Chicken Run

We knew when we bought our house that we were going to get chickens. We didn’t really have a time frame on when we would get them, we just knew we wanted them as soon as possible. We went to the feed store to look for work boots for my oldest son and we accidentally left with 8 baby chickens. Whoops!

Well, buying 8 baby chickens was motivation to get us busy. By the end of the first week, we would have 10 baby chickens because we came across someone selling a couple of blue egg laying pullets and my youngest son just had to have them.

So anyways, fast forward to getting the coop set up, having our fence built, and getting our doghouse built so the dog could reside outside with the chickens, and we were finally ready for the big day to put the girls outside and never bring them in the house again. We.were.ready.

Oh my word, was I ever ready to reclaim my house and not have pine dust and chicken poo inside my house.

Once the chickens were ready to be outside, we decided to build them a temporary chicken run. We still had not finalized our ideas for what kind of chicken run we wanted there permanently, so the temporary one would just have to do until we figured it all out. This is what we came up with.

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Pretty shoddy, I know. But it worked to keep them in. We had super thin bird netting over the top. But it held up for as long as we used it like this.

It certainly wasn’t pretty, but it worked. To reinforce the coop, we added carabiners to every latch. We knew this design would not necessarily keep predators out, but it would be enough to keep the littles in. As you can see in the picture, the yard fence had not been put up yet. We would let the chickens out in the coop/run during the daytime, but for the evening we would gather them up and put them back in the brooder until the fence was done.

After a lot of planning and back and forth about what we wanted the chicken run to look like, we ultimately decided to build a run using the approximate dimensions of the temporary run. The coop is 12×6, and we decided on a 12×12 run. The temporary run was about 12×10. It ended up being smaller than what our original vision was, but the reason was because we decided that we would let them free range as well.

So after about a month or so of using the temporary run, we finally agreed on what we wanted the run to look like and we drew out those plans, came up with our supplies list, and got to work. It took several days, but we tackled it a little at a time, and I was surprised by how quickly it all came together.

The first thing was to set the posts.

For the exterior, we used 8 posts. We spaced them as evenly as we could. The two in the front center were spaced for the door. For the holes, we just marked a spot on the shovel that was the depth we were going for and we (by we I mean the husband) dug until the hole was as deep as the mark on the shovel. This ensured that all of the holes were dug to the same depth. We set each post in concrete.

For the posts up against the coop, we decided to put a post 6-inches in from the side of the coop on either side. The pitch in the roof was making it difficult to figure out how to connect everything. We ended up having exactly enough space between the post and the coop to add a piece of scrap 2×4.

The next thing we did was put in the base of the frame. We were also staining the wood as we were moving along with each step.

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We went back and forth on this step. Many experienced homesteaders said you must absolutely bury the wire cloth, and maybe we will regret it one day that we didn’t. But here is why we chose not to bury the cloth on this step. The coop and run reside within a fenced area. Our large dog also resides within the same fenced area. We have bear, coyote, foxes, raccoons, opossums, hawks, and I’m sure countless other predators living in our woods. I don’t expect the smaller predators to risk getting past the 120-pound dog. The biggest threat we have that the dog would not prevent is the bear. And if the bear has a hankering for chicken, it won’t dig underneath. The local reports of bears eating chickens all say that the bear literally tears the roof off of the coop. Buried wire cloth won’t prevent that. So we decided to save a few doubloons and forego the buried cloth.

After we had the base framing done, we moved on the mid-section framing. The spacing may look odd here, but we went with the measurements of the two types of hardware cloth we were using. One was in 2-ft width, the other in 5-ft width. The wire with 2-ft width had 1/2-inch cloth and is much pricier. So we just did the finer weave on the lower 2-feet. This would be enough to prevent something like a hawk or raccoon reaching their claws in and strangling or shredding to pieces a chicken. The upper section has a wider opening but would still be tight enough to prevent predators from entering in.

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Next we did the upper framing, again, staining as we go. We were running low on stain, so some places were getting left out but will still get stained eventually.

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The next step was to install the door. We decided to buy a prepared wood screen door. We pulled the screen out since it would be pretty useless in protecting the chickens. We were able to repurpose the screen to make a doghouse flap though! We had to trim the door a tad to get it in the space we had. This may come as a total shock, but we are not master builders and our measurements may not have been precise. You might be able to see the discrepancies above the door. :/

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The next step was to staple on the 1/2-inch hardware cloth. This was tough. The ground slopes down, so keeping everything aligned was really difficult. Not the mention, the cloth comes tightly wound up in a roll. It wanted to keep rerolling back onto itself. Eventually we got it though, and added the same 2-ft height of 1/2-inch cloth to the lower portion of the door, too.

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Once that was complete, we added the 5-ft length of wider spaced hardware cloth on the upper section. This was much easier. We could have finished this part in record time except our nail gun battery died on us. We used the same cloth for the top section of the door as well.

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We had to get creative with the hardware cloth where the bottom corners met up with the coop. But a few scrap pieces of hardware cloth, zip ties, gravel, dirt, and bricks can fix anything! Also, we filled in those little gaps at the bottom around the posts.

At this point, we were done with the framing, and we had reached a stopping point on the building part of the run. We knew we would have to do more framing and work to finish out the roof, but we were done building for a little while. We added some temporary cloth to the top to close off the top from climbing or flying predators.

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For the top, we added a few sections of temporary fencing. It’s green and rubbery. We just ziptied it to the top every few inches and then overlapped each section and ziptied them all together. After that, we added a 12×12 piece of shade cloth, again ziptying it in place.

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This presented a similar challenge we faced with the temporary run, in that the coop door could not open all the way without having to lift the cloth out of the way. That was okay though, because that actually helped to keep the door from accidentally closing.

The shade cloth is awesome! I ordered 75% and it reduces the temperature by up to 15 degrees underneath the cloth. It was a welcome change for us to work underneath it for a few minutes as we finished out this day of work.

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We had to call it quits at this point, and we would enjoy the run like this for a couple of weeks before we would finish up the rest.

Eventually we decided to add 1 interior post and 4 support beams. We ran out of L-brackets, so we made our own using scrap lumber. Adding these interior beams helps to keep the shade cloth from sagging.

We also added a small support piece above the door…making the unevenness hideously obvious! Again, we haven’t decided on what we will do for a permanent roof yet. But at least we have things done to this point and we can feel good about leaving the girls in the run all day while we go out and enjoy life away from 122 occasionally.

Currently, we do let the girls free range but they have to do so with supervision. The little rascals scratched up all of our garlic, carrots, watermelons, and collard greens! Our next outdoor project will be rebuilding our gardens and the fall garden will be fenced in, so they will be allowed much more free range time after that.

Here is another picture showing the different hardware cloths we used. We have straw and leaves inside of the run. When they’ve scratched it up as much as they can, we will shovel it up and transfer that to our compost bin and let them break down another wheelbarrow worth of straw and leaves. You may also see that we planted a small dogwood tree on the corner. We hope it will eventually bring shade to that side as well as visual interest. 🙂

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So there you have it folks. How 2 unskilled yokels managed to pull off building a chicken run in about a week! I can do anything because of YouTube and Pinterest.

Happy homesteading!

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