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DIY Chicken Tunnel Ideas

DIY Chicken Tunnel Ideas | Photo courtesy: Pinterest

If you’re a backyard chicken enthusiast looking to create an engaging and enriching environment for your feathered friends, you’ve come to the right place.

Your flock is naturally curious and active creatures that benefit from the mental and physical stimulation that a chicken tunnel offers.

Some people lovingly refer to chicken tunnels as “chunnels.”

In this article, we’ll delve into various creative and practical chicken tunnel ideas that you can easily implement on your property.

Whether you’re aiming to enhance their foraging opportunities, encourage exercise, or simply add an element of fun, there’s a chicken tunnel concept that’s perfect for your flock.

What Are Chicken Tunnels?

Chicken tunnels are creative and innovative structures designed to provide a safe and enriching environment for your backyard chickens.

These tunnels allow your chickens to explore, forage, and enjoy the outdoors while being protected from predators and adverse weather conditions.

Similar to a run or a coop extension, a chicken tunnel is a semi-enclosed or fully enclosed space that gives your chickens access to a designated area beyond their coop.

Chicken tunnels can come in various shapes and sizes.

However, they typically consist of a framework made from materials like PVC pipes or wire mesh, forming a covered pathway that chickens can walk through.

These tunnels are often constructed to connect directly to the chicken coop, providing easy access for your flock to go in and out as they please.

The purpose of a chicken tunnel goes beyond just providing an extension to your coop space.

It offers a range of benefits to both the chickens and the chicken keeper.

Benefits of Using Chicken Tunnels

Here are a few benefits of having chicken tunnels.

Enrichment for The Flock

Chicken tunnels allow your birds to explore new environments, scratch the ground for insects and plants, and enjoy a more diverse range of activities.

This mental and physical stimulation can result in happier and healthier chickens.

More Foraging Opportunities

Chickens are natural foragers, and a tunnel allows them to hunt for bugs, worms, and other treats in a controlled environment that isn’t their typical run.

More Fresh Air and Sunshine

Exposure to natural sunlight and fresh air contributes to better overall health and egg production in chickens.

Research shows that eggs from pastured chickens may be more nutritious.

This study from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences revealed that pastured chickens with access to mixed grasses or legumes have more omega-3 fatty acids and higher concentrations of vitamins A (35% higher) and E (50% higher).

Access to Areas That Are Otherwise Off-Limits

If you aren’t able to free-range your chickens, a tunnel is a fantastic solution that gives your chickens more space to explore, while keeping them safe and out of trouble.

While most people cannot give their entire backyard to their chickens, many can share small pathways (tunnels) throughout it.

Reduced Boredom and Increased Movement

Chickens that have access to more space and engaging environments are less likely to exhibit negative behaviors like pecking or feather-pulling.

While there aren’t any studies (that I am aware of) on chicken tunnels and increased exercise, there are studies on horses with access to track systems.

Horse tracks systems, also called paradise paddocks, are basically the equine version of a chicken tunnel.

These tracks typically run the property’s perimeter and mimic natural horse behaviors of traveling single-file lines across many miles each day.

These studies found that the horses walked more, the pastures were damaged less and could recover better, and the horses showed fewer bad habits like cribbing, weaving, and pawing.

Easy Movement Between Coops, Gardens, and Other Important Areas

You may be able to build another chicken run on the other side of your property or temporarily offer up some other fenced-in areas for your chickens (such as a garden space or your children’s play yard).

Having a chicken tunnel running to these fenced-in locations makes it easy for your chickens to visit them as they wish.

Simply open the tunnel when you want them to have access; now, you no longer have to carry your chickens back and forth.

Protection from Some Predators

A well-built chicken tunnel will keep most birds of prey, dogs, coyotes, and weasels away from your chickens.

Chicken tunnels are not typically enough to keep bears or wolves away, so you should add other protective measures, like electric fences if you live in an area with these predators.

How To Choose a Location for Your Chicken Tunnel

Choosing the right location for your chicken tunnel is crucial to ensure the safety, comfort, and enjoyment of your flock.

Here are some important factors to consider when selecting a suitable spot for your chicken tunnel.

Safety and Predator Cover

Safety is paramount for your chickens.

Choose a location that is well-protected from potential predators like foxes, raccoons, and birds of prey.

If you have a heavy predator influence, avoid placing the tunnel near dense shrubbery or areas where predators could hide.

Shade Availability and Amount of Direct Sunlight

Chickens need sunlight for their overall health and egg production.

