Archive for the ‘Chicken Dome’ Category

Our chicken dome experience

November 5, 2011

I thought it was time to review our chicken dome experiences.  We first built a chicken dome after reading Linda Woodrow’s book Permaculture Home Garden.  We were truly inspired by the concepts of the book and despite living on only an 800 sqm block we wanted to give it a go.  In order to get a 12 garden rotation to fit in our back yard, still leaving room for the kids and the dog to play, we made a dome with half the area as the one in the book.

Because we didn’t shorten the uprights, the dome was pretty tall and we had to give the chooks a chair so they could get up to the roost.

Also because the circumference was smaller the pipe was under more pressure but it was quite workable none the less.  We had the pipe break a couple of times but easily fixed it by putting some large dowel inside the pipe where it was broken and screwing it in place.

We had 6 hens in there and they had a good life eating all the garden leftovers.  That was in Albany, Western Australia.  Beautiful climate, no frosts and plenty of rain.  We used our dome there for 2 years before we moved.  I believe the dome lasted for about another year after before the pipe became so brittle that they gave up on it.

When we moved to Tasmania we were keen to have full size domes and gardens again.  However money is always in short supply and with a view to having longer lasting domes we decided to make them using the black rural poly pipe.  It lasts longer out in the sun, but is less rigid than the white pipe, so we made geodesic domes rather than the original type.  (We followed some instructions on a website which has now gone, but I have pasted the instructions at the end of this post in case anyone wants to see them.)  We hoped that the geodesic form would give more structural support to counter the more flexible pipe.

We used 1 inch rural poly and covered it with very heavy chicken wire which can withstand quolls and foxes.  The roost was mounted to the pipes.  Before long we added further tarps around the back of the dome to give more wind shelter to the hens.  We originally attached the pipes together with cable ties but over the years it was necessary to replace that with wire ties instead.

Over the years we made another 3 domes, just using ordinary chicken wire for them.  They have been pretty constantly used, but were difficult to move.  It was easiest to take the whole family down and do it together.

This is how the  domes look after 3-4 years.

This poor one is quite flat.  I have stakes in most of them to hold to pipe up, but they have fallen over in this one.

This is our original dome.

We no longer try to move them but just keep them propped up as best we can.  It is very difficult for us to get inside them, although the chooks still roost in the two better ones.

I did like the dome system and can see things we could have done that would have made our domes much longer lasting.  Firstly if using the rural poly pipe then I would recommend using 1.5 inch pipe which is much more rigid and strong.  This would help to keep the domes in shape.  Also I think that our domes collapsed largely due to having the weight of 12 hens on the roost weighing  them down.  I would make a stand alone roost for them instead.  It might make moving the dome a little more fiddly, but would be worth it in the long run.  (We have made some good stable roosts from old broken wooden bed frames.)  I would also wire the pipes together from the start.

So that is our experience.  Feel free to learn from our mistakes.  🙂

It is time for new chicken housing for us.  We are going to a different rotating model that we are making up ourselves due to some problems that we have that are specific to us.  Namely the fact that we have possums, wallabies and turkeys who persistently manage to invade my gardens despite the electric fencing around them.  Also the sparrows do some damage so I am going to have gardens that remain fenced to keep things out as well as the chooks in when they are going through them.  I also like to free range the chickens so this will keep the gardens safe from them too.

We have made the first run of our chicken housing now.

It is tall so we can walk into it to weed or whatever.  Each section can comfortably hold 6 or 7 chickens, and there are 6 sections in the run.

The front and rear walls will stay there constantly but the roof and end walls are on frames or panels that can be moved as required with the chooks.  The plan is that the birds can be rotated through the sections so they can eat what remains of the veggie gardens after harvest, and giving us new chook worked over areas to plant veggies anew each season.  Ultimately we plan to have multiple rows with probably one bunch of birds for each row.  At the moment we have multiple end panels so we can divide up the sections for the chooks we currently have.



It seems that the instructions that we followed to make the geodesic dome have disappeared from the web, so I have pasted them here instead.  They used to be on Hell Creek Farming Co-operative ‘s web page.

1. Choose the size of dome you wantThese instructions are for a 3/8 sphere. If I remember correctly, a 10-pipe dome is approximately the same size as described in Linda Woodrow’s book. I used white PVC piping, but perhaps 3/4 inch rural grade poly pipe might be rigid enough to work. It would be a lot cheaper I guess.

Total number of 6-m lengths









Total length of pipe (m)









Area of chook yard (m2)









2. Join the pipe together and cut the lengths you need (metres). You won’t need any joiners if you measure your cut from the end without the bell, and make the circle last. Join the pipes with special blue solvent glue you can get at the place you got your pipes.

