So like my last post had stated, we built a chicken run this weekend. It was a totally romantic way to spend our first anniversary, sore backs, tore up hands and all!
We have been leery to let our girls out for the past month or so, as we have a family of foxes that have taken up residence just down the road from our house. Although they are pretty cute, I don’t appreciate them using our chicken grazing area as a drive-thru (or should I say a run-thru) window. And the girls HATE being stuck indoors. They much rather enjoy digging holes in the yard, eating bugs, and soaking up the sun.
Our solution was to build an addition on to their coop, that would be small enough to not commit us to a huge build (as we are going to tear down our current coop and rebuild in a few years), allow the girls enough space to frolic and do as they please, while keeping them safe. We are still going to live by our old rule of “you are only allowed outside while we are home”, as a safeguard, but at least they will be outside!
We started by making a rough diagram of what we wanted. There is a shrub outside of the current coop that I am not willing to cut down, so we needed to plan a run that was ‘L’ shaped, which also didn’t impede our entrance to the coop, especially in winter when we are hauling water and feed in. Our original run (circa 2015) was built from an old tarp garage frame, and when the winter hit, I HATED going to the coop, as you literally had to get down on your belly to reach the door. Not this time Doris!
The basic plans for the coop were easy. Plan everything out in multiples of 4, so we could use 2″x4″8′ lumber. The preliminary sketch that we had looked something like this:
We went to Home Hardware and got the boards, as well as a couple 1″x2″x8′ incase we needed them. We put the whole thing frame together with 3″ wood screws. When the frame was assembled, it looked something like this:
Now, I think it was old water pipe (maybe?) that we found behind the garage (I have no clue what the original purpose of it is!), but we decided to use this massive roll of black pipe to create the hoops for the run. We cut them into 80″ chunks, and attached them to the frame using simple strapping (found at any hardware store… we used galvanized stuff so it wouldn’t rust over time). We had 3′ chicken wire, so we made sure to put a hoop every 3′ to try to make it easier to install and secure to the frame (other than the crappy corner, which I will explain later). Once we were done, we had something that looked like this:
This is where we started feeling good about the project. At first, we thought that maybe the 30+ degree weather and our crappy planning skills were going to doom us, but once we got the pipe up, we knew that we actually had something going here.
Next, we moved the frame over to the outside of the coop (we built it in the driveway where it’s flat, we have power, and there aren’t as many bugs). Here we adhered it to the side of the building using screws and some strapping (to keep the starting hoop close to the building), and Jim built an awesome vertical sliding door so that we could let the girls out easily.
I chose the much shittier job of starting to wrap the pipe with chicken wire.
Maybe it was because it was so hot, or maybe because the deer flies were absolutely crazy, or maybe it’s because chicken wire kind of tears your hands apart when you manhandle it for a couple hours, but I wasn’t anticipating the chicken wire process being THAT difficult. Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally doable, and I think the way we did it is probably the cheapest and quickest, but we greatly under-anticipated the amount of time this would take.
To adhere the wire you want to:
- Start by stapling one end of your wire to the wooden frame, so that you will pull the wire up and over the hoops, eventually stapling it down to the other side. Here we are doing it so we are running it in line with our hoops (shorter sections, but easier to manage).
- Once you get your end stapled, use cable (zip) ties to attach your chicken wire to both sets of piping. (On either side of your chicken wire, there should be a section of pipe… attach both sides)
- When you have done that (tightly, don’t let it slack), snip the chicken wire and staple the end to the other side of the frame. This was the best process I came up with, as my first “panel”, I stapled and then tried zip tying, and it didn’t work, as I didn’t have enough slack to do it properly and had to tear the staples out.
- Repeat above for the next section, but once you’re done, ensure that you “stitch” the chicken wire between the two panels together with zip ties. I tried doing it by cutting some of the chicken wire and putting it together, but the zip ties were faster and didn’t cut my fingers!
- When you are doing the ends and any crazy corners, do it as above, attaching to any of the black pipes as much as possible, and stitching the wire together with the zip ties, ensuring that it’s tough enough to withstand any predators (or attempted escapee chickens). Some of our areas were just stitched together wire, as we had a bigger gap than 3 feet (like in our corner… it was a bit of a mess)
- Clean up any zip tie ends with a pair of wire cutters.
- Ensure you level out the run, either by adding boards to eliminate gaps between it and the ground (predators!), or filling it in with dirt.
*please note, we didn’t dig any of our wire into the ground to stop foxes from digging under the run. We are only going to let the girls out when we are home, and this is a temporary run until we get them a new one built. If you are building a permanent run, I highly recommend digging your chicken wire into the ground to prevent any predators from coming in
This is what it looked like when it was all said and done (see that crazy corner?):
I still need to go along and clip off the rest of the zip tie ends to pretty it up, but for now it works. The frame is light enough where I can pick up a corner to feed the ladies any veggie and fruit scraps I have, yet heavy enough where a fox couldn’t just pick it up and get in.
I want to add their dust bath tire filled with sand into the far end of the run, and I want to seed it this fall to ensure that they have some greens to eat in there in the spring.
Overall, I think the happiness that the chickens have when we let them out is an indicator to us that we did a pretty good job!
Things we purchased for the run:
– wood screws
– all of the mentioned lumber
– a bulk bin of multi sized zip ties
Things we had on hand:
– black piping
– chicken wire (what homestead is complete without a roll of it kicking around?)
– staples and staple gun
Any questions, feel free to give us a shout!