At one of our previous houses we decided to get chickens, so I built a chicken hutch out of old materials I had lying around. My main design goals were:
- It had to be roomy enough to house 4-6 hens
- It had to be easy to maintain: specifically the chook manure shouldn’t be difficult to clear out so that I could compost it easily.
- The laying boxes had to be easily accessible so that toddlers could check for eggs and easily reach in and grab them.
I ended up with the design you can see below: the bottom of the hutch is steel reinforcing mesh, which means that the chook manure falls through to the ground. The front of the hutch under the legs opens up so the chook manure can be easily raked up and mixed in with the compost.
The doors to the layer boxes are right at toddler head-height, and the doors open sideways so they won’t fall open or slam shut on little fingers. Above the layer boxes I built in a set of shelving accesible from the outside to store garden tools.
The roof is made up of some old roof tiles I had lying around, and the cladding on the outside is some old floorboards and offcuts from other projects. Inside the hutch I put a couple of thick branches (about 3-4cm thick) for the hens to perch on overnight. There are a couple of small hen- size doorways in the sides, and on the far side I built a set of steps for the hens to climb up from a pile of spare bricks.
The whole thing worked out quite well, and quite cheap because I recycled most of the materials. It was still there when we sold the house, I hope the new owners got some use out of it!
This is the initial construction – setting four poles in concrete. I just used whatever timber I had lying about to build this chicken hutch, and I salvaged some more from rubbish were people throwing out. For example, the cladding on the outside of the hutch is some old flooring that somebody had ripped up and put out for bulk rubbish collection.
Starting to build the frame – the blue tubs are the nesting boxes. Using tubs means they’re easy to remove and clean if necessary, and with a few old rags in the bottom they’re quite a cosy place to lay an egg. (Not speaking from experience.)
Framing for the roof complete, ready for roof tiles and cladding. The roof tiles were spares from the construction of our house.
Cladding complete – I added shelving above the nesting boxes with doors for the garden tools. Below that shelving is the two nesting boxes, and the two small doors are for access to the nesting boxes to check for eggs.
Lovely wife with the doors to the shelving (top) and nesting boxes (bottom) open.
I built the nesting boxes just tall enough so that little hands could reach in and grab the eggs. The doors open sideways so that they won’t slam on little fingers.
We bought four ISA Brown hens to enjoy the new hutch. They’re very good layers, and fairly low maintenance.
Our cat Bugalugs didn’t seem particularly interested in the hens. They never really trusted him.
They didn’t seem particularly interested in me. If you handle chickens regularly they become very docile around people and easy to pick up, but maybe the kissing was a step too far.
Our first egg! 50g is a really good size.