So you have decided to get chickens. Chickens are a great resource for fresh eggs and meat that can be raised in a wide variety of environments and spaces. While they probably aren’t a great choice for apartment dwellers, chickens in an urban setting can do well if managed and cared for properly.
The first thing that anyone taking the chicken plunge will want to do is decide the location of the coop and run. The coop is important as protection from night time predators, a place for roosting and a safe place for the hens to lay their eggs for you. The run is their outdoor space. This space is just as important as the coop and needs to be just as secure to protect the chickens.
There are a few things to take into consideration before designing and building a chicken run. The size of the run needed will be determined by the number of chickens that will be in it. Depending on the circumstances, that could also be viewed in reverse.
A chicken run that is too small can cause stress in the chickens and a never ending clean up job for the owner. Having too many chickens in a space will result in the display of undesirable behavior like pecking each other and fighting. It will also create a more disease prone environment. Having too much feces in an area is also a big problem when the space is not large enough.
The general consensus on space needed per chicken in a run is 6 to 8 square feet per bird but 10 square feet minimum is recommended by others. These numbers depend on whether the majority of the flock is made up of bantams or standard size chickens. For standard size, the more room the better.
There are many different designs for chicken runs made out of different materials. Some people have chosen to build their coops and runs out of recycled materials and some choose to construct theirs with new materials. It doesn’t matter which category the individual falls into because there are designs already available to meet either need. There is also the option of designing your own chicken run based on the materials you have on hand.
Chicken runs are intended to provide the flock with outdoor space where they can do all things chicken. Run, flap their wings, give themselves dirt baths, eat bugs and worms and relax in the outdoors. Keeping these things in mind will help when choosing a run plan or designing one that will work best for the flock. Chickens need space to keep them happy and laying eggs.
One thing to stay away from when building the chicken run is chicken wire. The run needs to be able to protect the flock. A raccoon, opossum or unruly stray dog can bite or dig through chicken wire very easily because the wire it is made of is extremely thin. Use a heavy gauge wire for the entire run and be sure to bury at least 12” of the wire straight into the ground to prevent predators from digging under the fence. Burying the fence can be reinforced by placing large decorative rocks around the bottom of the run.
When constructing a chicken run, a cap or top is another important aspect that some people overlook. In order to keep the chickens safe from flying out or predators from coming over the fence, it’s a good idea to also fence the top of the run with the same fencing wire used for the perimeter. If the area is sunny it would also be beneficial to the chickens to have access to some sort of shaded area. If there are no trees around to provide shade, adding a partial shaded cap over the wire in the run will keep the chickens happy and laying eggs.