Can I skip the run altogether? Please help me figure this out.

linneamae

In the Brooder
6 Years
Feb 8, 2013
31
0
29
Central Minnesota
So we are newbies with 12, 4 month old Welsummers. We free range all day long and shut them up in their coop at night. We have a rooster and a large livestock guard dog and so far we have had zero problems with free ranging on our 10 acres. There's almost always someone here as we work opposite shifts so we can stay home with the kids...

We had planned on doing a quite large, covered run, however everything took longer and cost more than we thought, and in August we had to take a trip and had no run for them yet. So we had to make a smaller, temporary run for while we were gone and we haven't started permanent run yet.
So this is what we have right now - a coop with a small run that is nowhere near sufficient for them should we need to leave for any period of time and the chickens can't free range.
We have been crunching the numbers on building our big chicken run (I want them to have lots of room whenever we're not home) but am starting to wonder if it's worth the price considering we don't really leave that often. We're looking at about $400 in materials - at least and a lot of time to construct it.

Then I looked at the automatic chicken doors at 150-180 bucks and I began to wonder if we really needed to make the big run at all? Once they get used to the door, even when we are not home, it'll work the same as any other day...where they free range all day and go in at night, right? Am I missing something? I mean I know in the end we would not be here if a predator struck in broad daylight but honestly the way we are doing things right now, it could easily happen when we are home as well as they are free ranging over a rather large area...
I just need some insight here. It seems too simple a solution.
Thanks!
 
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sourland

Broody Magician
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
May 3, 2009
126,286
390,559
2,027
New Jersey
Eventually, predators will strike - It always happens. The advantage to having a pen is that it is available if predation starts to take place. The birds could then be penned up until the predator situation Is resolved. Perhaps a smaller 'emergency' pen might be a good idea?
 

Colrad

Hatching
6 Years
Sep 1, 2013
2
1
8
I won't claim to be a chicken expert or anything but will give you my opinion. I have a medium size run off my coop that I leave them in until mid-morning then open the gate and let them free range. I was told by a farmer friend that without keeping them contained that they will lay their eggs everywhere except the nest boxes. They seem to complete egg business by around nine so that's when I typically let them out. Again this is what I was told and not sure if it's correct or not. Enjoy your chickens!
 

linneamae

In the Brooder
6 Years
Feb 8, 2013
31
0
29
Central Minnesota
Sourlans - I could keep the 'temporary' run in tact...and maybe even expand it as time goes on perhaps...

Colrad - couldn't I just set the time for a little later in the morning then? For the door to open after normal egg-layin time? Or would that be too late for them to have to sit in the coop?
 
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cafarmgirl

Crowing
10 Years
Mar 24, 2009
5,521
613
327
California, central valley
Sourlans - I could keep the 'temporary' run in tact...and maybe even expand it as time goes on perhaps...

Colrad - couldn't I just set the time for a little later in the morning then? For the door to open after normal egg-layin time? Or would that be too late for them to have to sit in the coop?

The answer to this question depends on your coop. If it is small and dark they will not appreciate being kept in. If it is large with plenty of natural light and room to move around then they won't mind, as much. They still won't like it but they'll be ok with it. The other issue with that idea is that chickens don't just lay eggs in the morning. The time of day they lay will vary, being a bit later then when they laid the previous day. So sometimes you'll have hens laying in the middle of the day or early afternoon or later.
 

naadarien

Chirping
6 Years
Feb 10, 2013
145
9
88
Central Vermont
My Coop
My Coop
We have started free ranging mostly because our large run was mostly destroyed in a storm last week. The girls seem to like the ranging though they are still hanging out by the coop for the most part.

Maybe I am missing something, but if $400 is a stretch then why build a huge run? Why not build something where they can get out and do all of the things chickens like to do outside besides forage? And then, for the few times you aren't there feed them some kind of mash/pellet (since they won't be able to rely in foraging). That saves you the cost of the run in lieu of buying food. Or you can look at that in the reverse. Spend the $400 because it will save you in feed over several or more years.
 
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4 the Birds

Songster
9 Years
Oct 15, 2010
1,490
106
163
Westfield, Indiana
A run is not essential but they are very nice to have and your birds will appreciate one. The ideal run provides a shaded and protected area just outside the coop. Our birds have a large free range pasture but often hang out in the run during hot afternoons. It is an ideal space to feed the birds and allows them to always have access to an outside space.

 

linneamae

In the Brooder
6 Years
Feb 8, 2013
31
0
29
Central Minnesota
naadarien - I don't really understand what you're saying about the $400 run saving me cost of food. They will free range nearly all the time, regardless of whether or not I build the run. I'm just trying to decide if adding to the 4X10 run that I already have is even necessary if I decide to go ahead and buy the automatic door.
The bigger run was to be for when we are not home, because the run they have now is too small for them to be confined to for any length of time.... but my point was, that with an automatic door, perhaps I do not need the run after all, as they will be able to get out and forage even if we are not home, and then get back into a safe place at night.
 

boskelli1571

Crowing
10 Years
Mar 7, 2011
3,771
1,483
381
Finger Lakes, NY
Do you have a local dump/recycle center available? I built my hen-house extension with recycled 2x4s' and just bought the ply wood for the body. I did the same with my run, only had to buy some hardware I didn't have and chicken wire. Also local contractors/ timber yards might have some used or 'second' wood for cheap, neighbors dismantling houses/barns etc. Check out your local craigslist too, Sue
 

boskelli1571

Crowing
10 Years
Mar 7, 2011
3,771
1,483
381
Finger Lakes, NY
I won't claim to be a chicken expert or anything but will give you my opinion. I have a medium size run off my coop that I leave them in until mid-morning then open the gate and let them free range. I was told by a farmer friend that without keeping them contained that they will lay their eggs everywhere except the nest boxes. They seem to complete egg business by around nine so that's when I typically let them out. Again this is what I was told and not sure if it's correct or not. Enjoy your chickens!
Mine free-range all day (supervised), but they always return to their nest boxes to lay eggs. The only time I found a couple outside the boxes was when the Beagle was stealing them! Sue
 

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