How to build a chicken run

There’s always something rewarding in standing back and taking pride in something you have made yourself. As long as you have basic carpentry skills, you can design and make your own chicken run.

Chicken run for beginners

There are several basic types of chicken runs. In short, a run for chickens is a safe and secure area that protects your chickens from the ground and aerial predators.

The three types of chicken runs are:

  1. A small, low run off the side of a chicken coop
  2. A tall, higher run off the side of the coop which can allow a person to walk in
  3. A large run that has not only height for a person to walk in but also is big enough to house the coop.

It is important before starting to make your run that you consider your local area. What types of predators do you have? In the U.S and Canada, different locations have different predators. The top predators for chickens in the United States and Canada are:

  • Hawk
  • Eagle
  • Coyote
  • Fox
  • Raccoon
  • Domestic and Wild dogs
  • Wolves
  • Owl
  • Bobcat
  • Weasel
  • Domestic and Feral cats
  • Opossum
  • Skunks
  • Snakes
  • Bears

Location, location, location

The location of your chicken run is as important as feeding your chickens a complete feed diet. The location may be the sole factor of whether you end up with eggs or not.

Sunny means eggs

In case you weren’t aware, layer chickens require a lot of sunlight. The very hormones laying hens need to produce eggs are stimulated and kicked into action by sunlight. So unless you want happy clucking and no eggs, you should reconsider your thoughts on a full shaded position.

We recommend a sunny position that also provides your chickens with adequate shade between 11 am – 2 pm, especially in the summer.

Too windy?

If you position the chicken run in a spot that gets high or frequent strong winds you may find the chickens won’t venture out. Remember without adequate sunlight the number of eggs you get may be affected.

If the wind comes from a predictable direction, consider building a sidewall to your run to protect the chickens from it. The wall may not necessarily mean timber. You could choose to block out the wind with a thick shade cloth. Another option is to plant a wind barrier such as thick hedging. The best and easiest solution, if it is possible, is to locate the chicken pen in a less windy area.

plastic sheeting or thick sshade cloth can help block wind in chicken run
Strong 10 – 25% shade cloth can help block out wind.

Remember feathers are good but if it’s too windy chickens will stay in the coop

Size matters

It is important for the physical and mental health of your chickens that they have room to move. You should at a minimum allow 10 square feet per chicken in a chicken run. So if you have 9 chickens, allow 90 square feet or approx. 9 square meters. Put simply, if you can let them have more room, the more social they will be and less inclined to fight with one another. Overcrowding chickens also increases not only stress to the flock but also increases the likelihood of infections and disease.

We recommend a chicken run that affords each hen 10 square feet. If you can give them more than that they’ll be very happy cluckers.

How high should the sides on a chicken run be?

Consider the three types of chicken runs mentioned at the top of this article.

A small, low run off the side of a chicken coop

If you only have a couple of chickens, you could connect a run to the coop’s side, double the largest bird’s height, and allow 10 square feet per bird.

low set wire chicken run is ideal if you dont have space for a larger run
A low height run is ideal for a couple of chickens where space is limited

A tall, higher run off the side of the coop which can allows you to walk in

Allows enough head height to walk inside and visit the chickens. It also is more convenient to change the sand or soil from time to time with fresh clean flooring.

a tall chicken run off the side of the coop

A large run that has not only height for a person to walk in but also is big enough to house the coop.

The above image is a great example of a large chicken run with room enough to pop in and say hi to the chickens. It is also perfect to help keep the weather and elements out. The roof avoids rain saturating the full coop floor, the fence at the back is a great windbreak. The coop is elevated off the ground to prevent rising dampness. There’s even a hanging owl to help scare off hawks and pest birds.

What type of wire should you use?

This depends on what you are trying to keep out. We think chicken wire is pretty flimsy especially if the posts it is secured to are quite spaced out. We recommend for strength either square or diagonal galvanized wire mesh with a 30mm aperture.

Obviously, if you have larger predators in your neck of the woods, then strength is essential. Thicker gauge wire mesh though unsightly may be the only option. The reason wire mesh is a good choice is it allows essential sunlight into the coop while keeping the baddies out.

The next part is essential to follow. If you have a local threat of foxes, dogs, wolves, or bobcats, you will need to bury the wire as these animals are likely to try digging their way into the coop.

For additional protection from the animals above or an aerial attach you can either choose wire mesh on the top of the chicken run or a 70gsm heavy-duty bird netting.

Easy access of feed and hydration

Make certain you allow plenty of access to feed and hydration. Chickens can suffer heat exhaustion very quickly on a hot summer day. So it is important to make certain they don’t run out of water. If rats are a problem you will find a Dine A Chook zero waste feeder that will help lessen the rodents hanging around.

All Dine A Chook waste-reducing feeders and lubing cup drinkers are designed to mount onto wire mesh with ease.

Also, all Dine A Chook Chicken feeders and drinkers are Made with love in Australia, not China, and we use the very best in engineering developed over 10 years and quality components and parts.


Waste Reducing Chicken Feeder

Lubing Cup drinkers

5 Gallon Drum Drinkers for larger flock sizes

What is a good ground cover inside a chicken pen?

Everyone has a different opinion on ground cover. Just because chickens can scratch in the dirt it doesn’t mean they are happy.

We suggest you incorporate a combination of green vegetation, well-drained soil, a dust bath, some herbs or plants, and a few toys.

Things that are likely to increase the risk of disease in a chicken run are muddy puddles, poorly drained areas, and also mulch/bark on the floor. Mulch and bark become moldy as it decays. It also can grow fungus and help the spread of bacteria.

If mosquitos are a problem around the chicken coop, plant some lavender bushes. Lavender is a good natural mosquito repellent.

Other herbs such as mint, sage, oregano can also help lessen parasites and insects without chemicals. If you sprinkle the leaves or oregano and lavender into the chicken dust bath it helps ward off mites.

So that’s about it. To save yourself regrets simply follow the below advice.

  1. Consider all the factors above; exposure to sunlight, wind, and rain.
  2. Draw it out and consider the materials you may use to build with.
  3. You may find someone happy to donate to your cause good preloved materials. This will help lessen your carbon footprint.
  4. Mark out the area you will put it.
  5. Get the tool belt out and make something amazing.
  6. Once finished, we’d love to see a photo.

Inspiration for the ultimate chicken coop with run

This featured chicken coop and run gets 10 out of 10 from us. It ticks all the boxes for the chickens and also their owners.

Fantastic chicken coop and run to inspire your build
  • It features a high roof to offer shade and rain protection
  • An open run allowing for all the sunlight the chickens need to produce lots of tasty eggs
  • A high, elevated coop to prevent rising moisture and dampness.
  • Loads of access doors so the chicken keeper can clean the coop, change the nesting material and collect the eggs.
  • Secure wire to prevent ground predators while the roofed section allows chickens a safe harbor to escape from aerial predators.
  • A hose to conveniently top-up chicken water supply
  • Enough height to allow easy chicken keeper access to all parts of the chicken run.

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