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Fence and other suggestions for planned coop and run - Page 2

post #11 of 12
You have some great opportunities. I’d certainly modify that shed and turn it into a coop. I don’t know how big it is but if you have electricity out there you can build a brooder or maybe just use the entire shed as your brooder and raise the chicks out there, assuming you start with chicks. Building a separate brooder or small coop gives you a lot of flexibility in the future in case you need to isolate a chicken, which can happen for many different reasons. So many different ways you could go with this.

Fence height is such an issue. There is no clear-cut answer. Most chickens regardless of breed can get over about any fence we can afford to build if they want to. Most heavier chickens don’t have a lot of trouble flying up to a 6’ high or higher roost so they can clear a six foot fence if they really want to. I keep mine in 4’ high electric netting and they don’t get out, or at least hardly ever. The only time mine get out is when they are trapped against a fence and they go vertical to get away from an aggressive chicken that’s beating them up. On very rare occasions that’s a hen trying to get away from an amorous rooster but usually it’s adolescent cockerels in their fights. Years ago I had them in a five foot high run and a few hens learned they could get out when they were trying to get away from an amorous rooster, so they got out every day. You are dealing with living animals so practically anything is possible, but in my experience that is pretty rare. Many people on here claim to keep their chickens contained inside a three foot fence, but they have lots of room and good forage. The chickens have no good reason to get out.

There are some things you can do to help. One is to provide lots of room inside the fence. Avoid really pinched corners and narrow spots where one chicken cannot pass another without getting too close. Twenty feet is plenty wide enough. Less than fifteen, well that’s getting close. 90 degree corners are OK and easier for bracing but I round mine off with that electric netting using guy wires as bracing.

One very common way for chickens to get out is that they like to perch. If the top of your fence or fence posts look like a good place to perch they might fly up there just for the joy of perching and who knows which side they might fly down on. So make the top of your fence wire so they don’t have a place to perch.

You probably can’t cover a run that size economically so you cannot make it totally predator proof. I sure could not afford it. Flying predators are obviously a risk. I have big hawks all over the place here and they are just not an issue, but some people get their flocks wiped out by hawks. Specific predators are that way, they might or might not be a problem. A good defense against flying predators is to give the chickens a place to hide if they spot one. Bushes ae good. You can build a couple of small shelters out there, some place for them to hide under.

Many land-based predators can climb or jump a fence. Coyotes and some dogs can really jump. Foxes, bobcats, raccoons, and many others climb really well, no matter how high the fence. And these hunt during the day in spite of “common knowledge” that they only come out at night. A four or five foot high fence is a great deterrent, it will stop or slow down many predators, but consider that run predator resistant, not predator proof. If you put up a five foot high fence made with heavy gauge wire you will have greatly improved your security. Many people when they hear “run” think of a 4’ x 8’ or maybe something like my 12’ x32’ very secure area. That’s not what you are building. You are building something to allow them to forage with reasonable protection, mot absolute security.

Another thing, which you alluded to, if you have a wire fence at the top of the ground you will have weak spots. Many critters like skunks or possums or even foxes or raccoons don’t need to climb over the fence or dig under it. They can squeeze through a pretty tiny gap between the bottom of the fence and the ground without digging. Since you have the trencher, burying the wire fence a bit will help a lot with this. Critters can dig under a shallow-buried fence but most can also easily go over it. Burying it deeper will provide more security against digging predators but just burying it a bit will improve matters tremendously.

The deeper you bury it or the more you bend to make an apron the more you reduce the overall height of the fence. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs. One way to increase the height of your fence is to take stiff fencing material and attach it to the top of your fence with maybe 18” to 24” of overlap, depending on what wire you choose. 2” x 4” welded wire will stand up pretty well that way. Another advantage is that if a predator tries climbing that free standing section of wire it may just bend over on it so it can’t climb over it. It’s not perfect in that regard, especially around corners and gates, but it does add another layer of protection. There is a good chance predators could climb over that shed and get in the run too. It’s really hard to make a decent sized run truly predator proof.

Speaking of gates, you will have to get in there and mow. Make your gate big enough that you can drive your mower through. Gates can be a weak spot too. Not only can critters possibly climb it you often leave a gap at the bottom when you close it. Using a 4” x 4” or maybe 4” x 6” treated section as a sill so the bottom of the gate can rest up against that my help, but it often requires special attention.

You realize you are going way overboard with a run this size for only five chickens. I’m always in favor of more room and I don’t know your future plans, but you could dramatically reduce this size and still do OK.

Metal T-posts re OK for the intermediate posts but I’d strongly suggest you put in some really substantial corner posts and brace those. As far as I know you are not planning on having cattle, sheep, or horses pushing against the fence but wind load, ice load if you get ice storms, and just the tension of the fence will cause the corner posts to sag in. I don’t know how uneven your ground is either. That can make a difference in how you build it so it will be taut. You may need to put intermediate wooden posts in so you can cut the wire and tighten it up due to changes in elevation.

My main purpose in this is not to tell you what to do or how to do it, but give you things to think about. There are a lot of different ways you could go with this, all with their own issues and challenges. Good luck and welcome to the adventure.

 I grow a little impatient when people seem to think that they are unique in the world. Of course they are. Just like everyone else.


 I grow a little impatient when people seem to think that they are unique in the world. Of course they are. Just like everyone else.

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much! You definitely mentioned things i didn't even think about, like ice on the fence.

I think i am going to go with an attached, smaller, covered run. This will give them something to use when i am not home to free range, or if all day free ranging doesn't work out.

Now to think about run design and size... Lots to think about
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