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Build a Predator-Proof Chicken Run | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How to Build a Chicken Run

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Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Chicken Run

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Ready to learn how to build a chicken run? Giving your chickens an enclosed area where they can run around outdoors while feeling safe from predators makes them feel secure and happy. Here are five steps on how to make a chicken run—including photos and a special guide.

What is a Chicken Run?

A “chicken run” is a predator-proof fenced area attached to a chicken coop, the structure where your chicken live. (See how to build a chicken coop.)

Although most predators hunt by night, there are daytime threats to a backyard flock, including dogs, foxes, hawks, and eagles so a chicken run will keep chickens safe. Read about the common predators of chickens.

A chicken run also keeps your lawn, garden and landscaping safe from your chickens, who take great delight in digging up small plants, munching on leaves, scratching through mulch, and making a happy mess. Finally, a safe pen will also ensure that your chickens don’t wander into the road or into a neighbor’s garden or onto their front porch.

Where Should a Chicken Run Be Located?

Your chicken run should be attached to your coop, with a little door on the side of the coop that will allow the chickens to come and go during the day. They will need access to the coop to lay their eggs, and might choose to spend time in the coop on cold or rainy days.

In warmer climates, consider either building your pen under some trees (or adding some trees after your pen is built). In colder climates, positioning your run in full sun is a good idea, as the chickens will be able to warm up in the sun all day.

How to Make a Chicken Run

Materials:

Exact quantities will depend on the size run you decide to build!

  • 4x4 wooden fence posts
  • Optional: Quikrete (or other concrete mix)
  • 2x4 boards or 1x6 boards
  • 1/2” welded wire fencing or 1” welded wire fencing
  • Staples (U-shaped nails)

Tools:

  • Shovel
  • Hammer
  • Saw
  • Wood nails/screws
  • Post hole digger
  • Cordless screwdriver
  • Level

Step 1:  Plan How Big the Chicken Run Should Be

The size of the run you will need to build depends on the size of your flock. The rule of thumb is to allow a minimum of 10 square feet of outdoor run space per chicken. So that means if you have 10 chickens, you should plan on a pen that’s at least 10x10, or 100 square feet. But before you sketch out your plan and assemble your supplies, try laying out some boards on the ground to get an idea of just how big (or small!) the area is and adjust accordingly. In general, the more space you can allow your chickens, the better. And don’t forget to build bigger with extra room in anticipation of your flock possibly growing as the years pass! 

Step 2: Set Your Posts

The first step in building your run is to dig holes for your fence posts. Sinking them in concrete will ensure that they stay put. 

Use a level to be sure they are all set in straight, and a measuring tape to be sure they are set equidistant from each other—about 6 or 8 feet apart is a good distance (no more than 10 feet). Set around the perimeter of the area. Think about where you want your gate positioned, and place two posts closer together, marking this place. 


Start hammering the posts into the holes, making sure to hammer them at least 1 feet deep into the ground. One-third of the post should be below ground level. Once your posts are set, cut the tops to level them and then screw boards across the top for added stability before you attach your fencing.

Setting the wooden posts in concrete will keep them in place.

Step 3: Attach the Wire Fencing

For a predator-proof pen, you will need to use either 1/2” or 1” welded wire fencing. That will keep out predators including small ones such as weasels and larger ones like bobcats. (If you have bears or other large predators in your area, you might instead consider using a chain link dog run for your chickens and then just wrap the chain link with the smaller gauge welded wire to keep the smaller predators out as well.) 

Use a 1/2” or 1” gauge fencing to keep out small and large predators alike.

Attach fencing to the posts with construction staples.

Once the posts are set, attach the wire fencing to the posts using staples (u-shaped nails ) and a hammer. Staple the mesh at every 6 inches, securing it tightly to the posts. Make sure that the wire is attached to the chicken coop itself as well. Be sure to dig a trench around the perimeter of your run and sink the fencing down a few inches. That will prevent digging predators like coyote and dogs from gaining access under the fencing.

Be sure to attach the fencing tightly to the posts!

Cover the top!  Your run will need to be covered on top as well to prevent climbing predators like fox and raccoon, as well as aerial predators including hawks, eagles, and owls.

Step 4: Create Your Frame

Once the fencing is up, use 2x4 or 1x6 boards to create your frame, screwing the boards horizontally into your posts along the bottom, middle and top of the fencing for added stability, and sandwiching the fencing in between the posts and framing for extra security.

To prevent escapees, consider using a spring-loaded door that will close behind you as you enter and exit the run.

Step 5: Add a Door

Once you have the framing done, add a door (don’t forget to use a spring so the door shuts automatically behind you as you go in and out of your run to prevent your chickens from escaping!). 

Hang the gate using three gate hinges, attaching a latch on the outside. 

Extra tips and tricks

  • Although keeping your chickens inside a chicken run instead of letting them roam around freely can greatly decrease the number of safety risks, you should also consider adding extra safety measures depending on the type of predators in your area. This could be a layer of hardware cloth, which can be useful against raccoon and foxes.
  • Even if your area is relatively safe, keep your chickens inside the chicken coop overnight. 
  • Make sure to double- and triple-check your plan and measurements, so you don’t accidentally end up with an oddly shaped structure due to rushing the planning phase. 
  • Don’t forget about enrichment! Chickens love playing, so consider adding some fun elements to your chicken run. A chicken swing or a treat ball are just some of the many ways to bring some fun into the lives of your birds. 
  • If you have a coop, you’re probably already well aware of the need to place roosting bars inside your chicken coop; however, you can also place some outside as well in your chicken run!
  • Make sure to keep chicken feed out of your chicken run; although some feeders that conceal the feed might be safe, keeping the feed inside your coop can help prevent unwanted rodents gain interest in your flock’s roaming space. 

Guide to Building a Chicken Run

There are so many ways to build your chicken run. This beginner-friendly step-by-step guide by Wire Fence shows a similar approach using helpful. diagrams.

 

It can also be useful to dive into the depths of the internet and browse through chicken runs created by others as you might get some ideas that you can implement in your own project. 

Interesting in learning more about raising chickens? Here’s how to get started!

2023 Almanac Club