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1:12 Hen House

I was recently asked by a UK based magazine to build a small dio in 1:12 scale to display some hens and a henhouse on.................................................

In years gone by scenes like this were once commonplace across rural Britain, before supermarkets made the “chore” of collecting the daily egg a little easier. With a little searching we can still today find the kind of scene we see here the length and breadth of the UK.

There are three main components to this little 1:12 scale diorama. Firstly we have the wonderful hen house, secondly, the delightful chickens and thirdly a scenic diorama to display them on. The overall dimensions of the finished diorama will be approximately 12” x 9”. I have been creating scenic models for quite a few years now but must admit this is my first attempt at anything as large as 1:12 scale modelling (have those chickens been genetically modified?).

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The groundwork for this diorama will be created using scenic modelling materials from the TREEMENDUS range. TREEMENDUS materials are simple to use and can add realism to any scene, regardless of the season being modelled. They are also ideal for most scales and as you will see very easy to use.

My initial idea for the base, the idea I stuck with, was to create something relevant to the season upon us with lots of fallen leaves on the ground and a general windswept feel. I wanted to create a small enclosed area reached by a narrow gravel path, the path being edged by rustic stumps. Having been given a free rein to decorate the hen house as I wanted, I decided to give it a run down look, something on its last legs.

With that image in my mind and having the dimensions of the hen house the first thing to do was to choose a base to build upon. I generally use ceiling tiles for my bases simply because they are easy to carve and lightweight.

Shallow grooves were carved into the base and here the stumps have been fixed in position using PVA glue. The stumps are natural wood cut to varying lengths to give the required rustic look. Picture no: 1

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Next a few hollows were carved out in the hen house area to give the impression of general wear and tear associated with pecking and scraping by the chickens. Picture no: 2.

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I mixed a little black poster paint with PVA glue (this is just to hide the starkness of the white tile, grey or brown would be equally as suitable) and gave the area underneath the gravel path a generous coat of the mixture. Picture no: 3.

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Grey Scree was then sprinkled onto the glue and pushed down into it using a finger. A liberal spray of hairspray also helps the “gravel” to stay in place. Picture no: 4.
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Using a large paintbrush, a dilute mixture of 3 water /1 PVA was applied to the hen house area of the diorama. Onto this I sprinkled the Earth Powder product from about 6 inches above. The Earth Powder soaks up the glue and sets to a very strong surface. Don’t be afraid to put it on fairly thickly as this can add to the overall look of the groundwork. As with the gravel path spray the Earth Powder with hairspray, this helps it to soak up the glue. Picture no: 5.

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Note how some of the gravel has been walked into the mud and how some of the mud has been transferred onto the gravel. A little Blitz Rubble scatter has also been scattered around the entrance to help soak up some of that mud! The main ground textures are in place. The next steps show how to detail the basic surface.

Wanting to capture an autumnal feel to the scene I added a sprinkling of Autumn Leaves, Natural Leaves and Forest Floor. Picture no: 6. More of these materials will be added later to give the effect of newly fallen leaves. Forest Floor contains all the bits and pieces ideal for this kind of scene and is intended for use as leaf litter which is found under trees and bushes all year round.

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Scenefix glue (TREEMENDUS scenic glue) has been applied onto the Earth Powder. Taking a suitably coloured scatter, in this case Summer Scatter, sprinkle it onto the wet glue, spray lightly with hairspray and lightly sprinkle with a little Earth Powder. The area to the left of the photo shows this step. Picture no: 7. This application of Earth Powder blends the scatter into the existing groundwork. The scatter has been added to the ground underneath where the hen house will be placed to give a mossy look to the shadowy area.

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All the grass and tufts for this diorama are made using “Raw Grass” a teddy bear fur fabric. Picture no: 8.The fibres are approximately 1 inch in length and lends itself perfectly to this scale with very little need to trim it at all. I coloured the grass for this model using water based poster paint and some watercolours to give a little variation to the overall colour. The paint was applied by hand and rubbed into the fabric until the desired effect was achieved. When the paint had dried I combed the fabric to separate the fibres. Take the piece of fabric and give it a good shake, this will ensure the “grass” stands upright. Picture no: 9.

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A whole variety of effects can be achieved using this method. The tufts of weeds on this model are simply lengths of fibres cut from the sheet using scissors, this gives them a flat bottom which can be dipped into PVA glue and planted directly onto the scenic base. Picture no: 10.

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The addition of a small box hedge to the rear and side of the scene really enhances the look, enclosing the chicken pen and giving some much needed height to the rear of the diorama. Picture no: 11. The hedge is made from rubberised horsehair which has been given a coat of dark brown/black paint from an aerosol can. The “hedge” is then liberally sprayed with hairspray and whilst wet has had Summer Scatter sprinkled on to it to create the foliage. The scatter is fixed in place with Scenefix glue sprayed through an atomiser.

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It will be the tiny details that help to bring this diorama alive, as well as the chickens! Picture no: 12.

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The main “focal points” of this scene are the chickens and the hen house. The hen house has been suitably weathered to fit in with all the other elements in the scene. I use household emulsion paint for this kind of effect. The paint is applied in two coats. The first coat to be applied is the blue Picture no: 13. this is allowed to dry then given another coat using the white paint. Picture no: 14 When the white coat has dried the surface is gently rubbed down using sandpaper - varying the amount of pressure when sanding results in a random and naturally weathered look. Further washes of watercolours add to the overall look of the woodwork. I decided to leave three planks unpainted to give the impression they have been recently replaced. Earth powder has also been added around the bottom of the structure to blend it in with the groundwork as has a little more Summer Scatter to give the impression of a mossy covering. Ivy has started to take hold too. Picture no: 15

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With the hen house in position on the diorama all that is left to do is place the chickens in suitable poses. Here we see the cockerel in pride of place with the adoring hens looking on. I have also added some scale “straw” to the groundwork and in the hen house – again, this brings all the elements together. A few more leaves and twigs have been added too and they pretty much finish this diorama Picture no: 16

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There are so many more elements that could be added to this scene to give it even more appeal, garden tools, fruit collected for the kitchen neatly packed in wooden boxes, a log pile or even a broken plant pot would look good discarded behind the hen house. I was tempted to add a fine scattering of snow to this scene but decided to leave that (please Ed) until another time.

The tree in the background is made using a TREEMENDUS tree kit and has been intentionally left bare to enhance the autumn scene. All the scenic modelling materials used for this diorama are from the TREEMENDUS range. They include -Grey Scree, Earth Powder, Forest Floor, Ivy, Natural and Autumn Leaves, Raw Grass, Summer Scatters and Scenefix glue to hold everything in place. The tree and hedges were handmade to suit the design.

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