Build A Chicken Tunnel, or “Chunnel”
This post comes from our guest blogger Julie M, who first shared photos of her chicken tunnel, also called a “chunnel”, on social media. Thank you, Julie, for sharing this informative blog on how you built your chunnel and your experience using it to enrich your chickens’ lives.
When I became a chicken owner four years ago, I knew that I wanted nothing but the best for my flock and would do anything I could to make that happen for them. We started our journey with a small order of 8 chicks from Meyer Hatchery in 2018, and from there, chicken math occurred (yes, it’s a real thing). We now have a beautiful flock of 25! Unfortunately, the flock does not always have the ability to free-range.
With our garden in 2020, I knew that I wanted to make this garden for our family and the flock. I had been doing much research on Pinterest to figure out how exactly to incorporate our chickens in with the garden plans. As I was tending to our soon-to-be garden, I couldn’t help but wonder how I was going to keep our neighbor’s weeds on his side of the fence and out of my garden. I saw these homemade chicken tunnels, also known as “chunnels”, that helped chickens safely get from one area in a backyard to another. Then it clicked! A chunnel was the perfect opportunity to allow the hens a little more room to roam as well as eat any weeds that tried to take root! After all, the little “dinosaurs” are the perfect weed eaters for any property! From there, I got the graph paper out, made a list of measurements and materials, and began planning.
I love being resourceful and using anything that we have on hand before going to the store and spending any more money, so off to the shed I went. I found some 2×4 welded wire fencing, plastic resin chicken netting, and landscaping staples. Perfect! When I had built the original chicken run, I wanted to keep wild birds out to prevent them from eating the flock’s food and reduce the risk of spreading disease, so I needed to make sure the chunnel was birdproof as well.
Building the Chunnel
I measured out the width of the chunnel and calculated how tall I wanted it to be. The width is approximately 18 inches, and the height is 16 inches. We did not own a rooster when we planned out building the tunnel, so I based the measurements on my biggest hen, a Barred Rock named Bertha. Our Speckled Sussex rooster fit in the chunnel fine, but the tips of his tail feathers scraped across the top of the chunnel and tended to break off a few here and there, leaving him looking like a bit of a mess. As I look back, I should have known that roosters happen whether planned or not, and I should have made my tunnel a bit taller.
After measuring the welded wire fencing and cutting it to the appropriate width, I laid the chicken netting over the top and cut it to the same dimensions. Since the fencing was 4-foot fencing, I built the chunnel in 4-foot sections with just a little overlap on each section. On each side of the base of the chunnel, I dug down a couple of inches lower than the existing dirt. I hammered the welded wire fencing in with landscaping staples about every foot or so and then covered the area back up with soil to hopefully keep the hens from digging it out. I did the backside first and firmly took a couple of zip ties to attach it to our neighbor’s cyclone fence. I then hammered in the side closest to my garden, and we had a perfect dome! I continued this process to the end of the garden area and then took the chicken netting, covered the welded wire, and zip-tied it to hold it in place. I may or may not have a zip tie obsession, it is like my version of duct tape; it fixes everything! I decided to leave one small area (about 2 inches by about 3 inches) just above the ground so I could squeeze larger treats and weeds in the chunnel and prayed that the wild birds were not smart enough to find this small opening. So far, so good! At the end of the chunnel, I cut the chicken netting to fit the top and sides and left it longer on the bottom so that I could bury it in the ground a bit. The actual chunnel was now complete!
The Chickens Explore
I opened the chunnel up to the hens and watched as they enjoyed snacking on all of the weeds that were in there. They were in heaven! Now that the chunnel was done, I decided to dig down a bit and place bricks to further prevent them from digging under the wire. Was this necessary? I do not think so, but it helped give it a finished look in our garden area!
Life With The Chunnel
The ladies now had this amazing area to explore (which we had to add onto when we added on to our garden) that they loved exploring. Since our neighbor’s fence was behind their arborvitaes, a variety of grass, weeds, vines, and thistle grew abundantly, and this was a perfect solution to keep it all from creeping onto our property. Nothing has got past the ladies in the last two years!
It was common to find them in the chunnel taking their dust baths or taking naps and soaking up the warm sunlight in the early spring mornings. During the gardening season, this chunnel was particularly helpful for getting rid of any weeds that I would pull. I would drape them across the top and let the girls pull them through, or I would place them on the bricks in the small area where there was no chicken netting. Once the garden had taken off, the ladies would line up and wait for their fresh greens for the day! Sometimes it was parsley or lettuce I had let go to seed, and sometimes it was nasturtiums, one of their favorite snacks! They would often get a hold of a zucchini that grew too close to the channel, or I would split a cucumber in half and stick it on the bricks for them to peck. The brick area that I intentionally left with bigger holes has now been dubbed the salad bar! I often lay out a row of lettuce and watch them eagerly jump in front of one another, trying to get their share. Some parts of the chunnel have naturally shaded areas created by the trailing nasturtiums, cucumbers, or zucchini plants. They particularly like these areas as the leaves and flowers were free snacks available to them 24/7, and they have a nice cool place to hang out during the hot summer days. I love that nothing in our garden goes to waste and the chickens benefit from the perfectly placed chunnel, and I benefit from not having to pull the neighbor’s weeds! It’s so funny how simple things can bring so much joy to our little homestead. If you have the room or need for a chicken chunnel, I highly recommend putting one in; you won’t regret it!
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