DIY DIVA
DIY diva

Building a Chicken Run: Part One

March 27, 2017 | 19 Comments | Uncategorized
DIY diva

It feels like ages ago that my biggest concern around the farm was cutting and installing the kitchen counters. Then the big windstorm hit, which not only crushed my greenhouse, but knocked out power for a solid 4 days. Then work got a little crazy, and my truck stopped working (again), and– the worst part–I came home one day early last week to find that two more of my chickens had been killed and left in the yard.

March can seriously just go suck one.

A few weeks ago when I lost two of my chickens I had a lot of questions about what would have taken one and left the other dead in my neighbors yard. Typically a natural predator kills a chicken to eat it (and doesn’t leave a body.)

I’d just about convinced myself it was the work of a fox (or two), but when I came home last week to more carnage, I also found this:

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It’s definitely a canine print, and fairly large if you use my hand for scale. So not a fox or raccoon. It’s possible it’s a coyote, but given the fact that the dead chickens are being left behind, I’m actually leaning towards a dog. It’s definitely not one of my neighbors newfies, who often come over to visit and never chase or attack the birds…

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They’re such sweethearts.

But it’s possible someone farther down the road has a dog that’s getting loose and coming down here to “play” with the chickens.

Either way, I spent three years letting my flock free-range, and up until now my biggest concern had been chickens wandering into the road and getting hit by a car. I’d really hoped to minimize that risk with a low fence and hedge around the front of the property that would allow the Nugs to continue to free-range while keeping them out of the road, but… this changes things.

Maybe, long term, I can think of a way to keep them free-ranging inside the donkey pasture (where no smart canine would dare go), but right now the fence I have won’t contain them. So, it’s time to build an outdoor run.

First, I’m paranoid the chicken-killer will keep coming back and demolish my flock in just a day or two, and yet I don’t think I can reasonably keep 9 chickens locked up in this coop all day…

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My next best option was to try to contain the chickens in the barn while I’m away from home. Of course, the donkeys still need to get in and out, so my temporary solution was to chicken-wire the shit out of everything…

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Parker is unamused.

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I’d call this solution about 80% effective at keeping the chickens from exiting the barn through the donkey stall. For the most part the chickens are contained, but every once in a while I’ll find one strutting about in the front yard like goddamn Houdini, with no reasonable explanation for how it got out.

Also, it took the guineas about 3 days to turn my chicken fence into their own personal hammock.

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I am surrounded by troublemakers.

With the chickens partially contained, I spent last weekend on the construction of the new outdoor run. My mom came up to lend another set of hands, and I’m so glad she was here because from the outset everything went wrong…

The truck still wouldn’t start and I needed lumber upwards of 14′ long. So, after some debate, I rigged up a makeshift roof-rack on my crosstrek…

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This worked in that I did get the lumber back to my house, but it also put a sizable dent in the roof of my car in the process. Luckily I was able to pop it back out after the lumber was unloaded, so no harm no foul I guess.

Then of course, I couldn’t find any of the tools I needed. And when I found the tools I couldn’t find the appropriate blades. And when I found the blade I couldn’t find the right wrench to change the blade. And then when I finally had all the tools and materials together… it started to downpour.

You guys, my life is such a disaster right now, and I don’t have time for that shit because something is trying to kill all my chickens.

Finally, finally, around 3PM Saturday, we finally opened a bottle of wine and got down to the business of building some shit.

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Literally every animal on the farm is skeptical at this point. I’d sunk those posts a couple of years ago with this project in mind, but I wasn’t keen on locking the Nugs up so until now I never took the time to finish it.

The area is about 8×12 (not nearly big enough, but I have a plan to expand the run later) and the chickens will be able to access it right from the coop.

We started by cutting 1/4″ wire mesh in half. I was not messing around with wire cutters for this project, and put a metal cutoff blade in my circular saw instead…

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Way faster, and yes, I should be wearing safety glasses when there are sparks shooting up at my eyeballs, but… yeah. This isn’t going to be my most OHSA approved project ever, okay?

The half-width mesh was stapled to the bottom sill of the run, which will hopefully keep anything from digging under it. (We’ll cover it with topsoil and grass seed in a couple of weeks.)

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Then we started framing and installing wire mesh on the front wall…

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And that’s about as far as we got before we ran out of daylight.

I was back at it the next day, but on my own this time. After some debate about how to do the roof (that included cutting a couple of boards before changing my mind and doing it differently) I decided to attach a 12′ board directly to the outside of the barn…

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Ever try to hold up, level, and attach a 12′ board all by yourself? This is also not the OSHA approved way of doing that shit, but it worked.

