I almost gave my hens away today: "run" problems and more....


13 Years
Apr 22, 2009
So, I have had my chickens for a year. They are Golden Comets and I have 5 (just hens). When I got them I planned on letting them free range during the day and into the coop at night. We did build a run, about 8 feet by 4 feet.

I didn't anticipate the predators I would have: we've got two goshawks and a fox that have all attempted to eat my hens. And so they are cooped up, almost around the clock. This is turning their dirt floor into a bad and smelly mess. Also they just seem really anxious to get out, which I can't do except when I am there to supervise them (sometimes the hawk even attacks while I am with them).

In tears I tried to make the decision to give them to a friend today so that they would have a better life with more freedom. It is so hard. I love having them but they are too cooped up.

*I need to build them a new arrangement in which they have more room. What is the best amount of space for five birds?

*What can I use on the floor in the run to prevent the mucky build up of mud and chicken poop? I'm hoping to build the next run more into the woods a bit so that they will have a lot of leaves and scratch.

I just want them to be happy and they do not seem happy now.
For five standard size hens a run that is 50 sq ft is adequate, but of course the bigger it is the less mess that will build up. Leaves, shavings, etc in the bottom will help and you can clean them out periodically.
5 large fowl (standard sized) birds i'd say a minimum of 50 sq ft. for the run. the more room the better obviously. I'd suggest however 10X10 dimensions or more if you can afford the room and wire costs.
you mentioned putting the run into a wooded area, try to avoid actually fencing in large trees as your going to have issues with covering up the run (which you need to do if your having so much problems with a goshawk) to keep out any predators.

sand is the ultimate run/coop litter! its like having a chicken litter box, easy to clean (just rake or scoop or till it up) sand + DE (food grade) makes for keeping it dryer and easier to drain, and keeps the smell down. best case is shovel up the first couple inches of muck thats in there now, get a small load of gravel (crushed gravel is best- the small kind if you have the stuff "Crush and Run" that would be all you'd need!) and then add about 2" of sand on top of that. call around landscaping and contractor places for prices. for 30$ I got gravel in my run and sand in both run and coop and it makes a huge difference!!!!!!! much less smell, birds' feet stay cleaner and dryer, its attractive to look at, and they have a 24/7 dirt bath available.

good luck!
On average you should have at least 10 square feet of run space per. If they are kept locked up all the time I would try to give them more space than that. As far as the ground I put down pea gravel in my run I have heard of others using sand. You can also put down straw or hay. Either way you need to make sure the run is well drained so that it does not hold water.

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