Building a chicken run, could do with some advice?

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cluckingcrazy
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Building a chicken run, could do with some advice?

Post by cluckingcrazy » Mon Oct 23, 2017 1:22 pm

Hi everyone,

Firstly thanks for letting me in! Hoping i can tap in to the wealth of knowledge.

I need to build a chicken run because theres 8 birds coming soon. Ive gone over and over different plans ideas etc and struggling to pin something down. Ill start by listing what i do know!

Needs a minimum of 80sq ft. Sorry for doing this but thats 2.4m (8ft) x 3.0m (10ft) and works pretty well with timber cutting.
Entire run will be covered in clear corrugated roofing.
1" welded wire mesh. Might put a finer layer around the bottom ft or so.

My thinking has been either frame up 3 x 2s and sit it on the ground. Or use 4x4's at the corners, concreted, all connected with 3x2s. Im trying my best to scrimp and save with build costs but obviously dont want to go to extreme and compromise standard. The area its in is sheltered from wind but nothing with rain and the whole garden gets quite boggy. Im planning on digging a 1ft trench around the run back filled with pea gravel, hoping this with a covered run should allow it to not get too boggy and let it dry out. Some of the ebay frames ive seen look quite thin and if theyre selling them i cant help but think my plans should be substantial enough but i cant work out loads etc.

Any help or advice? Bearing in mind im money and time restricted.


My fall back plan is to get one of the 3m x 3m dog runs off ebay and wrap the lower layers in finer mesh.

Thank you for taking the time to read.
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dinosaw
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Re: Building a chicken run, could do with some advice?

Post by dinosaw » Mon Oct 23, 2017 2:41 pm

Hi Clucking and welcome to the forum.

I would just frame up with treated 2 x 2s and sit it on the ground, unless you have a pronounced slope the weight of the structure will keep it in place. You would be better going for opaque corrugated roofing rather than clear as it can get quite hot on summers days. Don't forget that the gauge of the wire is important, in reality you want 18 gauge if you are going for 1" and you will want to put a skirt pointing outwards for at least 1ft at the base. I've put a couple of photos of two of my current runs in what is now a tried and tested design for me, they are 3.6 x 2.4m if I remember rightly, not including the unroofed section in photo 2. Obviously there are many more ways you can build a chicken run. Do try to build it at 6ft height minimum though, or you will find yourself constantly banging your head. Are you planning to let the chickens out into a larger area most days?, if so the size of run you quote will be fine, if not then you will get problems as it is a bit too small to confine 8 birds in.
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Marigold
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Re: Building a chicken run, could do with some advice?

Post by Marigold » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:15 pm

Hi clucking crazy and welcome to the forum. What a brilliant username - it describes quite a few of us on here, myself included.
We always recommend that you give a minimum of 2 sq. metres of run space per bird, so for 8 hens that would be 16 sq.metres. What you're planning is about half of that. Chickens really do need as much space as you can give them, and if they're crowded, they are more likely to fight and develop bad habits like feather pecking, also the stress of overcrowding reduces productivity. You will be amazed by how much poo they produce, and if overcrowded and confined in a run, this becomes a real problem, especially in winter when it's wet. So if I were planning a run on your site, I would go for a maximum of 5 chickens, or else design a larger run if space permits. If these are to be your first chickens, there will be advantages in getting fewer to start with, as if you find you have got some spare space, you can get replacements/additions as the first batch get older and less productive, otherwise you'll end up with a lot of 'pensioners' that you may not have the heart to cull even if they're no longer laying. Also, you might like to try different breeds etc as your knowledge and experience develops about poultry in general. 8 hens will lay over 50 eggs a week next summer - do you rally like eggs that much?
You're recognising that mud may become a problem, and a roof to the run will be a great help in preventing this, if you can fit a gutter along the lowest side to take away the rain which otherwise will blow in to the run under the edge. If you can also screen off part of the sides at one end, this will give a dry area sheltered from wind and driving rain, where you can put the feeder (must stay dry) and where the hens can hang out in bad weather. They can stand dry cold, but hate wind and damp conditions. I've screened off the end area of my run with willow screening rolls, fastened to the mesh with cable ties and stapled on to the wooden framework. This lets light and air through and provides filtered shade in summer, which is also very important. I used to use tarpaulins over the end walls in winter, but these flapped about a bit and were hot in summer, so I'm glad I've gone over to willow screening. A trench won't be necessary if you can keep the rain out altogether by roofing the run with corrugated plastic sheet, either clear or green, and providing shelter and a gutter.

