Posts tagged ‘chicken house’

The Self-Cleaning Chook House

If you’re about to build yourself a chook house, we highly recommend a self-cleaning version where there’s no build up of poo at all inside the house. As well as saving yourself time, this creates a healthy environment for your chooks.

We built our chook house from salvaged pallets over 4 years ago and it’s still perfect. Since then we bought the neighbouring patch of land and have shifted the chooks and their house to flat ground and given them more space. It works *so* well.

The key features to this design is that;

  • It’s raised off the ground and its leg’s length can be adjusted,
  • It has an external egg hatch meaning you can harvest eggs without having to go into the run, and
  • The floor is made from strong wire mesh, allowing all poo to fall straight through to the ground beneath.

Sketch showing a profile of the chook house. This particular drawing is for a client’s garden, not ours.

Peak hour in the nesting box!

The inside of the chook has includes a number of branches (roosts) that the chooks sleep on and drop enormous amounts of poo from. 

Under the chook house we’ve placed a “poo catcher” (we use an old bread crate found on the side of the road). This catches some of the poo and makes it nice and easy for you to simply drag it out with one quick motion.

But of course, the chooks poo everywhere and we still end up scraping out a decent amount into a wheelbarrow, as well as what falls into the bread crate. So technically, you *do* still need to participate in the cleaning process – but you don’t have to get into small spaces and scrape poo off timber. It’s approximately one million times better this way.

As there’s a nice mix of dry straw and chook poo (mostly dry and old), I then put it straight onto one of our many fruit and nut trees. Today the mulberry and hazelnut trees got it.

A happy mulberry tree (and Frida in the background).

I then put the bread crate back under the house with a sheet of cardboard in it (to cover all holes) and wait for more poo.

But surely that pile of poo smells under the house?

No. There’s a significant amount of straw in there which prevents any smell from happening. It’s a nice blend of carbon (straw) and nitrogen (poo). Perfect. I only harvest poo from here every few months or so.

Don’t the chooks get cold with that mesh floor?

Chickens are hardy birds and we’ve found no negative impact on their health or egg laying, so I say no.

Do they fall through the mesh?

Chickens are originally jungle birds. This means they’ve evolved to sleep in trees on branches or within shrubs. Their feet are designed to curl around and hold onto different “roosts”, so this mesh floor is 100% fine for them to walk on. Saying that, this is on the larger side – usually we’d find mesh with smaller holes when building them for other people. But overall this is completely fine.

There you have it, go forth and create self-cleaning chook houses in peace and relief of never having to scrape poo off awkward spaces again. You’re welcome :-).

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A home for chooks

Building a new chook house?  That’s what we wanted to do.

Apart from being beautiful and joyful to behold, our new chook house is also fulfilling some important functions – shelter, a nesting place and a roost for our feathered friends. We need to be able to easily access the space to remove manure and eggs and clean it in the event of any disease problems.  What’s more, we are on a very steep block of land and need a chook house that can be moved to different locations.  So we present you with our super duper guide to our wacko dacko chook house.

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A word of encouragement: Just about anyone can build a chook house.  Our chosen materials are low cost and reused, the construction techniques simple and the tools required are minimal.  If you are having doubts follow the Urban Bush Carpenter’s motto: “Close enough is good enough”.

A word of warning:  I (Anton) have a pallet fetish- I love them, hoard them and use them to create functional and beautiful things from them. All our shelves in the house, kitchen bench, tables, garden seats and now, our flashy new chook house are all made from pretty much pure pallet.  Being a ‘waste’ product, we salvage them from around town from building sites and warehouses for free, as soon as you start looking, you’ll see them everywhere. We only harvest the heat treated pallets which are chemical free, you can recognise them by the “HT” stamp they have.

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“HT” stands for “Heat Treated”  avoid pallets marked “MB”

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A classic “house” shape design – half built with an undercoat of paint. Photo by Kirsten Bradley

The only tools required to build such a thing are a paintbrush, saw, hammer and drill. The two sidewalls where made from pallets (with their base removed).  A sturdy rigid base was made by screwing large section timber perpendicular.  A “roof truss” made of 3 x 2 timbers joined at right angles was attached to the corners of each pallet.  A roosting box was attached to the rear of the structure and all of the parts infilled with light weight pallet timber

chook house-inside

Inside isn’t quite as fancy as the outside, but here you can see a couple of the best features.  The cross pieces are some prunings from the garden, these are the roosts for the chooks to sleep on.  Below that is a mesh which allows the chook poo to fall straight through to the ground where it gets collected for our compost pile.  Without something like this a chook house can get pretty messy, stinky and potentially cause disease and/or sickness.

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As well as looking good, we painted the lightweight pine to protect it from the elements. The lid for the egg hatch is a bit of sheet metal cut to size which we scrounged from the local tip shop, it’s 100% rain proof and built to last. The corrugated iron roof sheeting is also from the tip shop and finished with a nice ridge cap.

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Here we can see the laying box in action.  It has this handy hook which conveniently holds itself up while you harvest eggs.

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“Rocky” walking the plank from the chookhouse to the yard.  On the left of the chook house you can see some hinges, this entire side of the house is one big door so we can easily get inside if needed.

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My favourite bit! This chook house also has legs – and buggy legs at that. Each one of the legs can be adjusted in the metal guides.  This way we can set it up in any location/slope around the block (although we don’t want to move it very often).

Fox or fort knox?: Since we are in Tasmania the dreaded fox problem doesn’t exist (yay) so we don’t need the extensive lock up facilities others do on mainland Australia.  If you do have fox (or other predator issues) we recommend you invest in creating a “straw yard” as seen below. A small section of the chook run that encloses the chook house that can be completely sealed from Mr and Mrs Fox.  This allows you to go away for a night or two without requiring a neighbour to lock and unlock your little ladies each day. Our friends from Very Edible Gardens taught us this trick while we were living in Melbourne.

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An older chook house we made with a fox proof straw yard (all from pallets of course), Melbourne rental 2012

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This is by far our best chook house yet, we love it’s functionality AND its capacity to stun and inspire people when they see it for the first time. Function should always come first when designing anything – but gee, it sure does help engage people when things are also beautiful!

*Your blogger is Anton Vikstrom, co-director of Good Life Permaculture and a total renaissance man.

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