Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Run construction methods

I now have the shade-cloth attached quite successfully, but also with a few setbacks. Most of it went together like clockwork, but one element just couldn't change the laws of physics - and that was getting the shade-cloth to fit from the archway to the rectangular box.

The only way I could do it was by cutting the cloth - leaving a big hole in the process. This was quite a frustrating process. I've decided I'm going to sew a patch onto it later. It couldn't be avoided however, because I needed to carry the cloth right along the length of the conduit pipe. This is why:

The width of the shade-cloth was the perfect size to span the two archways that were spaced 2.4m apart. I used thin, flexible galvanised wire to sew the cloth to the conduit pipe (shown in orange) but I also sewed in the bird netting to tie it all together.

I used cable ties to attach the cloth to the irrigation pipe archways. I also used timber fasteners to attach the cloth to the hardwood timber. About the irrigation pipe - be prepared to bring a trailer or ute to collect from the irrigation supply store. This was quite embarrassing for me, as I originally rocked up in a family sedan. The guy cut and rolled the 10 metre length of pipe (fastened it with strong gaff tape) and then discovered I only had a sedan. It would've been 3 metres in diameter - about the size of the area around my clothesline! Naturally, it had to wait at the store for a few days until I could borrow Dave's car to tow the trailer.

The only thing I needed for cutting the irrigation pipe once I got it home, was a hand mitre saw. The thicker, taught steel, made it easier to cut through. I found the regular handsaw used for timber, was too flexible and would get caught after bending.

To make the arches, metal stakes were banged in until they stood 1.4m above ground. They were spaced 2.4m apart. The 2" irrigation pipe was cut to 4m lengths and simply pushed onto the stakes until they couldn't go any further. I found the thinner conduit pipe (leftovers from the builders) not only tied the pieces together, but it also gave me something to attach the shade-cloth to that was rigid. There is also a bit of conduit pipe used to tie the two arches together. See above.

All pipe attachment to the structure was done with wire. Be cautious of the wire ends when attaching the shade cloth however. I had all my wire tie-offs inside the structure, so they wouldn't catch on the cloth as it hung over the top.

One of the final problems I had with shaping the shade-cloth, was the very end of the archway. I had a mass of fabric and one straight conduit pipe to attach it all to. So this is what I did.

I made a rosette in the middle and attached it through the folds of fabric (onto the pipe) with nothing more than a plastic cable tie. I cut off the excess and now in the process of sewing it to the conduit pipe.

I also had to do a couple of folds on the sides, but you can barely see these. I attached them in the same manner as the main rosette - with cable ties. I have a few inside shots too.

Underneath the shade-cloth it's very calming, with a slight tinge of green.

While the rain can still come in - as we learned last night - it does keep the ground more protected. Damp but not waterlogged or muddy!

With all building projects however, there is always the finishing off to do. I will describe these a little later. Just to summarise, I'll do a little shopping list of the main building materials.

8 metres of 2" irrigation pipe
5 black metal stakes (1.8 to 2.4m long)
3.66m width 70% shade-cloth, cut to desired length
25 (300mm x 4.8mm) black UV protected cable ties
100 timber fasteners - in this case made by coolaroo
10m x 90cm bird netting
20m fencing wire (sorry didn't keep the gauge size)
20m thinner fencing wire to sew shade-cloth

There will be stuff left over, but this is just a basic guide. I found with the 2" irrigation pipe that you wouldn't want to go any smaller than 2.4 metres apart. The reason it holds it's shape so well is because it's taught and only flexes so far. Anything under 2.4m will probably put too much pressure on your metal stakes . For smaller expanses, you can always go the 25mm irrigation pipe sold in many hardware stores, but it won't fit over your stakes - you'll have to tie them on with wire.

I also found these two blogs very helpful for ideas:

The Frugal World of Doc:

The Garden Desk:


  1. Goodness, better not let my girls see this. They'll go on strike...wanting as good accommodations as what your girls have.....LOL

  2. Thank you so much for this great post - so full of info and so helpful. We've been stalled on our enclosure for weeks, not quite sure how to proceed. This has given me lots of ideas and thanks also for the tip about taking the trailer - that would be us in the sedan with no idea! This is one of my favourite blogs - so very inspiring. Thanks!!

  3. Thanks for leaving your comments.

    You know I'll have your chooks come visit me any day, lucky-1. But I think they'd get incredibly homesick without you. There must be something you're doing right to get so many eggs!!

    Chooks'r'us, I know what you mean about stalling. Once I built my night-house area, I didn't quite know where to start from either. The problem is mostly to do with cost. To build the whole run out of hardwood is expensive.

    That's when I heard about the irrigation pipe shade-houses, so went and did some research. It's people that did it before me who gave me ideas too.

    Blogging about it just shares all those wonderful (and often frustrating) experiences with others. What ever you decide will be your masterpiece, I'm looking forward to seeing already!

  4. It looks great Chris. So what do your girls and Mr Sheen think of it?

    You have all done such a brillant job. Congratulations!

  5. Excellent project! My girls are totally envious. I'd appreciate if you could post some dimensions and some shots of the nesting and sleeping quarters. Congratulations on your building and turning your farm into a productive piece of land.

  6. I'd love it to be a proper farm, cosmic & co - just getting started at the moment. I'm not complaining though. It all adds up.

    It's funny you should mention the nesting boxes. I've given the girls more space in this set-up, but they were more broody in the smaller a-frame tractor nest. So I've been seriously contemplating a revamp with before and after notes. Expect a post in the near future.

    Thanks for your comments too Emily. I have to say I think they really like the new set-up. One of my girls isn't as mobile as she used to be. When the rest would go free range, she'd call out from the coop for them to return. Now they are never too far from her and she sits in the straw underneath the shade cloth.

    Chooks love their space but it's interesting how they also get more confident within an enclosed run. Mr Sheen isn't giving his caution calls all the time now, whenever a bird flies overhead. He was doing it a lot before.

    I have to say, with the summer temperatures coming early though, it looks like one of my girls are about to go into a moult. It was a real scorcher today. I'm glad I had the shade-cloth up!

  7. HI Chris, thanks for the very helpful comments on my blog about my vege patch dilemmas. I think you are right with it being a problem with excess nitrogen burning the tender roots.
    I love your chicken house. Great idea and thanks for the photos too because I gain so much information from reading this blog and others too. cheers, Melinda

  8. Love the chook run. We did something similar for ours, only with chicken wire rather than shadecloth (and ours doesn't look quite so spiffy as yours! ) We also rocked up to pick up the polypipe in our small family hatchback. Guy looked at us strangely when he saw it, but we popped it onto the roof racks, and off we went. Got a few weird looks on the way home though.

  9. Just had to tell you again how wonderful this looks.

  10. Aw, thanks. :)

    I plan to revisit both our chicken coops as we renovate them over the next few months.


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