Need run building ideas/how to

Back on the Farm

8 Years
Mar 9, 2011
I've got a 4x6 coop in the works, but I'm trying to figure out the best way to build the run. I live on a farm so building permits, codes etc... don't apply since I'm zoned ag and can do pretty much anything I want as long as it is related to ag.

I like the ease of the the dog kennel panels, but really don't want to spend the dough. I've seen a few great run pictures on this board and was wondering what seems to work the best. Fortunately, I have a few dogs, so they keep the foxes off my main property - I'm not doing free range because of my dogs. I want my girls to have space outside the coop so that they can be out if they want during the day. I plan to pen them up in the coop at night.

What size lumber, height, welded wire size do you all recommend? Any building advice for a newbie? How large would you recommend making the run? I've got 8 chicks and will be getting 2 ducks. I've got basic construction skills (grew up on a farm (dairy - no chicks) - built and fixed everything we needed)

Thank you
If you want to build a roofed run, think of it as a BUILDING (cuz it IS, it just has wire instead of solid sheathing on the walls). Thus for that you need a shed building book or pole-building book.

If you want an open topped run, then you are building a FENCE. If you are unfamiliar with constructing this sort of fence, Gail Damerow has written an excellently-detailed-and-intensive book on the subject. If you ask people here, you will get all sorts of opinions, largely b/c everyone has their own ideas of what is secure and durable enough.

IMO for a run fence you want at least 4' high (they can still fly over if they want to, of course!), with at least the corner posts being either pressure-treated 4x4s or cedar fenceposts no less than 4" diameter and sunk AT LEAST 2 1/2' into the ground (deeper if it is often-soft soil, or a very wind-catching fence such as hardwarecloth or something you will attach tarp or other windbreak material to). The intermediate posts should generally not be more than 6' or so apart (although it depends on your overall fence construction) and while you CAN use t-posts for them it is not much more expensive to use wooden posts and that will greatly facilitate putting a horizontal top and bottom element (2x4 or 2x6) onto the fence, which makes it FAR sturdier and more durable.

For wire, don't use chickenwire, modern chickenwire is pretty easily ripped thru by raccoons and dogs and so forth. The most common choices that are reasonably predatorproof would be 1/2" hardwarecloth (expensive, and rather wind-catching), 1x1 welded wire mesh (middling-expensive), 1x2 welded wire mesh aka 'cage wire' (middling-expensive, make sure you get a heavy enough gauge), or livestock-quality 2x4" welded wire mesh (to which you are best off adding something smaller-mesh to the bottom 2-3').

Chainlink is also fine, IF IT IS HEAVY GAUGE (a lot of what's sold these days, especially for cheap, is NOT) and is INSTALLED VERY, VERY TIGHTLY and with something smaller-mesh added to the bottom 2-3'. Chainlink kennel panels are fine too if they are the aforementioned heavy gauge and tight (again, a lot of them these days aren't and dogs can paw openings in them to get thru! yes, even when they are being sold AS kennel panels
). If you use kennel panels, they should be anchored down well (earth anchors, or attached to fenceposts) and although it varies with the design of the particular panels you often need to use lumber (or, in some cases, you can use hardwarecloth) to block off gaps where panel corners meet and around the gateway panel.

No matter what the run material is, you will want some means of intercepting predators that try to dig under the fence to get into the run. A lot of people say "bury the bottom of the mesh in the ground!" but you really ought to go down at least 18" as many dogs/foxes/coyotes will happily go down a foot or more, and that is a heckuva lot of WORK in most soils! Consequently in most situations I am much more a fan of doing an apron, i.e. something digproof on the outside of the fence right up against it, because digging predators (except for a very few "professional" foxes who've done this a lot before) will try their digging right *against* the foot of the fence, and won't think to back up a few feet and try tunnelling under from there. You can use great big concrete pavers or very large concrete rubble, but most people use heavy gauge wire mesh of the types described above. I would suggest 2-3' wide as being a safe width. Make sure it is secured very well to the foot of the run fence, and turn the outer edge of the apron down and peg it into place, and then either let the turf grow up thru it or cover it with <whatever you like>.

I would say that if they will not free-range most of the time, 10 sq ft per bird is a MINIMUM and your life and your birds' lives will be much more pleasant if you can provide more (potentially lots more). