Chicken Run and Coop Questions

A good chicken run and coop must provide safety day and night, but even more important is that it provides more than enough room for all your chickens.

Safety is of course a big point; but what’s the point of being safe if life offers little else? As a bird lover and rescuer, the one thing that makes me the saddest is a bird of any kind confined to a small cage.

As with any living thing, exercise and enrichment is as important as clean and dry shelter from the elements, companionship and good food and water.

A chicken enclosure can be too small, but there is no such thing as too large. Perches can be too high or too low, but if the design prevents chickens from roosting and pooping on chickens below, you can’t have too many. Chickens appreciate choices. I can’t think of a living creature that doesn’t.

Design The Run For Health and Fun

When designing your chicken run and coop do your best to give them the most space you can and avoid the minimums. We know that space may be limited for many who want to keep chickens.

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Most people keep chickens for the wonderful, fresh eggs they provide. So, if you have a minimum of space, do your best to have the least number of chickens you need to provide eggs, and skip keeping a rooster. Avoid collecting or breeding and keeping too many. The general health of your chickens will benefit from it.

Experts disagree but some say a good chicken coop – the protective building, should provide a minimum of 4 square feet of floor area per chicken. A good chicken run – the yard surrounding the coop, provides 10 square feet per chicken.

If your chickens are allowed to get out and free range daily, the size of the run could be smaller, but doesn’t have to be. Due to the possible threat of stray dogs, when I leave for a while, I keep them locked up in their yard until I return. 

If we are mowing or working on a project and don’t want them under foot, I keep them in their yard. Whenever possible, nearly every day, I let the chickens out of their yard to roam and forage where they like. They happily return to the coop like clock-work just before dark.

Remember the ancestors of our chickens come from jungles where they are free to fly and forage to their heart’s content; unlike more recent ancestors that may have been confined to a small cage or over-crowded chicken run.

After 8000 years of domestication, it is still a natural happiness for chickens to have plenty of room to run, forage and flap their wings.

The height of a good run will vary. Heavy laying breeds are less likely to fly over a 6 foot fence and smaller bantam breeds can fly higher and further, making an 8 foot fence easy to clear. You may need to consider enclosing the top of the run to keep chickens in and predators out. If you are raising chicks, they are more likely to be taken by birds of prey if out in an open area. Clipping wing feathers is done, to keep chickens from flying over a fence, but this makes it difficult for them to roost.

The chicken run should provide forms of activity: foods, things to climb on, possibly a few outdoor nest boxes. If you can keep grass growing in the run, this will give the chickens hours of activity each day scratching through the blades searching for seeds, bugs and tender grass.

If the run is over-crowded or the grass is not maintained it will die. Grass needs to be watered, which will dilute the chicken dropping. If droppings are not diluted, they build up and kill the grass.

Since chickens eat a lot of grass, when available, consider the grass inside the run as one of their food sources and help keep it alive and healthy for them. You might want to have two separate chicken yards. This allows one yard to rest and regrow grass while the chickens get to enjoy the other.

Having some shelter outside the coop in the chicken run will allow them to stay outside more during the day. Chickens don’t seem to mind a gentle rain or snow, but once rain becomes heavy, they prefer to seek shelter to keep from getting soaked to the skin and becoming too cold.

By providing some covered areas outside the coop, the chickens can seek shelter, rain or shine, without having to go inside. Straw bales can provide some wind block under outdoor shelters and a comfortable place to rest off the ground.

Just make sure not to stack them where they might be used to fly over the fence. Extra water containers outside, especially in summer will help keep chickens hydrated, cooled and digesting food properly.

A chicken run should be constructed of a wire and sturdy fence post that will keep them in and predators out. With small chicks, you will want chicken wire or smaller at the ground level. Chain link or sturdy welded wires should provide good structure for the main part of the fences. 

If you have questions that you would like to ask a vet, use the service below. Ask a Vet has qualified doctors that can answer questions about chicken health.

Ask a Chicken Veterinarian Now

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