Circumference of base circle (1 of these)









Length of Big arc (5 of these)









Length of Small arc (5 of these)









3. Use these sizes in Step 4 (these are the sizes of the sides of the triangles in the dome)

 B–B (m)









 B–R (m)









 R–R (m)









4. Mark where the pipes will cross (the apexes of the triangles–where two pipes cross will have a mark of the same colour. I use a blue and red marker). B-B is the length of the space between 2blue marks; R-R is the length of the space between 2 red marks; and R-B (or B-R) is the length of the space between a red and a blue mark as given in step 3, above. The first and last marks are at the end of each length of pipe

 Big arcs B-B-R-R-B-B-R-R-B-B
 Small arcs R-B-B-R-R-B-B-R
 Circle B-R-R-B-B-R-R-B-B-R-R-B-B-R-R-B-B-R-R-B

5. Assemble your dome To avoid crimping the pipe, start by making a pentagon fastened* at theblue points in the centre of the 5 big arcs. (Before fastening, weave the big arcs over and under each other.) Stand this up inside the circle. Check that the big arcs continue the over-and-under pattern where they cross each other at the red points. Now fasten the ends of the big arcs to the base circle at the appropriate blue points (I found it easier to put all the ends on the inside of the circle, although this does upset the over-and-under pattern). Fasten where the red points of the big arcs cross (Sometimes errors creep in when measuring, so even out any odd places and fasten where the pipes want to cross—it’ll be close to the red marks). The dome should now be quite stable. Weave in the small arcs, keeping the over-and-under pattern. Fasten temporarily until you have them all in place. That way you can even out any slight measurement errors.

* I fastened where the pipes crossed by drilling a small hole through both pipes and tying them together with a piece of wire. Perhaps you could use cable ties; these are cheap, strong and easy. And if you don’t like your dome, you can still use the pipe. I’m going to use these in my next dome.


6. Clad your dome with chook netting Making the dome was the fun part. Cladding is not so easy, but the chooks aren’t fussy about appearance so be inventive.


7. Peg your dome to the ground! Plastic pipe is great: it’s easy to work and lightweight, but it can make a great kite in only a moderate wind. The pipes are flexible and don’t break easily, but the joints are quite rigid (and also maybe the glue weakens the plastic?). When I found the first of these domes blown into a tree, it was fine except for 3 clean breaks right at the joints. So the moral of the story is: Peg it down.

Dome Details

July 20, 2008

Back in Albany we built a dome as outlined in Linda Woodrow’s book Permaculture Home Garden.  However we adapted the dome to make it half of the area, so it was only 6 sqm inside, but left the upright poles the full length which made it a tall dome.  Our chickens needed a chair to help them reach the roost.  It was good but the white poles were a bit inclined to snap under pressure – and the half size put them under more pressure.

Here in Tasmania we decided to make our domes out of rural poly pipe instead.  This pipe is cheaper and should last a lot longer but is less rigid.  In order to make up for the less strength in the pipe we decided to make a geodesic dome frame as described on the web (search for geodesic chook dome and you will find it, complete with differing sizes and instructions).

We used mainly 1.0″ diameter poly pipe, though a few bits were 0.75″ since we had some lying around.  I would not recommend making it with a smaller size than the 1″, larger sizes would give added rigidity.

We tied the bottom connections with wire,

but the upper connections with cable ties which made the job much faster.

First stage of dome complete.

Frame complete.

The dome was covered in chicken wire mesh.  We used heavy chicken wire as we were wanting a second layer of protection against predators such as Tiger Quolls and Tasmanian Devils in case they got through our electric fence.

We were concerned at first that the poly pipe frame would not have the strength to hold up the roost with 12 birds, but once the wire was tied on with cable ties again, giving added strength; it seemed to be managing okay.  Our roost is just two long pieces of timber with slats nailed to them which is resting on the poly pipe and going slightly through the mesh on both sides of the dome.  We have since made more domes using the lighter chicken wire which struggle a little with the weight of the chooks, but they are staying up so far.

The finished product with wood frame door made to fit and tarp on the top.  All behind the 9 wire electric fence for safety.

Just add chooks.

We have since wrapped more tarps around about half of the side of the dome as we live in a wet and windy area and felt that the girls needed more protection from inclement weather.  These tarps have been cable tied directly onto the wire mesh of the dome, directly against the advice of the book, and as yet we have had no domes blowing away.  That experience is no doubt yet to come. 🙂