Free Range or Coop and Run?


Jan 13, 2016
Madison, TN
We have had issues with wild (domestic) cats killing off our flock when we allow them to free range in our 3 acre yard. However, I worry that the run we built for them on the side of the coop may be too small to keep them happy and provide enough hunting ground. We have 4 adult birds now and 6 young chickens (6-11 weeks old) that we will be moving out there when the weather warms up a little. Is it better to allow them to free range and take our chance with predators or is it better to keep them in the coop and run? And should the run be bigger to accommodate all 10 chickens? The coop has nesting boxes and roosting poles inside. We cover it in plastic during the winter with ventilation to keep them warmer and remove most of the plastic during the summer to prevent over heating. We had the bottom half of the run covered with plastic due to one of our chickens getting killed by having its head pulled through the mesh by a predator, but recent storms ripped it off.
This is only the beginning of our 2nd year of having chickens since we adopted the first 3 when a family member moved and had to give them up. We are still learning and this website and the forums have been very beneficial.



Jan 18, 2016
I would say that a coop and run is good for your chickens. It should be large enough that they all have enough space to run and scratch. That's about 2-3 square feet per bird. If you don't like the idea of keeping them contained, you can make life interesting by dumping piles of leaves in the run for them to scratch in, or string up veggies, raise meal worms, etc. There are many things you can do to improve your birds' lives. Also, if you are outside you can let them free range under supervision. The coop should also have enough space per bird. If there is not enough space, pecking and other vices can form. A coop just needs four solid walls, a roof, and a solid floor (if it is on the ground, bury chicken wire or hardware cloth underneath to prevent from digging). The coop should not be completely closed in though. Ventilation will prevent frostbite and respiratory sickness. The ventilated area should not be blowing on the birds though. That will make them cold. As long as they have deep bedding, and a wide roost for their toes, they'll be fine. Their feathers will keep them warm, so the plastic does not have to be there if it annoys you. As for predators, weasels can get through the tiniest holes, so hardware cloth is your best best for filling in holes. Make sure that there is no open spaces! Good luck with your coop!

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