Protecting your chicken from the predators as well as from unpredicted weather conditions, including the direct sun, are the main reasons you do need to have a roof above your chicken run. Let’s dive in it more carefully.
A chicken run is the fenced or enclosed outdoor space you provide for your chickens. The coop is the indoor space—where they go to sleep on their roost and lay eggs in their nests—and the run is the outdoor space, where they may sunbathe, or dust bathe, forage in grass and scratch in the dirt.
In general, you want to provide your chickens with a MINIMUM of about 10 square feet per bird of space overall, split between the coop and the run. The more space, the better! Since chickens prefer to spend most of their time outdoors foraging in the yard, make your run as large as possible.
Keep in mind that while chickens don’t generally fly for long distances, most breeds can at least fly high enough to clear regular 4-foot fences, and some bantam breeds can fly up to the tippy-top of trees! That’s why it’s popular in town to have a small run fully enclosed with welded wire hardware cloth (chicken wire is too weak to exclude predators) attached to the coop.
A small, attached keeps the chickens enclosed and safe… but also allows them to be let out into the larger yard when their owners are around to supervise and make sure they don’t wander too far, jump fences, or squeeze through them.
Coops with small, attached runs are usually not meant for full-time confinement, because they may not provide enough space, which increases your flock’s stress level. The exception to this would be “tractor-style” mobile coops.
The mobile coops are moved to fresh pasture every day or every few days, so they maintain a grassy run entertaining to the flock. Chickens in permanently sited coops with small attached runs will quickly eat the grass down to dust. With nothing to forage on, they’re more likely to pick on one another.
For those reasons, be sure to provide your birds with plenty of space, outdoors and in.
What Is a Chicken Coop?
The word “coop” simply refers to the structure that your chickens live in. A run refers to the enclosed part of the chickens’ area outside, ideally with access to pasture.
In hot, dry areas, sometimes coops are three-sided, with the fourth wall made of welded wire for security against predators. The “missing” wall provides extra ventilation and makes sure the coop doesn’t get too hot inside. In cold areas, they can be quite small.
A coop can be a purpose-built structure or a converted shed or building, made of wood, plastic, adobe, etc. They can be large or small.
A coop can be made from brand new materials or recycled ones. Coops can even be mobile. A mobile coop meant to be moved every day to new pasture is often called a “chicken tractor.” The coop may have a small attached “run,” meant to give your flock some outdoor access when you can’t be there to let them run in a larger area.
A run could also just be a large fenced area that surrounds the coop. Sometimes you might even have a mobile, enclosed run. This allows you to have a large, stationary coop, but to still move your birds to fresh pasture every day.
Why Build a Chicken Run?
It isn’t challenging to build a chicken run or pen, but it is critical to not only keep your chickens safe from predators but also to keep your lawn, garden, and landscaping safe from your chickens, who take great delight in digging up small plants, munching on leaves and scratching through the mulch. A reliable pen will also ensure that your chickens don’t wander into the road or into a neighbour’s garden or onto their front porch.
How Big Should a Chicken Run Be?
The size of the run you will need to build depends on the size of your flock. The rule of thumb is to allow a minimum of ten square feet of outdoor pen space per chicken. So that means if you have ten chickens, you should plan on a pan that’s at least 10×10 or 100 square feet. But before you sketch out your plan and assemble your supplies, try laying out some boards on the ground to get an idea of just how big (or small!) the area is and adjust accordingly.
In general, the more space you can allow your chickens, the better. And don’t forget to build big—in anticipation of your flock possibly growing as the years pass!
How To Build a Chicken Run?
1. Planning the Size and Location
1.1 Create at least ten sq ft (0.93 m2) of outdoor space per chicken
Count how many chickens you have and calculate the total area your run needs to be. For example, if you have ten chickens, you would need 100 sq ft (9.3 m2) minimum for your chickens to be comfortable.
Build your chicken run larger than you need if you plan to grow your flock in the coming years.
1.2 Plan the layout of your run next to your chicken coop
Lay boards on the ground to get an idea of the shape and size your chicken run will be. Aim to make the sides similar in length rather than long and narrow. This gives your chickens more room for roaming around.
- Measure the planned length and width of the run to find the total area. Compare the area of the chicken run to the minimum requirement for the size of your flock.
- Ensure one of the sides aligns with the small door built into the coop so the chickens can get in and out. If your coop doesn’t have a small door, cut one into the side with a saw.