Select a spot that receives a good amount of natural sunlight throughout the day.

However, ensure that there are some shaded areas within the tunnel (or attached coop or run) for hot days.

Proximity to Coop or Run

Your chicken tunnel should connect directly to your chicken coop or run.

This provides easy access for your chickens to move between the tunnel and their shelter.

Consider the layout of your coop and how you can seamlessly extend it with the tunnel.

If you connect the tunnel directly to the run, you only need to open one door to give your chickens access to the run and tunnel.

If you connect the tunnel to the coop, you’ll have two doors to open and close daily.

Consider adding in an automatic chicken door.

This is a consistent way to release and contain your chickens without interrupting your day or commanding you to be home at every sunrise and sunset.

Proximity To Garden

Some people run their chicken tunnel around their garden or even through it in between rows.

This gives your chickens the chance to eat garden pests without taking any of your plants or vegetables.

If you want to build a chicken tunnel, consider running it near, around, or through your garden.

It’s mutually beneficial for your chickens and your garden.

Proximity to Insect-Dense Areas

If you have areas of your property that seem to attract more bugs, especially mosquitos and ticks, it may be helpful to run your chicken tunnel near it.

Ponds and marshy spots tend to cultivate more mosquitos, while heavily wooded and grassy areas breed ticks.

You don’t want the tunnel to be in constantly damp areas, but running the tunnel near it is suitable for slowing down your pest population.

Soil Conditions

Proper drainage is essential to prevent waterlogging and mud in the tunnel.

Choose a location with well-draining soil to ensure rainwater doesn’t pool inside the tunnel.

If your chickens constantly walk through water or mud, they are more prone to diseases and ailments like bumblefoot.


Consider the visual impact of the tunnel on your backyard. While functionality is important, a well-designed chicken tunnel can also enhance the overall look of your outdoor space.


Check for underground utilities, such as gas, water, and electrical lines, before digging to avoid accidents.

Also, steer clear of obstacles like large rocks or tree roots that could complicate tunnel installation.

Neighboring Properties

Take into account your neighbors’ proximity and potential concerns.

Avoid placing the tunnel in a spot where it might create noise or odors that could be disruptive.

Keeping the peace with your neighbor is an underrated asset, especially if you’re a homesteader.

How to Design Your DIY Chicken Tunnel


Materials Needed to Build a Chicken Tunnel

Measure the available space where you plan to install the tunnel.

This includes the length, width, and height.

These measurements will guide you in determining the appropriate dimensions for your tunnel.

It also helps you estimate the material sizes and numbers of each item needed for the build.

List the materials and tools you’ll need for the construction.

This may include PVC pipes, connectors, wire mesh, zip ties, screws, a saw, a drill, measuring tape, and a level.

You will also need the following tools:

For a Frameless Tunnel

  • Tape measure. Essential for accurately measuring the dimensions of the tunnel and ensuring a proper fit.
  • Pliers. Useful for holding, bending, and cutting wires, especially when working with wire mesh.
  • Wire Cutters. These are designed for cutting wire, mesh, or zip ties cleanly and efficiently.
  • Zip ties. This will hold the hardware cloth (or mesh wire) together in the cylinder shape.
  • Anchors or stakes. Fasten the tunnel to the ground so your chickens (and predators) can’t roll it around.
  • Paint and paintbrushes (optional). If you paint the wire black, it will appear almost invisible from afar. Many people prefer this over shiny corrugated wire.
  • Safety glasses. Trimming wire sometimes results in sharp shrapnel flying. Always wear safety glasses when trimming wire or hardware cloth.

