Do I need a run?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by stayathomedad, Aug 19, 2008.

  1. stayathomedad

    stayathomedad In the Brooder

    Aug 19, 2008
    Hello everybody!
    This is my first post so I hope a similar question hasn't been asked, but I haven't seen it if it was.
    I have an order of 25 chicks coming in September. I thought I better start making preparations for a coop. (I'll have them in my basement initially.) I have 3 acres so I do plan on letting them free range in nicer weather, but I live in north-eastern Indiana and fall/winter is nearing so I thought about building a coop inside my garage roughly 100 square feet. If they will be confined only in cold/snow weather, is it necessary to build a run as well? When nicer weather comes back I plan on letting them out in the morning and closing them in at dusk. Can anyone refer me to plans specific to inside a garage?
    Another side question:
    With cooler weather approaching, at what point can I put them in the uninsulated garage?
    Thanks in advance for any input.
    By the way, this forum is such a great resource. I really enjoy reading through all of the posts!
  2. keljonma

    keljonma Songster

    Feb 12, 2007
    8A East Texas

    We don't have a run, the flock forages our acreage. We never saw the need for a run, but that is something you are going to have to think about. What will you do if you have to go away for a few days? Will you have someone let the birds out, leave them locked in, or give them access to a run?

    Our hen house is part of our old (1880's) barn. Our flock is usually outside except on the worst of days through late autumn. Their outside activities and length of time they are out during winter depends on the day and the forecast. We open the doors to let the flock out everyday, unless there is a severe blizzard or wind chill gets nuts. The past couple years, we have had a couple of weeks with continous blowy snow and temps hovering at -10° to -15° before the wind chill. I didn't want to go out, let alone let the flock out. [​IMG] And on those days, they pretty much stayed in the barn.

    We put straw bales around the walls on the inside of the barn to help insulate. We put hay bales, veggies and grains out in the barn. So the flock forages the greenery in the barn on those extreme weather days. This is great when there is tons of snow covering the ground.

    We have had to shovel snow just to get to the barn, and open the doors, so occasionally we get down to grass. The flock loves it. Unfortunately, it gets mucky pretty fast if the temps warm up to the upper 30°s.

    Spacewise, you'd be okay at 4 sq ft per bird. Although, if the birds get bored, they may start picking at each other. So that is something to watch. Besides the greenery, our flock loves Purina FlockBlock, which we put in the barn during winter. We have also given them corn on the cob, which keeps them busy for a while.

    We use heat lamps over our waterers when the temperature inside the hen house and barn are near freezing. When it got severely cold, we used a small space heater. But I admit, that was more for my comfort than the flock's.

    As long as your flock is fully feathered they can be in an uninsulated area, but you may find a light helpful for safe movement in the area. When the temps take a dive, I usually give the flock some vitamins/electrolytes and additional protein for a couple of days. I think it helps keep them healthy.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2008
  3. Wildsky

    Wildsky Wild Egg!

    Oct 13, 2007
    I have my girls (and boy) in a coop outside, I do have a run, its pretty small but I have used it a bit.

    At first I kept the chickens in the coop and run to get used to where they live etc. I started to gradually let them out to " free-range" in the afternoons only - once they started laying, so they would know or learn that the coop is home and thats where the eggs get laid.

    Other than that, I have used it when we had guys working on the house. In winter they did come out into the run - I did have to shovel etc.. but it was a place they could get out and get some air etc..

    I also live on 3 acres, but we have the back yard area fenced off to keep the chickens a little safer from roaming dogs.
  4. Heather J

    Heather J Songster

    May 29, 2008
    I also use a run to keep the birds laying their eggs in the nest, and free-range in the afternoons, though I might be able to let them out a bit earlier as well. I also use the run when we're out of town so my friends don't have to worry about counting heads to make sure everyone got back in for the night. I also use it to let them roam in a protected area if I have people working in the yard or heavy equipment. Depending on what you expect to happen in the future, (I have LOTS of yard projects coming up) you may want a small one so they can get out when you can't let them free range. It might also be handy when they are still small and at risk from stray cats and other daytime predators.
  5. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    With three acres, I'd put my coop and run, outside.
  6. brandywine

    brandywine Songster

    Jul 9, 2008
    Western PA
    You may want at least a temporary run, so you can acclimate your chicks to the outdoors before they are big enough to totally free-range.

    It's also handy to have on days when you don't want to let the chickens free-range, but also don't want to keep them cooped up.

    I won't be letting my six-week-old pullets free-range until they are all, without fail, getting themselves back in the pop-door at dusk. So far, there's always someone "confused" about how to get home. In another couple of weeks they should have it sorted out and I'll open the door of the run.

    The only advice about a garage coop I can offer is that, given your climate, you may want to go with solid sides rather than wire mesh.

    If not, you can staple plastic up during the cold weather. Either way, be careful of drafts, and consider your tolerance for feather dust on your car and stuff.
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    I'd really suggest a run. First, because there are likely to be times when it isn't smart to have the chickens loose (e.g. when there have been predators conspicuously around, or when you are trying to teach them to lay in the nestboxes instead of all over your 3 acres, or things like that).

    And second, because I can almost guarantee you are going to want to plastic-wrap that run for winter so you can let them out into it as much as possible, because 4 square feet TOTAL per bird is a really really tiny area for them to spend the winter in. People *do* it sometimes, of course, but they also tend to have problems with cannibalism, disease, etcetera. Remember that once birds get a habit of pecking, attacking each other, eating their eggs, etc it can be real hard to break them of it even once more space and diversions are offered later on. And cramming 'em in that tight really increases your chances that those things will start up.

    Good luck,

  8. stayathomedad

    stayathomedad In the Brooder

    Aug 19, 2008
    Thanks for the advice everyone.
    I live on an old dairy farm. Would I be better off to convert the old milkhouse into a coop and build a run to it? How big do I want the run to be for my 25?
  9. Heather J

    Heather J Songster

    May 29, 2008
    The run should be a minimum of ten square feet per bird, more space is better, of course--especially if you decide to add more birds down the road, as most of us do. lol The old milk house sounds great if you can make it predator proof. i wish I had something like that. [​IMG]
  10. stayathomedad

    stayathomedad In the Brooder

    Aug 19, 2008
    I had a few friends recommend the milk house, but it will need a lot of tlc. I don't think it has been used in years. Half the ceiling is gone, doors need repaired/replaced, windows are broken, and then it needs retrofitted for my chickens. As far as the windows, I thought just closing them up with some plywood, but it would be nice to have the option to open up on nicer days. Then I want to have proper ventilation, but not sure how to go about doing it. All of this on a very tight budget and not being the most handy/crafty person in town.

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