The Self-Cleaning Chook House

Jan 16, 2019

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.

Update: Gardening Australia came and filmed it in 2021 – so now you can also watch me talk you through it below :-).

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 :-).

your thoughts:

26 Comments

  1. Kris

    Thanks for this great design. Do you feed your chickens any pellets/grain? Cheers Kris

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      We feed them mixed grains and fresh greens each day :-).

      Reply
  2. JENNIFER VENABLES

    Sounds great.I would love my girls to have one.But is it fox proof .I have had a fox dig underneath colourbond chook house terrorise the girls take his kill back outside eat the hens head & leave.

    Reply
  3. Maria

    This is such an amazing article (and the whole website, I’m so happy I found it! Thank you!) I’m new to this so it wasn’t clear where does the straw come from?

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Glad you like it Maria 🙂 The straw mixed in with the poo beneath the chook house comes from the chook’s nesting box/ They inevitably scratch some it of their box and it falls through the floor with the poo (so I replace it as needed).

      Reply
  4. Elle

    Love this chook house, thank you!

    Reply
  5. Jess

    Hi I was just wondering if you have any issues with predators? we are in northern Tassie area and have quolls. I would love to be able to build something like this but worry they will be terrorized from underneath.

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Hi Jess, No we don’t. When we lived in Victoria (with foxes) we simply put the house inside a fully enclosed straw yard with the egg box sticking out (So we could still harvest easily). You can see one example in an older blog of this here (just scroll down the blog to see an older photo of our Vic set up): https://goodlifepermaculture.com.au/chook-house-ultimate/

      Reply
  6. Stewart

    Hi Hannah,
    I am about to build the chook house and was making the floor solid so that underneath would be dry and dusty so that the chooks had a place to dust themselves. Do you have a separate area for your chooks to dust themselves?
    Cheers
    Stewart

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      We do – they have their dust baths in the nearby goat shed which they can come and go from. If that’s the only option for you, then that’s great 🙂

      Reply
  7. Robert van Krieken

    Hallo Hannah,
    Thanks for these ideas, they’re a great help. One question I had building our chook house, is it possible to be too spacious? We’re planning on 4 chooks, and what I’ve got in mind is 1300 x 1300 x 1400 (width, length, height) – it’s sitting inside a large ‘run’ with a roof over the whole run. I don’t know if chooks prefer it cosy at night. Any advice very welcome! Regards, Robert

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Hi Robert, I don’t think there’s any great negative there. There are designs which prioritise generating heat – to heat the space and a neighbouring space. i.e. glass house. But chooks are hardy birds so I wouldn’t worry 🙂

      Reply
  8. Robert van Krieken

    Hallo again Hannah, Thanks so much for getting back, that’s good to know.
    I have one more question, about the Feng Shui of nesting boxes!
    If you can imagine a square chook house, I think the best place for the nesting boxes is (looking at the house) placed on the front wall, towards the right, but then the best place for the door is also on that front wall, towards the left. There’s lots of room, but I don’t know if there’s anything the chooks won’t like about the nesting boxes being beside the front door, as opposed to one of the other walls? Probably not, as you say, they’re hardy creatures, but I thought it was worth asking anyway. 🙂 R.

    Reply
  9. Samantha Dymond

    Hi Hannah, love the chookhouse. Quick question, why adjustable legs?
    Thanks Sam

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Because when we first built it, we had it on a steep slope so needed different length legs. We made them adjustable incase we had to move it – which we did :-).

      Reply
    • Janie

      Love your design thanks and we are planning to make our own one… Can I please ask you the dimensions of your one? We have max of 10 chickens at any time so it would need to be larger, have you seen larger versions of your design working well? Thanks 😊

      Reply
  10. Tyswan Slater

    Hello,

    Late to the party, but this post is awesome. I have been researching open floor chook houses, and there’s not much info around. I loved your photos so I could show my partner the type of floor mesh.

    Quick question: Milkwood have an open floor chook house, but use a deep litter system over winter. I live in a cool climate like tassie (we get snow on the ground once per year for about half a day). What do you do in winter? Do you recommend putting a straw floor in the chookhouse when it gets cold?

    Many thanks for your reply. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      We don’t do anything over winter Tyswan, but you could add a cardboard/straw floor to warm up the space a bit. You could then pull it out and pop it in the compost as needed. 🙂

      Reply
  11. suzy

    Wonderful chook house! Just wondering what the aproximate dimensions are. Looks to be about 1m square with an extra 30cm deep for the roosting zone? Thanks so much 🙂

    Reply
  12. Chris

    Get cold?
    How cold can be in Australia in winter?
    I’m considering this kind of coop here in Poland zone 6b.

    Reply
  13. Paul

    Lowest Maintenance Chook House 2

    Me thinks that much less maintenance still, would be a No-Stoop, easy to Walk-In access coop, that is, 7 ft plus high x 5ft to 6ft wide x 6 to 8ft long, Conestoga shaped chook house, with no floor, because the grassy ground of the paddock/lawn is the floor, and with two off, raise-and-lower wheels; one on either middle side, each with a foot lever stomp to elevate and latch, mechanism, so that by standing on the lever attached to the wheel on either side, it lifts the coop off the ground by 4 inches, so that you can trundle the whole coop to a fresh piece of ground, once a fortnight, or whenever, and lower it again, at the new site.

    Inside the coop, easily removable roosting perches for mite control and cleaning, are attached, down either side of the coop, at about 5 ft off the ground, with easy removable lower steps and/or access ramps and boardwalks, positioned such as to avoid falling dung, to make the chook’s access easy, not only to the higher roosting perches, but also to the detachable, easily cleanable, full gloss painted if wood, or plastic, crevice-free nest boxes, which are mounted externally, under a waterproof hinge-up, dormer roof/lid for easy access,
    Nest boxes that are mounted externally, at the best, most convenient height for access for inspection and egg collection, so you don’t have to stoop to get the eggs.
    Air vents and windows for light, in either end, and a 6ft 6inch high door x 2ft 6in wide, in one end.

    The roof which is also both of the sides, is Conestoga ( an inverted “U”) in profile, and is made out of a piece of light weight 6ft x 18ft concrete reinforcing mesh (with 9in x 9in squares x 3/16″ dia. mesh section, or similar), or more likely 2off 9ft x 6ft pieces joined together end to end, that are easily curved into a U, that is wrapped around the two wooden U end-walls made to fit either end of the U shaped mesh tunnel; end walls that are fitted with a window, and the door with a window.

    5 off, 2″x3″ x 6ft long tanalized joists connect the two end walls together;

    2 at ground level on either side; H4 Tanalized

    2 more that are parallel to the first two, and are mounted about 4ft & 6ins, directly above the first two, at the start of the bottom of the arch on either side.

    And the 5th joist is attached at top dead centre of the roof, and is where the join of the two pieces of mesh would be.

    Or perhaps 3 pieces of mesh might be necessary, if you can’t get it 9 ft long, in which case you would dimension the 3 pieces to have the two joins instead on the upper two joists on either side.

    Over the mesh you attach a long life UV resistant tarpaulin, and use tanalized battens and screws to sandwich-anchor it in place, screwed to the two bottom joists on either side !

    You might also want to allow a little eave overhang of the roof, past either end of the two end walls, so factor that into your material lengths in your design also.

    And there you have it !

    Reply
  14. Paul

    Lowest Maintenance Chook House 2

    I forgot to mention having a sliding door and doorway in one of the two end walls, for the chooks to come and go, at ground level, so they can free range, of course.

    Reply

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