Having completed our rustic fairytale tree house project, the same clients then requested a chicken house! The requirements for the project were as follows:
- The proposed chicken house should have the same magical fairytale look and feel as the tree house.
- The chicken house should be able to easily accommodate a maximum of four chickens.
- It would need to include windows and have easy access for cleaning and collecting eggs.
(If you like you can skip the article and go straight to the captioned photo gallery.)
Building the chicken house
There was a convenient tree stump in the clients’ garden, left over from a tree-felling years ago. We decided to use this stump as the main support for the chicken house, instead of legs or posts. This mirrored the tree house and provided a consistent look in the clients’ garden. Furthermore, this allowed us to position the chicken house beneath the shade of some bushes which ran along a flint wall in the garden, allowing the chickens to stay cool on a hot day.
We’d built the tree house with an exaggerated crooked appearance, and designed the chicken house frame to match. The construction consisted of a large living space for the chickens, with a separate raised nesting area at the rear.
We designed the main living space to be accessed via a round porthole at the front. The porthole was large enough for chickens of any size to pass through, and also to allow the clients easy access to clean out the interior when required. We then created a round, Hobbit-style door for the porthole; this also mirrored the clients’ existing tree house. Chris then crafted a hinge from a piece of ash and fixed the door to the frame, finishing it off with a hand-carved latching mechanism to keep the chickens in at night.
To allow light into the main living space, we made two windows shaped like crooked squares in the front wall. A third window was then added to the raised nesting space. We decided to make this round, to mirror the Hobbit-style front door. We created crossing bars from tree branches to give the windows more character. All three windows were then fitted with clear perspex to seal the chicken house and protect the residents from bad weather!
The roof of the chicken house needed to be water-tight, as well as looking consistent with the tree house. We first fitted sheets of plywood to form a flat surface, then added a layer of Butyl green roof liner to form a waterproof membrane. Chris then cut lots of individual wooden shingles in rough, uneven shapes and sizes. We fixed these in rows to form a characterful, rustic tiled roof, matching the tree house roof.
One other feature was required for the raised nesting area at the back of the chicken house. The space we’d created was a dry, comfortable area for the chickens to incubate their eggs, but the clients needed easy access to collect the eggs when required. We solved this by making the entire back wall of the nesting area into a sliding hatch. The wall fitted tightly so as to keep the nesting area warm and dry, but could be slid aside with ease when it came time to collect the eggs.
We’d raised the chicken house up on a pre-existing tree stump, so the final job was to created a stylish curved ramp from the entrance down to ground level. Now the chickens could get in and out of their new home with ease!
Creating a chicken run
Whilst it’s nice for chickens to have a warm and dry place to sleep at night, they also need somewhere safe to run free during the day.
We’d already identified a strip of garden running alongside a flint wall which could act as a run for the chickens. Now we needed to create a chicken-wire fence to keep them safe from foxes and other predators.
Chicken runs are usually constructed with a frame of straight posts and corners. In this case, the clients desired a more organic shape to fit the natural look and feel of the chicken house.
We designed the frame of our chicken run as a series of arches formed with willow. Willow is a very supple wood, easily bent and formed into curvatures. It is also strong enough to easily support a chicken-wire skin. Once fixed in place, the willow would re-establish into the ground and begin to grow. This allowed opportunities for weaving and shaping what would eventually become a living structure, an idea which excited the clients.
Since the chickens would inevitably use the run as a toilet, access was required to clean it out. For continuity, we decided to create a rounded, oval-shaped door for the chicken run. Willow was the perfect material to create an oval frame, which we covered with chicken wire to create the door. We then hinged the door onto the chicken run structure with strong garden wire. This would prevent foxes, notorious and persistent enemies of chickens, from ripping the door off!
We were determined to create an impenetrable, safe place for the chickens. Unfortunately though, foxes have been known to get into chicken runs by burrowing underneath them! To combat this, we dug a trench all around the edges of the run to a depth of one foot. We then fixed our willow arches into the trench with cement. Finally, we covered the entire structure with chicken-wire. No matter how fantastic Mr Fox may be, he’s not getting into this chicken house!
Enchanted chicken house photo gallery
Check out the gallery, which shows the chicken house project from start to finish with captions. Meanwhile, if you have a project you would like to discuss, Treegarden can provide a full range of landscaping & gardening services in Brighton and surrounding parts of Sussex. Please contact us to discuss your requirements, we’d love to hear your ideas!