If you're starting from scratch, it would be a good idea to cover the floor with 1/2" mesh, same as the sides, and fix this to the mesh around the sides, as this would exclude rats and mice, or even foxes, which otherwise will eventually tunnel their way in to the run and be a problem. The alternative, as dinosaw suggests, is a mesh skirt round the edges, but this takes upon room and personally I think it's less effective. Over the mesh layer, you could cover the floor with permeable landscape fabric, well pegged down round the edges, before adding Aubiose as a bedding material over the top. The membrane will prevent the hens scratching earth up into the bedding and making it messy, also it will stop them digging holes in it - you'll need to provide a dustbath as well, filled with play sand or dry earth, so they can keep their plumage clean by dust bathing. The membrane in my run has been down for many years now and is still intact. Aubiose is shredded hemp, sold as horse bedding, so you may be able to get it from a nearby equestrian establishment. It's incredibly absorbent, soft and warm and the hens are comfortable on it. You can use it in their coop and nest boxes as well. It's then very easy to poo pick every day - hens produce an incredible amount and clearing it daily is a routine task which keeps things under control - and the mixture of poo and shredded hemp is fantastic for compost.
We used 4X4s concreted in at the corners and the middle of the longer sides, plus a framework of 2X2 for the rest of the construction, and this has stood up well for a good few years. The concreted corner posts do help to hold it down, and the whole thing becomes a mesh 'box' which is very stable and secure. What you are planning for a DIY job sounds fine to me, and you'll be able to do a stronger, better job than a ready-made run. You're obviously thinking about finer mesh, - opinions differ on this, but you definitely need weldmesh, not chicken wire, and I've found the 1/2' kind completely excludes wild birds and small rodents, and also is a good protection against foxes as they are unable to get their teeth in to the small holes. Hills of Devon is a firm with very good feedback on various poultry forums for mesh and good customer service.
Can I ask what kind of coop you're thinking of getting? Many commercially-made coops advertise as being for a certain number of birds, but are often far too small for the numbers they suggest, so if you have a link, I expect other people will be able to advise from their own experience. There are also quite a few pinned threads about coop and run design at the top of the Chickens section of the forum, which you may find useful.

Good luck with your planning! We shall all be very interested to hear how you get on with new project.
cluckingcrazy
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Re: Building a chicken run, could do with some advice?

Post by cluckingcrazy » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:29 pm

Thanks for the reply!

Never considered the opaque sheets makes much more sense than covering them.

Size wise, i know its borderline but theres a few ifs and buts at play. Firstly the coop will be outside the run allowing maximum floor space. Secondly it will probably only house 6 chickens, theres 2 that are quite old and apparently being quite badly pecked by the others. Ive already got a small coop and run (3ft x 8ft) which should be ample for 2 of them. And it should make it more comfy in the larger run. Need to see the birds before i can make a decision on dynamics etc but i need something before theyre here so it might as well be the minimum largest size if that makes sense.

I will let them out as and when but the reality of working and winter light levels means theyll probably be pretty confined most of the time.

If i can come out of this with something like yours ill be very happy. Thanks.
Evie
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Re: Building a chicken run, could do with some advice?