By the end of Sunday I had a few of the roof rafters up, and then realized I was short five boards because of the last minute design changes I’d made. (This is where napkin drawings fail to deliver.)

However…

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I have a damn good start on this run. My mom is coming back up during the evening this week to help me wrangle more of the wire mesh into place, and I’m hoping by the weekend I’ll have a passable outdoor space for the chickens to hang out during the day. If not, I’ll be spending a lot more of my time chicken-sitting so they get a chance to free-range…

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I usually love the process of building things, but I can’t wait for this project to be done.

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DIY diva

    Comments

  • Anne


    Damn preds!!
    I started off with a run, too many hawks here.

    Have done the 12′ board by myself, looked very much like that, but used a very long screw to hold up one end.

    Gonna do a solid roof for rain and sun protection?

    WoMandoor into ran from outside?

    Might want more mesh to cover the corner areas of the anti-dig apron.

    • Kit


      The roof will also be wire mesh. I considered a solid roof, but we’re hoping to plant some tall grasses in the run to mimick some of their favorite spots to hang around the house so I want the rain and sun to get in. They’ll have access to the coop still if they want to go inside.

      There will definitely be a human sized door as I’m not crawling through from the coop! lol

      • Anne


        Keep in mind: Snow Load.
        Had it about take down my 2×4 mesh run roof.

        Might have to fence off the grass until it’s well established….
        …..you know those birds can ‘dig to china’.

        • Kit


          I ended up sistering two 2×4’s next to each other for the roof (not for the load so much as for the spacing) but I’m less worried about the wood holding up than the mesh!

  • Megan


    Looking good. Not to rain on your parade but…I’d dig in that apron you have on the outside. I did that to my chicken run and now have rats and mice digging under it. My lovely summer project from hell once the ground here in CT thaws enough.

    • Kit


      Thanks for the tip! I’m mostly worried about getting this thing up ASAP and my ground is almost impossible to dig w/o a trencher, etc. so that’s not in the cards right now, but if it’s a problem I may also be revisiting that sometime in the summer.

      Though the chickens wouldn’t mind a mouse or two making its way in. Snacks! lol.

  • Cheryl


    That sounds so frustrating. I’m sorry.

  • Alicia


    I think a game camera or two is in order, so you can see who the visiting predator is.

  • Maria


    I hate it when something kills part of our flock!

    We had ducks that would come into the chicken run every night, and would sleep next to the fence. Something grabbed them while they were sleeping I guess and pulled off their heads through the fencing (reaching down over the chicken wire!) and took their heads, left the rest.

    Sucks!

  • Sarah In Illinois


    I literally did the same thing last weekend for the same reason. I loved my chickens being free-range but my German Shepherd pup loved it also. I know that he needs some training but other dogs roam the neighborhood too and I wanted to keep my chickens from enjoying the garden while I am at work. So it all added up to the fact that a run was a better solution. I plan to post about it on Julia’s page (homeon129acres.com) in a couple weeks.

    I have been lucky that I haven’t actually lost a chicken yet, but I have had some close calls and some seriously traumatized hens.

  • Samantha


    Do the guineas manage better against predators than the chickens? I know they seem more wild than the chickens.

    I live in a tiny home in the middle of the city, but I’ve learned so much from your blog. I really want to get a hive this summer…and a tortoise, but I appreciate that most folks wouldn’t be keen to build a tortoise habitat in a city in Massachusetts.

    • Kit


      Ah, well, not really. They’re definitely more wild, and out of my original 14 or so that made it to adulthood several have succumbed to predators. I’m not exactly sure how many (3-4 at least) however I have had guineas recently “go missing” but it’s all of the females, and I think they might be off hiding on nests…

  • Julie


    And if you need a break – watch this:

    https://youtu.be/jVdlxwX6A7g

    : )

  • GiGi


    What kind of work boots have you got on there, Kit? I’ve been on the lookout for new leather work boots and I can’t find anything that doesn’t weigh 50lbs.

    • Kit


      They’re Carhartt womens 10-inch steel-toed wellington boot. I love them! Not sure that they’re the lightest boot ever, but they’re the most comfortable and durable boot I’ve ever owned.

  • Tisha


    Laser level! So worth every penny. I do a lot of building on my own, too, and it is better than even the magnetic level.

  • Lisa


    I am so sorry about your chickens (and the dented car). A little over a year ago I lost both of my cats to a coyote. It left behind one kitty completely intact, and the other was partially eaten. Fucker. So it could be a dog in your case, or it could be a coyote or something similar. Either way it sucks and I’m sorry.

    I live in the burbs and have a 6′ privacy fence around my property, so I never had any reason to think they were unsafe. But coyotes can jump quite high, unfortunately, and my neighbor saw this one as it was leaving.

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