Building a run on a steep hillside.


Dec 19, 2015
Does anyone have a design for a predator proof (rats, cats, raccoons, hawks) chicken run that is built on a STEEP 30% slope? I plan on using 1/2" PVC with construction fabric, but the angles make for a tough build and a LOT of wasted mesh. Any Ideas?
The bottom right corner of pic is 6 feet lower than the slab the coop sits on.
Did you already buy the PVC? If so, build with the slope. Building with the slope would mean that the top of the run would slant down with the hill, mirroring (as best it can) the hill. Use the PVC for posts (lots of posts) and the top of the run, but you don't have lay it on the ground -you can then staple the wire apron straight to the ground and lay rocks on top. You shouldn't really need a piece of PVC running along the ground, but if it strengthens the structure you could use a bunch of angled connectors to try and mimic the hill a bit on the bottom of the run. The PVC still wouldn't have to touch the ground in every spot (skirt), but dig out a trench in the dirt if the hill has a bump and fill in dips with dirt if it is necessary to get the bottom PVC fitted down.
What is 'construction fabric'?
Rats...... you're gonna need 1/2" hardware cloth.

A wider shot of the area might help.

Agrees going with the slope for the roof, but pvc fittings don't come in funky angles so wood might be a better choice for framework.
Construction fabric =hardware cloth.

Question: Is a 6" considered deep enough bury of hardware cloth for rat/racoon proofing? I am considering wrapping al the way around under the floor of run. Nearly doubles my labor and cost though.
Construction fabric =hardware cloth.

Question: Is a 6" considered deep enough bury of hardware cloth for rat/racoon proofing? I am considering wrapping al the way around under the floor of run. Nearly doubles my labor and cost though.
OK...I'd use an apron rather than burying 6"(not deep enough really)......18" out from bottom of wall on surface of ground or buried an inch or two.
HC or mesh on 'floor' of run can cause feet injuries from scratching unless you put 8-12" of litter over it....and it's expensive and will rust out eventually.

Corners mesh is out of scale in this graphic....but don't forget the corners.
HC or mesh on 'floor' of run can cause feet injuries from scratching unless you put 8-12" of litter over it....and it's expensive and will rust out eventually.

Plus, with that steep a slope, any litter is going to routinely get washed or scratched downhill. You'll end up with bare wire exposed at the top and litter 2 feet deep at the bottom.

How big of a run are you thinking of building? How about build a retaining wall and then backfill with soil so your run is level? Nothing can dig through a retaining wall. If you use lumber you can anchor the frame of your run right to it.
Instead of burying hardware cloth or creating an apron, you could use concrete. Our coop backs into our hill, and we also had to dig a little out so we could get the right position. We dug a narrow trench around coop, put some Quickcrete in it straight out of the bag, and then added water, stirred a little and just let dry. It was the cheaters' way, but it was fast, easy (except digging in hard clay soil), and cost effective.

We didn't build an extended run or coop expansion because we let them free range all day, but we have considered it. Any additions would have to go into the hill per city setback requirements, and we'd probably just work the steep slope in as much as possible and sink concrete around the perimeter as well. The hill consists of hard clay with tons of tree and I've roots over and under. We'd rather just dig once instead of doing it again to replace any deteriorated wire underneath.

Our rooster insulated bachelor pad (to soften crows at 5am) is built into the hill behind the main coop. We sunk in posts and erected it on posts.
You have issues there and a desire to make it 100% predator proof makes it even harder.

First is erosion. Even without the chickens scratching and loosening tings, the run will wash downhill. I don’t know how big you plan to make it but a retaining wall might work if it is rather small. I’d suggest building terraces instead, in effect several smaller retaining walls. You can use landscaping timbers, cinder blocks, concrete, many different things. Stuff will still move downhill if only because of the chickens scratching because gravity will pull things downhill, but you should be able to manage that part. Instead of any bedding which will really wash downhill if it floats, I’d suggest leaving it dirt or using sand if you need to fill. Bedding will get stuck in your bottom fencing and create a huge force trying to push your fence down. Sand or dirt might go on through but still can get dammed up of debris blocks the flow.

I’ve seen people cause erosion by pouring concrete or asphalt. Any time you change the drainage where water collects as it runs off you create a stream that essentially cuts a ditch through dirt. Of course it doesn’t have to be concrete, wood, cinder blocks, bricks, rock walls, even wire fencing that collects debris that channels the water can cause problems whether this runs along the slope or across the slope. It’s hard to predict exactly how drainage patterns will change and what you might see where. The terraces inside he run should handle this there but just to the outside of your run is where I’d look for this. My thoughts on this is to build small terraces wherever you see this developing to slow the runoff down to greatly reduce the cutting force of the water and spread it out so it goes down in a sheet instead of a concentrated force. An apron just on the outside of the fence may help with this a lot.

I’ve tried to install a wire mesh fence on uneven ground before, 2” x 4” welded wire. It’s a pain. Either you cannot bend it down to follow the slope or it sags a lot, depending on how the slope changes. I installed wooden posts at about 8’ centers and cut each individual piece of wire to fit between each set of posts instead of having one continuous stretch of wire where the sag was too much or I just could not get it to bend and follow the contours of the ground. Mine was a lot gentler than a 30 degree slope.

I like the idea of an apron with something on top to hold it down on that uneven ground. It’s pretty effective at predator control plus it might help with the erosion. The more you dig and soften the ground the more likely it is to erode.

I haven’t had to deal with a 30 degree slope in a long time. One trick to stopping erosion when a ditch develops is to fill it with rocks. They break the force of the water and slow it down. Putting tree branches and brush in it can work too as long as they don’t wash away. Cedar is really good at that but may need to be anchored.

Goode luck. I’m sure you can do it but it you may have challenges.
Well, I got it pretty much finished. Had a few real challenges due to the asymmetry of the build. The hardware cloth was really difficult to lay out, cut and hang on the slope.

Above is the notch-out for the2x4, 2x6 and 2x8 that I used for the foundation

The hardware cloth apron, secured with concrete debris.

All this was buried after construction

The corner blocks were set on larger pavers and buried to prevent drifting down slope

Since I needed standing room throughout, I had some 7+ foot walls. Needed a lot of cross bracing. And a lot of zip-ties

The lattice panel was temporary. I had to do some finish work after I let them out. Had to keep the always curious girls away from staples, plastic ties etc.

Finished (mostly) product. Roof and upper sides are standard heavy duty chicken wire. Walls and door are hardware cloth. Plumb tree just coming in to bloom early Feb when this was taken. It's fully leaved out now and provides ample shade.
I do have problems with erosion. I have to clean out the door area twice a week at least. The two retaining walls can just be seen on the lower part of the run. They eliminated the need to install a perch!
All in all, it is a success. Just needs erosion maintenance The door is right across the path from our compost bins which make it easy to transfer.
Very nice run. Can you dig in a landscape timber or other board to make a dam to catch the erosion? Eventually making a step or at least requiring less frequent cleaning

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