Owning chickens can be a curse and a blessing. You will be able to feed your own family with eggs produced daily, and meat when they reach market weight.
There are even dual breed chickens so you can get eggs from them until they meet the weight and then butcher. However, the downside of chickens is keeping them safe from predators.
You can help prevent this major downside by providing your chickens a safe way to travel the lawn, and still give them the freedoms they desire.
Why Tunnels Are Necessary
Chickens love to roam and this puts them at high risk. You can have a great chicken coop, but they will produce better when they are less stressed and free range. They also do not care where they roam so tunnels have two purposes.
If you have a lot of space, then tunnels can help your chickens travel safely from the coop to the fenced yard area. However, if you are in an urban area, then space is likely very limited. You can build a tunnel that has a closed end so you can allow your chickens to roam without leaving your property.
Both types of tunnels prevent large birds, dogs, foxes, and other wild life from getting to your chickens while they are out of their coop.
How to Build a Chicken Tunnel
There is not much needed when it comes to building a chicken tunnel. You will need chicken wire, fencing stakes, wire supporters and/or hooks, and then something to cut the wire safely.
If you are making a closed tunnel, then you will want a panel for the end to let your chickens know when there is no more room to roam.
Finally, some people prefer to have a door attached to a lever so they can control when their chickens have access to the tunnel. This will require another panel and a pully system that you can raise and lower.
Before you actually start building, or even purchasing the chicken wire, you will want to have a measurement of the area that you want the run to span. This is easily done by designing what you want your tunnel to look like and using fencing stakes to map it out.
You can then run a measuring wheel around the perimeter. After you purchase the chicken wire, you will want to roll it out and place the stakes to secure it into the ground. You will want supports to keep the dome style top to the tunnel.
You may find it easier to use bendable support rods that will shape the wire as you feed it through the holes. Next, you will want to attach one end of the tunnel to the entrance of the chicken coop. This is where you would want to place the panel with the pulley system if you want to limit access to the tunnel.
Finally, close off the end of the tunnel using another panel or run it into the fenced area for them to roam free.
Benefits of Free Range
Chickens are not only great for you in regards to food, they also are great for your yard. When you allow chickens to roam, they will peck at the ground, eating bugs or weeds that could easily damage your yard.
They do this without requiring you to hire a gardener or spend hours yourself prepping the ground. This is why having a chicken tunnel that moves is sometimes better, because you can give them different areas to work.
In addition, you will save a lot of money on the feed for your chickens, because your yard is full of nutrients that you will be giving them access to.
Chickens also have a nasty habit of scratching at things. This will save the floor of the coop, but it may destroy your lawn if you do not give them a chance to walk around and tear up other areas.
Notes of Warning
Free range style of raising chickens have some downsides as well, so you will want to make sure you keep these in mind before deciding if you want to consider allowing your chickens to range outside their coop.
The first is that chickens love to create dust and stir it up. You will want to keep an eye on the run to make sure the ground is not getting over worked. You will also want to make sure that it is long enough for the number of chickens that will be using it.
The more chickens that will be accessing the tunnel, the longer it will need to be. When chickens scratch at the ground for dirt, they have the potential to make it so no grass will grow again in that spot for a while, if at all.
Finally, when you have your chickens in a coop, you can catch their droppings and use it as fertilizer for your garden or lawn. However, with a run, you will not have an easy access to that.
Again, with using limited hours to the tunnel, you can still collect a majority of the droppings and then let them fertilize the ground as they walk.
Start Building Your Own Chicken Tunnel
Therefore, even with the warnings, having a tunnel for your chickens will give you more benefits than you would have without one. From having a more beautiful lawn, healthier garden, and happier chickens, you will save more money in the long run.
This money comes from not having to replace chickens that may get caught by predators, but also from the savings on chicken feed. Your chickens will eat far less, producing denser eggs and have leaner meat.
There are still arguments as to whether free range is healthier than chickens that stay in a coop, but stress has been shown to decrease the amount of eggs laid and they have a chance to get fat. The tunnels are cheap to make, and usually only take a day or two to construct.
You can even use hard tops to prevent weather from hampering your chickens from having access to the ground beneath them.