Post by Evie » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:55 pm

1) think big, you may be adding youngsters every few years due to the laying patterns (lots when young, few when older)

2) add guttering, and as much roofing as possible as dried pooh is infinitely less disgusting than wet pooh! :-)17

3) use 1/2inch mesh on the ground and put a thick layer of horsebedding on similar on top of that. Result: A) scracheable bedding (for birdies comfort and natural instincts) that does not get churned up in the mud and hence B) the ground won't becoming a slimy, stinking, slippery layer and C) with 1/2inch mesh you can sweep the bedding off and bin it after a few months and put fresh down (hygiene is very important as 'in the wild' birds would have a much larger area)

4) don't try and do it on the cheap (though I'm a great fan of secondhand and skip surfing :-)17 ), invest for the long term especially high quality mesh
With regards to concrete, don't timbers rot more quickly when concreted in? I'm thinking about the treated timber for fence posts, I thought concreting them in was no longer considered a good idea, as moisture in soil dries better. Just as an aside, am no expert ;-)

5) enjoy! :-)17
cluckingcrazy
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Re: Building a chicken run, could do with some advice?

Post by cluckingcrazy » Mon Oct 23, 2017 4:20 pm

Sorry missed that post while replying.

Not the first time ive had chickens although still pretty inexperienced. I was always under the impression its 10sq ft of run space per bird as a general guide so have used that whilst working sizes out. Never heard 2m2 before and thats huge. Hmmm confused now.

Not sure about the coop. Im being given two by the person whose getting rid of the chickens. One is much larger than the other. The coop i have at the moment is 3ft x 4ft (so unless ive read up on the wrong coop sizes too should be fine for the bullied hens).

The hens are all various ages and breed. Theres 2 ex batts that are ~6 years old. 3 x black rocks about 4 years old and 3 of another breed that are about 2 years old. Not expecting prolific egg laying nor really wanting it but im sure i can solve any glut issues.

Foxes arent a big problem around here. Im planning on doing the run sat on flags with a skirt tucked under and around. I dont think ill have the time to dig in a mesh floor. I know ive tempted fate now but never had rodent issues before, the neighbours 2 doors down with their 4 chickens have never had rodent issues. Large local cat population (the most likely predator!!). Ive got a steel feed store bin. Food will be hung down. The surround of the run is exposed. My last resorts are a badly trained terrier and an air rifle. Hopefully it wont go that far.

Thanks for the info. Im surrounded by paddocks so hopefully should have easy access to horse bedding. We've got a bird of prey centre nearby too and a few feed manufactures locally although i think im wanting to sprout or ferment to supplement their feed.
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Marigold
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Re: Building a chicken run, could do with some advice?

Post by Marigold » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:32 pm

Well, you certainly won't have issues with egg gluts, with the somewhat elderly assortment of hens you describe! If you are rehoming, and taking on secondhand equipment, you do need to be concerned about what's coming in with them. It's more than probable that, if the coops are made of wood, they'll have issues with redmite and at the very least will need thorough steam cleaning up and re-creosoting, during which process the hens have to sleep and lay somewhere else whilst the fumes disperse. Of course if they're plastic they'll be easy to move and you can jet wash them before use. If you start out with redmite, you'll likely never get rid of it. Also, each hen needs a thorough examination to see if she is affected by common parasites like scaly leg (v. common in older birds and will transmit to the others) or chicken lice, etc. Don't want to sound like a downer, but you do need to know what you're taking on.
We soaked the timbers for our run in preservative, several coats, before concreting in and they are OK several years later.
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dinosaw
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Re: Building a chicken run, could do with some advice?

Post by dinosaw » Mon Oct 23, 2017 7:03 pm

Evie wrote:With regards to concrete, don't timbers rot more quickly when concreted in? I'm thinking about the treated timber for fence posts, I thought concreting them in was no longer considered a good idea, as moisture in soil dries better. Just as an aside, am no expert
Your right Evie, especially with thinner sections, I wouldn't use anything smaller than 4x4 in concrete.
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