Build, Install and Maintain Your Hen House

Materials:

  • Flax straw (1 50-pound square bale usually makes 5-7 tunnels)
  • Flax may not be available in your area, so substitute with the most durable grass or straw you can find. Wheat and barley straw is too light and doesn’t work well.
  • Grass hay for nesting material
  • Delta has had success with brome hay and other grasses. In Minnesota and South Dakota, flax has been used with success for both the exterior and nest material.
  • 8-foot long base pipe (1.5” square tubing)
  • 30-inch long adjustable insert pipe (1” square tubing)
  • 18-inch long cradle support pipe (1” square tubing)
  • 7’x3’ section of welded wire fencing (2” by 1” mesh with 14 gauge wire) – this is double rolled with flax to form the Hen House
  • Wire must be firm to prevent tunnel from bending (i.e., no “chicken wire”)
  • Two 20-inch lengths of ¼” steel rod, bent to form cradle
  • 12 hog rings and 1 bolt or wire-lock pin to attach insert to post

Total cost will vary with location, steel prices and quantity purchased. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, the cost was approximately $50 for one Hen House in 2013.

Steps for Assembly:

  1. Drill two to three equally spaced holes along the 30” insert pipe for height adjustment. At the same time, drill one hole in base pipe, about 8” from the end.
  2. Weld insert pipe to the 18” cradle support pipe, midway along, forming a T.
  3. Bend ¼” rod pieces into semi-circles and weld one at each end of cradle support pipe.
  4. Roll up three feet at one end of 7’x3’ wire fencing and hog ring in 3-4 places to form inner tunnel.
  5. Spread approximately 2” of flax straw (or equivalent) on remaining 4’ of fencing and continue to roll tightly. Hog ring end of fencing to complete the Hen House, providing an 11-12” diameter opening on each end. Try not to exceed 12” as Canada geese may use larger Hen Houses.

Steps for Installation:      

  1. Where ice is present, drill hole with auger in desired location.
  2. Pound post into wetland bottom, making sure post is not easily dislodged.
  3. Slide insert pipe into base and adjust height so that bottom is at least 3 feet above ice or water level.
  4. Place tunnel in cradle and attach with galvanized wire or hog rings (plastic tie straps eventually break so they are not recommended).
  5. Adjust grass inside Hen House so that it is one-half to two-thirds full, but you should still be able to see through tunnel. Nest material will settle over time, so it is better to have too much than too little.
  6. Record GPS location (if available).

Steps for Maintenance:

  1. Revisit every year a month or two prior to the nesting season.
  2. Check for and record nesting activity from the previous year. Look for a nest bowl with down, egg fragments, egg membranes, or whole eggs.
  3. Repair exterior by replacing missing flax straw (hens often remove straw and add to nest bowl).
  4. Remove old nest remains and add new grass to the inside of the tunnel. Make sure Hen House is one-half to two-thirds full of grass.

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