A chicken tunnel — or chunnel, for short — allows your backyard flock the freedom to move from pen to forage without destroying your garden.
Short of building fences around every garden bed or patio, what’s a gardener and pro-foraging chicken-keeper to do to prevent your flock from wreaking havoc in your carefully planted plots? The answer: Install a simple chicken corral where your hens can forage without destroying your gardens. Plantings of established shrubs and trees are big enough that they can withstand foraging. Their branches will protect your hens from hawks, too. If you can corral your chickens there, the rest of your yard can thrive.
With the corral completed, it is now a matter of getting the hens from their hen pen to this idyllic foraging space. You don’t want to carry the chickens from pen to corral by way of the gate. You want them to carry themselves: more exercise for them, less hassle for you. In my case, the chicken corral was about 25 feet away from the pen’s gate, but the corral was less than 6 feet away from the closest part of the pen. Hmmm.
The solution is to install a small, chicken-sized gate, with hinges and a latch, at the point in the pen nearest the corral. Then cut a chicken-sized opening into the corral fence.
Linking the hen pen to the corral with a “Chunnel” — short for chicken tunnel — allows the birds to come and go on their own. You can move the Chunnel aside temporarily to get a wheelbarrow by. When you don’t want the chickens in the corral, simply move the Chunnel and close the small gate to the hen pen.
How to Make a Chunnel
What You Need
- Measuring tape
- Pliers with wire-cutting blades
- 3-foot-tall 14-gauge welded-wire black-vinyl-coated fencing
Step 1: Using your tape measure and pliers, cut a section of fence wire long enough for your chunnel.
Step 2: Snip off the strands of wire on each side of the Chunnel that will touch the ground. Every 12 to 18 inches, snip a couple of vertical strands for your feet between the two horizontal wires just above the prongs, and bend these strands up and out of the way.
Step 3: Then snip off the strand of fencing at each end of the Chunnel where it will meet other fencing or sections of Chunnel.
Step 4: Shape the section of fence into a tunnel resembling the photo at the beginning of this article.
Step 5: Bend the prongs on the end(s) of the Chunnel to attach them to corral fencing (or other sections of Chunnel). The end of the Chunnel that meets a small gate in the pen should be positioned close enough to channel the chickens, but loose enough that you can move it to shut the gate at night or when on vacation.
Step 6: Use pliers to snip out some wire in the corral fencing so that your hens can pass from the Chunnel into the corral.