If you're about to build yourself a chook house, we highly recommend a self-cleaning version where there's no build up of poo at all inside the house. As well as saving yourself time, this creates a healthy environment for your chooks.
Key design features
- It's raised off the ground and its legs' length can be adjusted;
- It has an external egg hatch, meaning you can harvest eggs without having to go into the run; and
- The floor is made from strong wire mesh, allowing all poo to fall straight through to the ground beneath.
The inside of the chook house includes a number of branches (roosts) that the chooks sleep on and drop enormous amounts of poo from.
Under the chook house we've placed a "poo catcher" (an old bread crate found on the side of the road). This catches some of the poo and makes it easy to drag it out with one quick motion.
But of course, there's chooks poo everywhere and we still end up scraping out a decent amount into a wheelbarrow, as well as what falls into the bread crate.
So technically, you do still need to participate in the cleaning process - but you don't have to get into small spaces and scrape poo off timber. It's approximately one million times better this way.
As there's a nice mix of dry straw and chook poo (mostly dry and old), I then put it around one of our many fruit and nut trees. I then put the bread crate back under the house with a sheet of cardboard in it (to cover all holes) and wait for more poo.
Does it get smelly?
But surely that pile of poo smells under the house? No. There's a significant amount of straw in there which prevents any smell from happening.
It's a nice blend of carbon (straw) and nitrogen (poo). I only harvest poo from here every few months or so.
Don't the chooks get cold with that mesh floor? Chickens are hardy birds and we've found no negative impact on their health or egg laying, so I say no.
Do the chooks fall through the mesh?Chickens are originally jungle birds.
This means they've evolved to sleep in trees on branches or within shrubs.
Their feet are designed to curl around and hold onto different "roosts", so this mesh floor is 100 per cent fine for them to walk on.
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Saying that, this is on the larger side - usually we'd find mesh with smaller holes when building them for other people. But overall this is completely fine.
There you have it, go forth and create self-cleaning chook houses in peace and relief of never having to scrape poo off awkward spaces again. You're welcome!
- Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstrom are the founders of Good Life Permaculture, a landscape design and education enterprise regenerating land and lifestyles.