For a PVC or Wood Framed Tunnel

  • Tape measure. Essential for accurately measuring the tunnel’s dimensions and ensuring a proper fit.
  • Level. Used to ensure that the tunnel frame is straight and level, preventing any tilting or instability.
  • Pliers. Useful for holding, bending, and cutting wires, especially when working with wire mesh.
  • Carpenter’s Square. Helps you create precise right angles, ensuring the framework’s corners are correctly aligned. This is not required, but it does make the tunnel more aesthetically pleasing if it’s square.
  • Wire Cutters. These are designed for cutting wire, mesh, or zip ties cleanly and efficiently.
  • Handsaw, circular saw, or saws-all. Used for cutting lumber or PVC pipes to the required lengths.
  • PVC Pipe Cutter. Provides clean cuts when working with PVC pipes for the tunnel frame.
  • Zip ties. This will hold the hardware cloth (or mesh wire) together. It may be used alone or in addition to other fasteners.
  • Power Drill. A drill is necessary for making holes and attaching screws or other fasteners. A cordless drill offers better mobility and convenience; a corded drill will work fine if you have electricity and extension cords.
  • Anchors or stakes. Fasten the tunnel to the ground so your chickens (and predators) can’t roll it around.
  • Paint and paintbrushes (optional). If you paint the wire black, it will appear almost invisible from afar. Many people prefer this over shiny corrugated wire.
  • Safety glasses. Trimming wire sometimes results in sharp shrapnel flying. Always wear safety glasses when trimming wire or hardware cloth.
  • Gloves. Loose wire can cut your hands, wearing thick or leather gloves will save you from some unpleasant scratches or cuts.
  • Marker, spray paint, or chalk. Used for marking measurements, cutting lines, and assembly points on materials.
  • Ladder or Step Stool. If your tunnel has a higher section, you’ll need a ladder or step stool to reach and work safely.
  • Don’t forget the materials needed for the construction, such as PVC pipes, connectors, wire mesh, wood, screws, nails, and any other components required for your chosen design.

Step-by-Step Construction for the Tunnel

1. Clear the Site

You may want to mow tall grass, move rocks to the side, and move any lawn furniture or equipment that may block the path of your construction site.

If you need to build up the ground or fix a wet area, you cna add gravel now.

2. Build the Frame (or Go Frameless)

Create a frame from wood, metal, or PVC to which you’ll attach the mesh, hardware cloth, or fence wire.

Attach the wire securely to the frame using zip ties, staples, steeples, or screws with washers.

You can also shape your wire fence into a cylinder and forgo the framing. This is less secure than framed tunnels, but it is more easily movable for temporary solutions.

Ensure there are no gaps or sharp edges that could potentially harm your chickens.

Paint or finish the tunnel if desired, considering non-toxic and chicken-safe options.

Ensure that any exposed edges or sharp points are smoothed to prevent injuries.

3. Create Access Points for the Tunnel

Plan where you’ll place the entrance and exit points of the tunnel.

One end should connect to the chicken coop or run, allowing easy access for your chickens to enter and exit.

Consider multiple access points for your added convenience, so you can pick up chickens straight from the tunnel rather than waiting for them to go back to their coop.

Make the tunnel a walkable loop if you can.

The tunnel can connect to itself in a circle, or it can connect to the coop or run in two (or more) areas.

If it connects to itself, you only have one opening leading into the coop or run, which is usually easier to manage.

4. Connecting to the Chicken Coop

Make sure the end of the tunnel is flush with the coop or run that it’s attached to.

This is one of the most common places for chickens to squeeze through if it’s not securely connected.

5. Securing and Anchoring the Tunnel

Properly anchor the tunnel to the ground to prevent it from being moved by wind or curious chickens.

If the tunnel has a frame, the frame may be heavy enough not to warrant an anchor.

If the tunnel is just wire without a frame, or has a lightweight PVC frame, use stakes, like those used for tents, to anchor it down.

6. Predator-Proofing Strategies for Your Chicken Tunnel

Ensure that there are no gaps or weaknesses in the tunnel’s design that predators could exploit.

Use appropriate materials and construction techniques to prevent unwanted access.

Here are the signs of a predator attack and prevention for your flock. We also have 21 tips for keeping your chickens safe from predators.

How To Upgrade Your Chicken Tunnel

After you have your DIY chicken tunnel built, you may want to spruce it up so it looks and functions even better.

Here are some of our best suggestions for making it better.

Add Feeding Spots

Scatter scratch grains, pelleted feeds, insects, or kitchen scraps throughout the tunnel at random spots.

This will encourage your chickens to walk it more frequently, and it adds enrichment to their lives.

Paint or Stain It

Paint, stain, or finish the tunnel if desired, considering non-toxic and chicken-safe options.

You can make the tunnel match your coop, or change it up with fun pops of colors.

Ensure that any exposed edges or sharp points are sanded and smoothed to prevent injuries.

Add Perches

If you have a tall tunnel, you can add perches or swings within it.

These are the chicken equivalent of park benches.

They would probably use and appreciate them if you add them in.

Build a Roof for It

Depending on the design and materials used, consider adding a roof or covering to protect your chickens from rain, hail, and excessive sunlight.

A covered tunnel also helps prevent escape attempts.

Add Dust Bath Areas

Consider making sections of the tunnel wide enough to accommodate a dust bath area.

The space needs to be wider so it does not impede traffic.

Your chickens can clean themselves there and will probably use this spot to bed down and cool off in the heat of the day too.

