After losing three hens to poisonous edibles in the woods behind the coop, I had to come up with a safe free-range solution for my girls. After doing a little research, I discovered these “chunnels” on the internet and made a modified version that I felt would suit our needs. They give Mom a sense of comfort concerning safety and the girls seem to enjoy them a great deal. We also have a 10-by-16-foot enclosed roofed run area where they can stretch their wings if they so choose.
The chunnels that I found online were done in a few different versions, one being attached to 2-by-3s and were only built in one section, laid end to end and moved around to accommodate garden placement utilizing the hens as weeders and fertilizers. My yard is not large enough to utilize this model, and I personally don’t think as a horticulturist that fresh chicken manure is good to incorporate into the gardens, it should be well composted.
I opted to make my chunnels one continuous length. This limits moving capabilities but it has worked well for our small homestead. This version is also the least expensive to make. One other reason I like this variation is … it is FUN! It sort of looks like a maze and can be laid out in a few designs with bends and curves and be put just about anywhere.
Here is the list of supplies you will need:
- Red Brand No Climb Horse Fence (or similar 12 gauge fencing) 36 inches or 48 inches in height
- Hardware cloth
- Landscape staples
- Zip ties (minimum 6 inches in length)
- Heavy-duty wire cutters
You are working with the roll of fence standing on end in front of you. Open and unroll fencing and straighten out enough to be able to cut a section off the roll but not enough to remove curve; you want the section you cut to still have a natural curve to it after you cut it. I counted 24 small rectangles wide and, using the wire cutters, cut that section, leaving half a piece of wire when you cut. So you are cutting the 24th small rectangle in the middle of that rectangle.
At this point, cut a piece of hardware cloth the same size and place it over this tunnel section for added protection.
Susan Berry is a fourth-generation Massachusetts resident. She and her husband, Don, owned and operated a 4-acre farm in North Carolina for eight years, where she returned to attend college and got a degree in horticulture. In 2010, they moved back to Massachusetts, where they’re now homesteading on less than 1/4 acre. It is her hope to share my experiences, lessons learned, a few mistakes, and success stories with all who have a desire to be more self-sufficient by raising their own food.
Itzy Bitzy Farm is a hope, an inspiration, a refuge, a stepping stone. From a tiny seed, comes a bountiful harvest. Itzy Bitzy Farm is family-owned and operated in Southeastern Massachusetts.