With the rise in popularity of raising backyard chickens, Landscape Guys have received numerous calls to assist homeowners with creating their chicken runs with protective enclosures and wire fencing. If you’re going to raise chickens you might as well do it right! One key component of that is creating your perimeter by installing proper fencing and building a secure chicken coop. Most projects of this nature will use chicken wire throughout the process, so we have a lot of advice to share for those looking to go on this adventure.
Considerations When Building a Chicken Coop and Run
When you decide to start raising chickens, you have two priorities – keeping them alive and giving them a good quality of life. Thankfully, chickens are relatively easy to please, provided they have a permanent chicken coop and safety run to enjoy the yard, get exercise, snack, and scratch at the ground. Your job is to make sure nothing can harm the flock, as we can tell you from personal experience, you do not want to find your flock killed by a predator. It’s much less traumatic to have Landscape Guys professionally build these components right from the start.
Protection From All Directions
- Sides/Walls: Although chicken wire is effective at preventing most predators and pests from getting inside your coop, it’s very flimsy when it’s not secured to something sturdy. Backyard nuisances like raccoons are notorious for being crafty with their paws to wiggle into coops! Due to this shortcoming, we always recommend incorporating permanent corner posts and horizontal support beams, commonly 4×4 or 6×6 wood beams. These need to be secured in post-holes or concrete as they’ll be supporting a lot of tension over time. Having them this sturdy allows you to anchor the chicken wire tautly to the wood with outdoor staples. It’ll be much harder for wildlife to pry this back if they even can.
- Above: Without a roof or aerial covering your chickens can fly the coop, but birds of prey such as falcons, hawks, and eagles are also able to swoop in for a bite of chicken. If you’re able to incorporate a proper roofing structure, great, but if you’re limited to wire, follow the same principles as the walls. Stretch the chicken wiring over the crossbeams and corner posts so you can anchor it tightly. It would also be good to have some trusses, in an ideal situation, or simply a couple of beams across for interior roof support.
- Below: Foxes, raccoons, and more love to burrow, so your perimeter has to go below ground too! There are a couple of options here, but they both involve making it too difficult for wildlife to continue and they give up. You can either have the wire continue 12 inches straight down into the ground or have it skirt out towards the yard. By doing this reverse-L shape, if a predator dug outside the coop’s walls, they’ll be met with wiring not only preventing them from going in but from going any deeper too. For this to be effective, we recommend 18 inches or more of horizontal skirting that’s buried at least 12 inches deep.
- Upgraded Materials: While not always the case, traditional chicken wire can rust over time, especially if it’s consistently exposed to moisture. To avoid this, consider using galvanized chicken wire or more rigid hardware cloth for longevity.
- Shade and Coverage: It gets hot outside and chickens, like humans, appreciate some shade. When the weather is bad, that same shade coverage also helps guard against excessive rain, so creating an area the chickens can shelter under safely is imperative. For this, you could use tarps, but we recommend corrugated roofing or something made of wood, as rain storms under a tarp could become quite irritating and stressful for the flock. You can buy premade wood coops that you place in the run or Landscape Guys can build you a custom one that’ll be to your exact requests.
- Airflow: Again, it gets hot outside, and no one likes hanging out in a stale room. Using chicken wire should accomplish this, but we make sure they can even enjoy a breeze if they’re confined to their coop during a squelching hot day!
- Loose Soil for Dust Baths: Chickens bathe by nesting in soft soil and “rolling” side to side while covering themselves in this dirt. It’s hilarious or scary if you don’t know what it is, but it looks like they’re scooping dirt onto their body. And that’s what they’re doing, as this practice can keep common parasites and pests at bay. To really take care of them, we create a proper dirt bath area that’s a mixture of dirt, sand, and diatomaceous earth.
- Water and Food: Chickens love to scratch and they can develop picky eating habits. We’ve had chickens that only want the corn kernels in the food mix and throw all the other items onto the floor. It’s funny at first, but it becomes expensively wasteful in lost food costs. To avoid this, it’s wise to hang the feeder or elevate it in some way so they can only peck at a small portion of food at one time vs. being able to sweep their beaks across it. This “forces” them to eat a more balanced diet and it keeps messes to a minimum. Water needs to be in a large bubbler and changed frequently when it’s hot outside as sitting water in the summer heat can get excessively hot!
- Perches: We always include perches throughout the coop and even into the run. Chickens love roosting and taking naps while on a wood bar or railing. They feel so secure they will often stay there sunbathing all day.
Chicken Run Specifics
- Construction: Follow the same principles as the coop – this space needs to be secure from all sides and be constructed for the long-term housing of your flock. It’d be a shame to go through all this effort building a great coop to finish with an inferior run that leaves them in danger. Posts need to be secure and access points buttoned up.
- Space: Ideally you’ll follow the rule of thumb that each chicken needs 10 square feet of run space per bird. If you have 10 hens you’ll need a run that is 100 square feet in size (i.e.: a 10 ft x 10 ft enclosure) minimum.
- Entertainment: While chickens can get very entertained hunting insects in your yard, they also love purposeful toys and treats. Mealworms are a big hit with chickens as a type of treat. They also love having heads of lettuce and cabbage hung from shoelaces or rope so they can peck at it like a pinata!
Calling the Landscape Guys to Install Your Chicken Coop and Run
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to establishing a proper chicken coop and chicken run on your property. If you have the time to address it yourself, we love the DIY homeowner! But if it’s starting to feel like it’s too far outside our comfort zone or you’re realizing you’d like help on this project, we’d love to help you!
Contact Landscape Guys today to discuss your goals and get an estimate. We serve the entire Twin Cities area and beyond.