Build a chicken run without digging post holes, without messing with cement and using minimal tools and materials.
Though The Smart Chicken Coop sells predator-proof chicken runs, we encourage our customers build their own runs, or to use our Smart Coop runs in combination with a homemade run. (Email us if you want details on using the combo.) The more area you have for your hens to roam, the happier they will be, which most often means the girls will be quieter and they will have far fewer pecking order issues. This, in turn, keeps the hens healthier, which means more eggs.
Plan Your Run Design
A. Decide whether you want your run to be completely predator-proof or a run for daytime use. This article focuses on a daytime run, which means that you, the hen keeper, must ensure that the hens are safely locked in their coop at night or rely on an Auto Chicken Door Opener. If you want a completely predator-proof run, then visit our predator-proof run page. Predator-proof wire fencing is quite a bit more expensive, so we use welded wire.
B. Determine your run size. Again, bigger is better, but of course, more fencing material makes it more expensive. Having bushes and trees in your run area is good for the chickens because they provide shade and shelter… but know that the girls will thrash them. (Also, be sure the plants are not poisonous to hens.)
- One way your area will be determined is by your space configuration. Use existing walls/fences as one side of your run if you can. It saves money on materials.
- Another way is to figure out what size wire roll you want to purchase and plan for that amount (rolls typically come in 25, 50 and 100 feet).
C. Determine how strong your run fencing needs to be. Will you need to keep daytime predators out, such as dogs, or will you just need to keep your hens in the run? This will determine how high you need your wire and posts to be, as well as the post thickness.
- We have a 65 pound Labrador who doesn’t jump, so we made our run with the thinner, lighter weight U posts and used 3 foot high wire (more on wire choice below). If you have a big dog, then you will need to use taller wire and the thicker U posts.
D. Purchase the wire and the U posts at a home improvement store. Certainly chicken wire works, as does the plastic fencing. We have found, however, that both look ratty quickly. At one point, we used the green, plastic coated wire so that it blended into our bushes. This also began to look ratty as the green faded. Thus, we recommend steel welded wire.
Build White Rail Fence Panels
1. Unroll your wire fencing roll and cut an 8 ft. length. Be sure to cut the wire just past the vertical wire so that you don’t have horizontal wires poking out.
2. Place two 2”x 2”x 8’ painted furring strips parallel to one another on your work surface.
3. Place the 8 foot wire length from step 1 on top of the furring strips, lining up the top of the wire fence so that there is room to staple the wire to the furring strip. Ensure that wire and the strip are parallel and then staple the top wire to the strip every 6 inches, or so (figure 3).
4. Slide the second furring strip under a horizontal wire about 4 inches above the bottom of the fencing. Line up this horizontal wire so it runs down the middle of the strip and then staple (figure 4).
5. Place your 37” upright posts about 40” apart on the fence/horizontal 2x2s. (The actual distance between the upright posts will be determined by your specific space.) We found for our circumstances that approximately every 40” worked best. Some of these panels had upright posts on both ends, and some will appear to use the post from the neighboring panel, as shown in the drawings below. Again, you will need to determine the specific measurements for your particular space requirements. Figure 5 shows two panels– 1 with a post at both ends and 1 with just one end post– next to each other to give the illusion of continuity.
6. Measure of your upright post spacing. Hammer your U Posts in a straight line and to align with the fence post locations from the step above. Be sure that the “earflaps” of the U post are below dirt level and that the flat side (not the hook side) of the U Post is what your fence posts will rest against. Use 1 ¼” wood screws to anchor the fence panel to your U posts (figure 6).
Covering Your Chicken Run
If your run is small, then you may just want to use “bird block”, which is a product you can get in the garden department of a home improvement store. It is used to deter birds from eating fruit off of trees. We used the bird block netting (shown in Fig. 1) in areas of our run where we weren’t walking into it. It’s cheap and easy to work with. When we created the walk-in run area, however, we ordered 2″ aviary netting from Amazon. Since the white rail fencing only goes up 3 feet, we made sure to get enough netting so that it could hang down like a curtain to the top of the fencing. Here are the steps:
1. Hammer U posts (the skinny ones) into each corner of the run. If your run area is large, consider also placing a U post in the center of the run.
2. Purchase 2″ thick PVC pipe, which comes in 10 foot links. It has black writing on it, so we painted over it to make it uniform. Years ago, when hanging a net to prevent lacrosse balls from breaking the neighbor’s windows, I spray painted the PVC green to blend into the bushes. (It worked fine, but the paint scratches off, of course.)
3. Slide the open end over the U posts you hammered into the corners. (The photo below isn’t PVC. Instead, it is an old wind surfer mast we had laying around.)
4. Place your netting over the posts, ensuring that the netting comes all the way down to the white rail fencing. Lock the netting in place by putting PVC 2″ end caps on/over the netting. Otherwise, your hens will jump out and/or the hawks will swoop in. This has actually happened to me! We then zip tied the netting to the fence. Note: originally, we drilled holes at the top of the poles, and threaded hooks through the holes. But, the PVC end caps worked better and we abandoned the hooks.)
What About A Gate?
Yes, what about it? I’ve run out of steam on this and will post the gate instructions later. Or you can email me if you get to this point. Making a gate is also easy.
Good luck and email or text photos of your project.