If you have chickens, they are going to want space in the daytime to run around and do their chicken thing. You may be able to free range, but most people will want to keep their flock contained and protected. Here’s how to set up a chicken run for your backyard chickens!
Tips On Setting Up A Chicken Run For Your Flock
First, make sure they have enough space. Each bird will need a MINIMUM of 10 square feet. The more the better! And if you have less than 200 square feet per bird they WILL eat everything in the run.
Click here to read Is Letting Your Chickens Free Range Right For You?
If you don’t want them to eat the vegetation down to the dust you will either need a larger area, or you will need to move their run each day. A chicken tractor is a chicken run on wheels that you can drag around to fresh grass periodically. I have tried these in the past and found them to be too heavy for me to move alone, but if you have a tractor or a couple strong guys this could work for you.
If you want your chickens to have more space, another option would be electric fencing. We tried electric fencing from Premier 1 with a solar energizer and it would have worked beautifully if I hadn’t had super flighty birds. My lightweight bantams could hop right over the 48 inch top without even getting close to touching it. If you have a less rambunctious breed of chickens, these are spacious and easy to move.
Second, protect against hawks and other predators. Hawks can snatch a bird from above, so make sure you have either a narrow run of 4 feet or less, a cover over the top, or plenty of plant cover for your birds to hang out underneath. Raccoons, rats, and other digging creatures can dig in from underneath. If you don’t want to put in a bottom, make sure to lock your birds up in a secure coop with a floor after dark.
Quarter inch hardware cloth that has been screwed down will keep out ANYTHING. This is what I have our hot weather coop made out of, so that I do not have to lock my flock up each night and let them out each morning. It can be pricey, but sometimes it’s totally worth it.
Click here to read Predator Proof Chicken Coops: A Simple Way To Protect Your Flock.
Next, put in a human sized gate. Sometimes I see teeny tiny chicken coops and runs and I just think to myself, how do they clean that and get the eggs?!?! Put in a human sized gate or door, and save yourself a lot of hassle!
If you are not moving your run periodically, you will want some kind of absorbent material to keep down the mess and smell. My personal favorite is wood chips. They can often be gotten for free from chipdrop.com and they last a long time.
Fall leaves can also be good. Some people use straw, but I find straw can get smelly more quickly than leaves or wood chips. For more detail read the post What Is The Best Chicken Bedding To Use In Your Coop.
When you decide where to put your run, consider your weather. If you are in a hotter climate, make sure they are protected by shade. If you are very cold, they may be happiest with some sunshine. My run is under deciduous trees, so they get summer shade and summer sunshine!
Entertainment for the Chicken Run
Chickens love to peck and scratch and roost, so give them lots of opportunities to do those things so they don’t get bored! Place logs, stumps or roosts around the run so they have varying heights to jump onto. Toss down some scratch grains occasionally to keep them entertained or bring them excess fruit and veggies from your garden. You can even sprout seeds and microgreens for your flock!
Keeping chickens is much more enjoyable when your birds are safe and happy with a well designed run to play in during the day! Share in the comments your favorite tips for a great chicken run!
Want To Raise Happy Chickens?
Subscribe for our newsletter and get the free email course Intro To Backyard Chickens as well as a free printable checklist to walk you through step by step!