Weekend Project

Justin Newcombe's tips on outdoor DIY projects

Weekend project: Accommodating chooks

By Justin Newcombe

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Justin Newcombe builds a mobile home so his beloved chooks can have a change of scenery (and help with the gardening).

One of Justin's 'girls', Justine, checks out her new chicken tractor. Photo / Natalie Slade
One of Justin's 'girls', Justine, checks out her new chicken tractor. Photo / Natalie Slade

The benefits of having chooks in the garden are many and well documented. Let's not talk about the times when they're not laying eggs at all or when they escape and ravage your entire vegetable garden. Because, there is a plus side to all this undesirable plunder. If you've ever had chooks go through your vege garden you'll be amazed at how efficient the destruction can be. Good gardening is a matter of harnessing these feral fixations and using them to clean, turn and fertilise the garden beds as they become unused.

There's a lot in it for the birds too: a change is as good as a holiday and moving them from their permanent chook run to some fresh ground to work over is well appreciated. When they are busy, chooks can be quite charming.

As you might have guessed our chooks will not be going into the pot so finding new jobs for them to do is a real bonus. A moveable chook trailer solves two problems in one - transporting and housing. For containment I use screens made from chicken wire (what else) and small profile timber, to make them easy to store.

I set up the screens on the lawn or around a garden bed, then introduce the birds using the trailer. The trailer is a home-away-from-home with a perch, nesting box and pitched roof, the chook version of a caravan. I was all set to buy a set of wheels but found a ready-made trolley at Bunnings which was actually cheaper than the wheels would have been - with the bonus of the carriage and handle ready to go. All I had to do was assemble the carriage and wheels then attach the plywood house and we had ourselves a regular rancho relaxo for busy birds ... ole!

Step 1

Cut out all the floor and wall panels. Mine is 1200mm long, 600mm wide. Make sure one side wall panel is at least 50mm higher than the rest to help create the pitched roof (mine are 550mm and 600mm). Cut out the chicken-sized hole for a door.

Step 2

Glue and screw all of the panels together. I used clamps to hold them together but masking tape can also be a good option.

Step 3

Once the box is constructed install a nesting box and perch. I used offcuts to form the nesting box and a piece of dowelling to form the perch. If you haven't got dowelling then use a tree branch. Avoid using square timber as over time, it's uncomfortable on the hens' feet. Assemble the wheels and attach them to the bottom of the box.

Step 4

To form the roof, make a frame and then paint it and cover with miniature corrugated iron. Allow an overhang at one end to give the chooks a bit of outside shelter from the weather. Attach the roof with hinges so you can access the inside of the trailer.

Step 5

Paint the outside of the trailer with at least two coats of paint.

- NZ Herald

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