- Think about where you want to install the gate so you can access the run easily.
- Account for how tall you need to make your run. You should comfortably walk in and out of the run once it’s finished, so it should be over 6 ft (1.8 m) tall.
1.3 Keep the run in the shade in warmer climates
Temperatures consistently over 90 °F (32 °C) can be lethal for chickens if they’re indirect heat. Chickens adapt to the cold better than the heat, so make sure the run isn’t indirect heat. Build your run, so it has tree cover or another source of consistent shade throughout the day.
Plant new trees near your run if you don’t have any existing shade.
1.4 Let the run get full sun in cooler climates
Chickens can easily survive in low temperatures, but they don’t want to be cold all of the time. If you live in a climate that gets below 20 °F (−7 °C) often, make sure your run isn’t shaded.
Find an area that gets even amounts of sun and shade throughout the day if you live in a climate that gets extreme highs and lows.
2. Constructing the Frame
2.1 Dig a hole 12 in (30 cm) deep for your first fence post
Place the first 4 in × 4 in (10 cm × 10 cm) fence post about 3 ft (0.91 m) from your coop so you can place a gate there. Use a shovel or a post digger to make a hole that is 6 in (15 cm) on each side.
- Make sure your fence posts are at least 7 ft (2.1 m) tall.
- Place a 2 in (5.1 cm) layer of gravel on the bottom of the hole to protect the post’s end from moisture.
- Opt for a rot-resistant wood like cedar or white oak for your fence posts and supports.
2.2 Set the post in the hole and pack the soil back in
Hold the pole firmly while you fill it back in with the dirt you removed. Compact the dirt with the bottom of your shovel or with your foot around the entire post. Use the extra dirt to form a mound around the bottom of the post to keep it in place.
Make concrete to fill your hole to keep your post from rotting in the future if you want.
2.3 Space the other fence posts 6 to 8 ft (1.8 to 2.4 m) from one another
Use a tape measure to make sure the fence posts are equal distances apart, so your chicken run can even support it. Make sure the posts on opposite sides are in line with one another. Dig a hole and place the posts until they’re all set.
- If your run is larger than 10 ft (3.0 m) wide, put a fence post inside the run for an added support beam. Make sure the post is in line with the outer posts on each side.
- Saw the tops of the fence posts to the same height if they aren’t on level ground. Use a handsaw and a level, so all of your posts are the same height. Make your chicken run at least 6 ft (1.8 m) tall so you can easily walk inside.
2.4 Attach 2 in × 4 in (5.1 cm × 10.2 cm) boards across the top of the run
Run the boards horizontally, so they go from one fence post on one side to a post on the other side. Use a drill with the screwdriver bit attached to attach 3 in (7.6 cm) wood screws to the top of the fence posts.
If you have supports in the middle of your run, make sure to attach screws to them too.
3. Attaching the Fencing
3.1 Use 1⁄2to 1 in (1.3 to 2.5 cm) welded wire to keep out predators
Calculate the fencing area you need by measuring the height and length of one side of your run and multiplying them together. Add 4 inches (10 cm) to each height measurement as excess.
You can repeat this for each side as well as the top of the run and add the areas together to find the total amount of fencing you need.
- Fencing can be purchased at your local hardware or farm animal care stores.
- The wire is small enough, so raccoons, foxes, and weasels are kept out of your run and coop.
- If you have larger predators in your area, such as bears, use a chain link dog fence wrapped in smaller welded wires to protect your birds.
- Fencing on top of the chicken run will help protect your flock from owls, hawks, and other predatory birds.
3.2 Dig a 4 in (10 cm) deep trench around the perimeter of your run
Use a shovel to dig your trench. Just place the bottom of your fence in the trench on the outside of the fence posts and fill the dirt back in. Having your fence below the ground will protect your flock from digging animals like foxes and coyotes.
3.3 Staple the fence every 6 in (15 cm) to the fence posts
Wrap the fence horizontally around the outside of the fence posts. Use a staple gun or a hammer to drive U-shaped staples into the fence posts. You can place the staple in the middle of the post so that the ends of the staple go into two different links.
Leave a gap in the fencing where you plan to hang your gate.
3.4 Lay the fence on top of the run
Use a ladder to reach the top of your run and cover the entire area with fencing to keep flying or climbing predators, like hawks or raccoons. Staple the fence on top of the posts you’ve set in the ground to secure it.
