A Robertson Chook House ‘gobbling’ DIY Design
Every Southern Highlands Gardener needs a hen house in his or her garden. Whether you live in Bowral, Moss Vale, Burradoo or Robertson, fresh home grown eggs grown in your own backyard are tastier and humanely produced. We are a southern highlands garden maintenance business, but we also have our home garden projects on the weekends. Instead of spending time in the garden doing routine garden maintenance, a project or two can spice up summer and provide variety.
We inherited a charming ramshackle chook house in need of a rebuild and expansion, when we purchased our home. Demolition was not an option as this was deemed to be wasteful, so a natural solution occurred to me care of a Grand Designs episode I watched a few years ago about “bungalow gobbling”. This is where a new build incorporates an older dwelling by swallowing the old home and incorporating it into the new floor plan.
Why not chook house gobble?
I decided I would encase the old chookhouse within a new aviary like structure in a simple post & rail design. Since I had never built anything before in my life, I thought I’d better make it strong and last 20 years – starting with an Autocad drawing. Over the top? I wouldn’t have it any other way!
It had to be strong and last weathering for at least 20 years, and since it was to be built to last, it had to look presentable. After all, I was the one who had to look it every day.
Construction drawing in 3D
Each element colour coded on a separate drawing layer. Each layer can be turned off for clarity. Allows calculation of the total length of each treated pine timber size.
Stage One - Installation of 2.5m posts.
1. Stained H4 treated pine posts and applied preservative to bases
2. Corner posts inserted 0. 0.5m deep post holes and used spirit levels to keep vertical
3. Posts were H4 whole 3m lengths. Pre-painting individual timbers is easier before construction.
Stage two - Finishing posts + install top & bottom rails.
Ten vertical 3m H4 posts sunk 0.5m into the ground approx. The structure is strengthened by the horizonal rails at top and bottom of frame. The pine timber not in contact with ground is all H3 hardiness rating.
All 10 posts have been sunk in place and concreted in dead vertical. Bottom rail which is an H4 200mm x 50mm sleeper sunk slightly into the ground to prevent fox intrusion. Top rail in place which is 90x45mm H3 pine.
Stage three - the roof is installed.
140mm wide pergola beams, battens, and then roof sheeting attached with roofing screws.
Believe it or not, this roof was ableto support my not inconsiderable weight, I had to climb on it to screw down the roofing sheets.
Installing a strong roof - rust, wind, water proof - to last 20 years.
The Roof: a strong structure because I had to climb on it to screw it in. H3 pine 140mm pergola rafters supported by galvanised pergola brackets. 70x35mm H3 battens over the rafters and 2400mm zincalume roofing sheets. There are 3 rows of battens per sheet and the roof is 2 sheets wide, slightly overlapping. The zincalume sheets are orientated with the long axis towards the camera. The roof is strong enough so that I can stand on it.
Stage Four - middle rail and door.
The middle rail is installed. This serves 2 purposes: the first is to strengthen the whole structure and improve rigidity.
The Door is also installed with long gate hinges. It is locked with a gate sliding bolt. Avian mesh covered also.
The second purpose of the middle rail is to support the final avian mesh cladding and protect the chickens.
Before installing the mesh...
Additional timber was cut and attached to the posts in between the rails to ensure a flat plane upon which the mesh cladding can be installed. This was not for looks, without these timbers the mesh could not be screwed flat to the vertical plane, and would be lumpy.
Stage Five - Attaching the aviary mesh.
Now the frame and roof and door are finished the hardest part is fitting the aviary mesh. Rectangular aviary mesh was chosen to keep out pests such as snakes, rats, starlings and sparrows.
I wanted to use single pieces of mesh for top and bottom sections – which can only be done with 2 people. Andonella helped pin the section in place so I could fix with heavy duty staples (u-shaped nails)
The gaps between the pergola rafters, and between the battens had to be completely sealed with mesh as well to ensure small bird pests could be excluded. Feral and native birds entering the hen house bring with them diseases that can be fatal to chickens.
Upper half of mesh was installed all the way around. And extra mesh was added underground flared outwards from the walls to prevent fox digging and entry. At last our chook house was done. The result is an aviary enclosing a smaller sleeping house for the chickens to spend at night. Its very strong and has withstood all that the weather storms can hurl at it. It will probably outlive me! This is totally rat, bird, snake, dog, fox proof. Finally a refreshing cold beer was well deserved.
Written & Photographed by Tim Fitzpatrick, Horticulturalist with Highland Meadows Lawns and Gardens