Building a run

So then we had what would become our coop, but we still needed a run, so that the chickens can enjoy the outdoors while being protected from predators. Most sources on backyard chicken keeping recommend 10 square feet of floor space in a run, per chicken. Using posts from Lowe’s, we began building an 8 ft by 8 ft run, which would enough space for the chickens plus a little extra.

Although some people use chicken wire when building their run, hungry predators can easily bite through the wire. Raccoons have also been known to reach a paw through the big holes in the chicken wire, grab a chicken by its head, and try to pull it out the hole… resulting in a dead, headless chicken. The better option is half inch hardware cloth, which is a heavy metal mesh. The heavier the gage, the better. It’s fairly expensive stuff, but does a much better job keeping the predators out. The best deal I could find was from Wayfair, which sells 100′ rolls of 19 gage half inch hardware cloth:

http://www.wayfair.com/Mat-0.5-Mesh-Galvanized-Hardware-Cloth-308243B-308246B-BFJ1003.html

When building a run, it’s also a good idea to think about how to keep out digging predators such as foxes. There are two options for this, but both need an extra foot of hardware cloth at the bottom of the run. This extra foot can either be buried straight down into the ground (which is what we did), or it can be buried slightly into the ground and then fanned out from the coop. A little more or a little less than one foot can be used, depending on what the soil is like – loose, sandy soil will need more of a barrier. Digging the foot-deep trench all the way around the run was definitely the most time-consuming part of building our run, especially with the red clay soil we have here. If I had it to do over again, I would consider fanning out the extra foot and weighting it down all the way around with heavy cinder blocks.

We attached the hardware cloth to the wooden posts by hammering in fence staples. Standard staples from a staple gun tend to be too shallow and easy to pop out by hungry predators. Finally, we covered half of the run with corrugated metal roofing, and put hardware cloth over the other half of the run. I was thinking that the chickens might like choosing shade or sun, depending on the weather. At least with our rainy summer, this ended up being a big mistake. Wet poop is smelly, hard to clean up poop. So later, the rest of the top was also covered with corrugated metal roofing.

Here you can see how we put up the posts and attached the hardware cloth. We made a small door on the side of the coop, which will be for reaching in to collect eggs. The big side-by-side doors in the back are to get in the coop and clean it. We started painting the coop with exterior grade light blue paint, to protect it from the elements.

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