3.5 Frame your fence with 2 in × 4 in (5.1 cm × 10.2 cm) boards to secure it
First, screw horizontal supports on the top, middle, and bottom of each fence post, so the fence is sandwiched between the wood. Use your drill and wood screws to keep the boards in place and make sure they are flush with one another. Then add boards vertically between the horizontal supports by screwing them in every 1 ft (30 cm).
4. Adding Finishing Touches
4.1 Install a gate with a spring, so the door shuts automatically
Attach two hinges 18 in (46 cm) from the top and bottom of the fence post with screws and a drill. Hang the door, so the bottom is flush with the ground—screw in the hinges on the side of the entrance to attach it. You can hook one end of a hooked spring to the fencing on the gate and the other end to the fencing of your run.
- Gate doors can be purchased or built on your own.
- Make sure the door opens out from the run. Otherwise, the spring won’t force the door closed.
- Make sure the spring is tight and unstretched. This way, the gate will snap back into place after it’s been opened.
Spread chopped straw evenly on the ground of the run, so your chickens feel comfortable while they are outside. Alternatives to straw are leaves, construction-grade sand, or wood shavings.
- Chopped straw can be purchased at your local farm care store.
- Rake your leaves into the run in the fall once they start to fall for free outdoor bedding.
- Change the bedding once it starts to smell, or once it looks soiled.
4.3 Place a container of food and water inside the run
Cover the top of the feeder with foil so your chickens can’t get into it and so it is protected from the elements. Hang a chicken waterer from one of the supports on the top of your run with an eye-bolt so they water stays clean.
- If your coop has enough space, keep your food and water inside to protect it from the elements and mold. Make sure the chickens all can fit comfortably inside along with them.
For your better understanding, you can simply just go through all the steps are written with pictures also.
How to fox proof your chicken coop?
It has been an age-old battle – the fox versus the hen. And when you own a chicken coop, this battle becomes real.
There is no secret that foxes love the taste of a chicken. Old geezer or fresh out of the nest, no chicken is safe unless you take the appropriate pet care precautions for your brood.
When did foxes first meet Australian hens?
It was back in Victoria in 1855 when the European red fox was introduced to Australian soil. Foxes back then were part of an acclimatization program for recreational hunting. Fast forward to the tweens, and foxes are now the third-largest carnivorous mammal on the mainland.
Chicken, other breeds of poultry, lambs, small mammals, and reptiles are all culinary favourites for foxes who are now considered pests. Foxes are experts at climbing, digging and sniffing out a chicken a mile away. Here are the handyman secrets for building an area that will keep your chickens safe from their cunning arch enemies.
Why is it a good idea to build a fox-proof chicken pen?
Custom made chicken coops are great if you are not so keen on supplying a fresh meal for a fox every night. Secure chicken coops are considered one of the easiest to master and most humane ways of controlling foxes.
Features of a fox-proof chicken pen
Effective fox-proof chicken coops need to include some important design features:
- A fully-enclosed chicken house with a fox-proof door, roof and floor netting.
- Foxes can climb and scale fences with ease, even if they are electrified. A secure chicken coop needs to be gap-free, including around the base, roof, and door area.
- A curved overhang should be included to prevent foxes from jumping and scaling the fence.
- Bury wire netting a minimum of 450mm below ground level to prevent foxes from digging under the fence.
- Include an apron of netting at the base of the fence angled outwards for 500mm. This will also discourage foxes from digging under.
- Place a 600mm strip of metal sheeting or shade cloth material from the inside of the fence. This will harbor the ability for foxes and other predators to see what is inside the pen.10mm bird or mouse wire is the most effective wire to use.
Other humane methods of controlling foxes
- Add sensor lights to the exterior of your chicken coop. The bright sensor light will scare away foxes and other predators when activated.
- Listen for cues from your family dog, and they are generally good at knowing when there is a fox about.
- Do not leave your chickens roaming free at night time. This is too much of a temptation and an easy target for foxes who will thank you for the free meal.
If you are encountering ongoing problems with foxes on your property, contact your local council.
With some appropriate pet care for your chickens, foxes will become just a problem of the past.
Not so handy on the tools? Just hire an Airtasker handyman to fox proof your chicken coop. They will have it done in no time at all.
So, this is all you needed to know about the chicken run and chicken.
Now, I hope you all have gotten your answers.