How to Build a Chicken Run

Building a Safe, Secure, and Predator-Proof Chicken Run

January 29, 2019
Chicken Run


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Chickens need a safe place to spend their days. Although most predators hunt by night, there are daytime threats to a backyard flock, including dogs, fox, hawks, and eagles. Building a chicken run is a good way to keep your chickens secure and happy.

It isn’t difficult to build a chicken run or pen, but it is critical to not only keep your chickens safe from predators, but also to keep your lawn, garden and landscaping safe from your chickens, who take great delight in digging up small plants, munching on leaves and scratching through mulch. 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.

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 ten square feet of outdoor pen space per chicken. So that means if you have ten 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 big, in anticipation of your flock possibly growing as the years pass! 

Your 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 the warmer climates, consider either building your pen under some trees (or adding some trees after your pen is built). In the colder climates, positioning your run in full sun is a good idea.


Supplies you will Need

(Exact quantities will depend on the size run you decide to build.) 

  • 4x4 fence posts
  • Quikrete
  • 2x4 boards or 1x6 boards
  • 1/2” welded wire fencing or 1” welded wire fencing
  • Staples (U-shaped nails)
  • Wood screws
  • Shovel
  • Post hold digger
  • Saw
  • Hammer
  • Cordless screwdriver
  • Level

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. 6 or 8 feet apart is a good distance. 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.


For a predator-proof pen, you will need to use either 1/2” or 1” welded wire. That will keep out predators including small ones such as weasels and larger ones like bobcats. I(f 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.) 

Using u-shaped nails and a hammer, attach the fencing to the fence posts. 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. 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.


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.

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!) and your chicken run is done! 

Read more about the predators of chicken and other ways to keep chickens safe.

About This Blog

fed-book-cover.jpgLisa Steele, a 5th generation chicken keeper and Master Gardener, and author of the popular books Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens Naturally and Gardening with Chickens lives with her husband on a small hobby farm in Maine where she raises a mixed flock of chickens and ducks, grows herbs and enjoys cooking using fresh vegetables from her garden and fresh eggs from her coop. You can learn more on her website

Reader Comments

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I like this extra space near

I like this extra space near the chicken coop for run chicken. If we can make this type of play area near the coop, then chicken can easily run and live freely. To make more secure this place you can use right chicken coop wire. They can protect your chickens from predators.


Hi Lisa, I have a window with hardware cloth in the inside framed off and still do not know if it's safe enough. It's so hot inside the coop so I want to be able to leave the window open. But I don't know if it's enough to trust its critter proof! Any thoughts? Thank you.

This Run Guaranteed MAINTENANCE

The construction of this run fails on two levels (1) structural integrity and (2) predator proofing. I built 10x30ft run using welded wire professional dog kennel panels attached to vertical and horizontal 4x4 posts and covered with corrugated metal roof. I ran 1/2in hardware cloth around the lower portion of the run attaching to the horizontal 4x4 sills and 24in up full width of hardware cloth and attaching directly to the kennel panels. I then laid the 24in hardware cloth as an apron around the pen attached to the horizontal 4x4 sills and extending 22in out from the base of the run. My run is predator proof against snakes, mice, rats, possum, raccoons, fox, coyotte, owls, hawks. It also is virtually maintenance free. Lisa's run is expensive with all that hardware cloth - she would have been far better to utilize commercial dog kennel panels, installed vertical and horizontal 4x4's like I did. 1x3in lumber in no way provides stability.

Thanks for your comments. My

Thanks for your comments. My fence posts are sunk in concrete and supported along the top and sides. I'm not sure what you mean about no stability. We have weasels and so using anything larger than 1" wouldn't be any predator-proofing against them. Our run is maintenance free as well. I agree to save money, using what you have available is a great idea. This article was to illustrate what we did and offer some advice about ways to predator-proof.

Raccoon invincible

This does not keep coons from ravaging your flock. We have a "Rigid" mesh fence with a row of rabbit wire at the bottom and ran underground about 4-6". It seems to be effective. Them darn critters are EVIL!!!!!

Actually yes it does. I used

Actually yes it does. I used 1/2" welded wire on the bottom three feet and sunk the fencing into the ground almost a foot. Anything larger gauge and a raccoon will actually reach through and kill your chickens and ducks. Ducks are especially vulnerable because they like to nap right up against the fencing. I believe most rabbit wire is 1x2" or similarly sized holes? I don't feel comfortable with anything larger than 1/2" along the bottom.


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