I decided to make a chicken tunnel. Even though I have my main flock in a very large coop and run area I have a separate coop and undercover run set up as a nursery. The nursery is where I can isolate a broody hen and it’s a safe place for her to raise her chicks. Once she has finished teaching them how to feed, forage, scratch, roost and all the chickeny skills required she will be ready to merge back with the flock and start laying again. I wanted a tunnel system I could attach to the side of the nursery area for the mother hen and her chicks to get out into the grass in safety. My main goals were to provide access to grass and provide safety from birds of prey.
I looked at what materials I had on hand and how much time I wanted to spend. I ended up using wire from various fencing projects. Here are my notes on how I made a wire chicken tunnel. Keep in mind that this is designed for day use only. I decide when they use the tunnel system by opening up a door on the main nursery run. All my chickens are always locked up at night. Make your own assessment in relation to predator proofing. Remember foxes can live close to the city and dogs can roam at anytime of day.
The tunnel needs some rigidity. The pig fencing is very rigid but has a natural curve due to being on a roll. I used this curve to my advantage and based my tunnel design around it. I also have a young family and lots of other tasks so I decided to make the tunnel in sections. This allows me to make a section up when I have 30 mins to dedicate to the job. A design in sections also provides flexibility. By positioning each section in the right way you can create curves in your tunnel which means you can go around obstacles and move the contact area of grass as needed to give the chickens access to a new patch.
- Rigid, heavy duty fencing wire such as dog or pig mesh.
- Smaller bird wire.
- Wire clips (around 16 per section). Usually come in a bag of 500.
- Wire clip pliers/clamps (you usually get some clips in the packet when you buy the a set of clamps).
- Wire cutters.
- Old scissors.
- Gloves are optional but highly recommended. Use gardening gloves if you do not have work gloves.
Although there was no additional costs for me as I had all of this on hand I estimated that to purchased the wire and clips would end up around $5 per section. Large rolls of wire provide better economies of scale and therefore reduce the cost per section. This estimate is based on a larger roll rather than a smaller (10m) roll.
I found it useful to cut my sections of wire in a batch then I could put each section together. If your wire is cut and ready to go then putting the wire together will take around 20 -25 mins. The first one will take the longest.
How to make a wire chicken tunnel
The dog mesh and the bird mesh both measure 90cms. This saves a heap of time because you just have to cut the sections of each wire and the ends are finished off.
The tunnel only needs to be slightly higher than a standing hen. Allow room for her to have a stretch and a flap. The tunnel shape provides maximum floor space and because the chicks are tiny they will be able to access pretty much all of it. I cut my pig mesh curve to give me prongs or spikes on each side. These are used to push into the soil like a tent peg and keep it in place. Cutting the pig mesh in the middle of the rectangles means you have no wasted wire in-between each section.
I cut my pig mesh to allow for 3 full rectangles across the curve of the tunnel and then a half rectangle for each set of prongs. You many need to adjust the measurements to suit the rigid mesh you are using as different rigid meshes have different sized wire and holes. Once you figure out your ground to ground measurement (i.e. the curve above ground) you use this to guide your measurement for the bird mesh that will sit on top of your rigid mesh.
My TOTAL curve for the pig mesh measured 110 cms. This means the curve ABOVE the ground (and excluding the prongs) measured 90cms. I then cut each section of bird mesh at around 95cms. This gave me some extra to account for misshapen mesh and enough to wrap around the pig mesh. Do the first section then adjust as you go.
I have wire cutters but prefer to use an old pair of scissors to cut bird mesh. I find it much easier and quicker.
Once you have cut your pig mesh with wire cutters, and you have your bird mesh you need to lay the bird mesh on top of your pig mesh. Using the wire clips attach the mesh at each curved end. You will use around 8 wire clips on each end, so around 16 wire clips per section.
You will now need to attach the bird mesh to the to each flat side. You may need to trim off the bird mesh so you have just the right amount to bend around the straight of rigid mesh. Repeat on the other straight section. One section done…
If you are using only the tunnel then you’ll need to make one section with an end. This is a little tricky but not hard. Hold the tunnel section in the curved position and cut a piece of bird mesh to suit the semi circle shape. Attach to the curve with wire clips.
You need to figure out how to attach the first section of tunnel to your coop or run area. You might use wire clips or wire sections.
Overlap each additional section of tunnel. Overlapping them more on one side will give you a curve.
Use the pointed but closed end of the scissors to push down on the mesh to get the prongs into the ground. Or you could used a gloved finger. I’ve tried both and find the scissors work best. You need to make sure the prongs go in fairly straight and because they want to curve under you need to fiddle a bit until they sit right. You’ll soon get the hang of it. Push them down to close the gap under each straight edge.
Chicks are small. Make sure you don’t leave small gaps in-between each section of tunnel.
- Use the natural curve of the wire to your advantage.
- Modular design allows for great flexibility.
- Make a section at a time when it suits.
- Add more sections as needed.
- This design works well in soft soil.
- The bird mesh is easy to mould around the pig mesh.
- Mesh is hardy in the rain, sun and soil. It allows the rain through which means the grass stays greener (as apposed to undercover areas).
- Sections are light and fairly easy to store when not in use.
- A tunnel can provide access to grass on it’s own or be used as a means to access another pen area.
- The bird mesh is sharp. Wearing gloves in building and moving will ease scratches.
- This is a temporary structure. With constant moving the bird mesh may show signs of undoing. Keep an eye on it.
- It is not predator proof. Foxes, dogs, quolls and rodents will be able to get in and under if they want to. It will deter cats, and hawks and other birds from swooping down to pinch the chicks though.
There you have it. A simple and inexpensive chicken tunnel design.