such a simple thing the impact is ever-giving and wonderful, no matter how small it can literally save you from many hours of weeding.
Do you need to train the chickens to walk into the tunnel?
We’ve found that food works wonders in enticing the chickens in to the tunnel the first one or two times. After that they quickly work out that the tunnel = a world of fresh food and newness, so they learn super quick.
Want to see more chicken tunnel magic?
Check out this fantastic blog by Very Edible Gardens blog here.