Hang Treats and Toys

Suspending toys and treats from the top of the tunnel significantly enriches your chickens’ lives.

This four-piece treat and toy set is intended to be hung up.

It includes fruit and veggie skewers, a xylophone, and a net to hold treats like lettuce and kale.

If you want a DIY option, use a leftover potato or onion bag or a macrame plant hanger to suspend food and toys for your chickens.

Grow Plants Around the Chicken Tunnel

Growing plants around the chicken tunnel is a great addition for your flock.

Edible Plants

You can sow edible plants that will make fruits, vegetables, seeds, or foliage for your chickens to enjoy.

Sunflowers, sage, lettuce, chickweed, clover, dandelion, tomatoes, and cucumbers are great options.

Plants for Shade

Sunflowers, morning glory, clematis, wisteria, trumpet vine, honeysuckle, and jessamine are fantastic options that grow quickly.

How To Clean and Maintain a Chicken Tunnel

Cleaning and maintaining your chicken tunnel is essential to ensure a healthy and comfortable environment for your chickens.

Regular maintenance helps prevent the buildup of waste, pests, and diseases.

  • Remove any leftover food, spilled water, or droppings from the tunnel floor. Empty and clean any water or food containers, and replace them with fresh supplies.
  • Inspect for any signs of illness or injury among your chickens while cleaning.
  • Remove and replace any soiled bedding or substrate on the tunnel floor.
  • If the tunnel floor is especially wet, you can build it up with stones and gravel or toss mulch or water-absorbent pellets into it for a quick fix.
  • Sweep or hose down the tunnel to remove dust and debris. A garden hose is usually the easiest option.
  • Remove any debris, cobwebs, or accumulated dirt from the tunnel walls and roof.
  • Regularly check the structural integrity of the tunnel frame, PVC pipes, or wire mesh.
  • Repair any damaged or weak areas promptly to prevent further deterioration.
  • Examine the tunnel for gaps or holes that predators could use to access your chickens.
  • Securely fasten any wire mesh or openings that might have become compromised.
  • If you’ve planted vegetation around the tunnel, trim and prune plants to prevent overgrowth and to ensure they don’t obstruct the tunnel. You can toss the clippings into the tunnel or coop for the chickens to eat. It can also go straight onto your compost pile.
  • Regularly inspect the tunnel for signs of pests such as mites or rodents.
  • Implement appropriate pest control measures to prevent infestations.
  • Before extreme weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, ensure the tunnel is properly secured and reinforced. Heavy snow may collapse the tunnel, so wipe it off regularly to prevent this.

FAQ on DIY Chicken Tunnels

Are Chicken Tunnels a Good Idea?

Chicken tunnels encourage chickens to move more, they offer more space beyond the run, and are a more secure way to let chickens feel as if they’re free-ranging.

They also offer some predator protection, while keeping chickens out of areas you want to protect, like your garden.

How Tall Does A Chicken Tunnel Need to Be?

Chicken tunnels should be about sixteen inches tall for standard chickens.

For bantams, a foot-tall tunnel is sufficient. Some larger breeds may require even more headspace.

The chickens should be able to stand up straight and lift their heads without issue.

Can Chicken Tunnels Cross Fences?

If you’re willing to put a ramp with good traction into your tunnel with a gentle grade, you can make your chicken tunnels cross or even “ride” fences.

This prevents you from needing to drill holes in fences, and it gives your chickens a great viewing vantage point.

Will Chickens Use a Tunnel?

It may take your chickens some time to find, explore, and acclimate to the tunnel system, but they will use it with time.

One of the best ways to encourage its use is to add treats, toys, and food scraps in it at random.

DIY Chicken Tunnel Ideas: Final Thoughts

Incorporating a DIY chicken tunnel into your backyard setup brings a multitude of benefits to both you and your flock.

By providing a safe, enriching, and secure space for your chickens to explore, forage, and enjoy the outdoors, you’re enhancing their well-being and happiness.

The various design options, materials, and customization possibilities make creating a chicken tunnel a creative and rewarding endeavor.

From PVC pipe constructions to wire mesh wonders, the possibilities are as diverse as your imagination.

Remember to prioritize safety, functionality, and the specific needs of your chickens.

Regular maintenance and cleanliness will ensure a clean and healthy environment while monitoring your flock’s behavior and health adds an extra layer of care.

With careful planning, construction, and ongoing attention, your DIY chicken tunnel will not only provide practical benefits but also be a source of joy for you and your feathery companions.

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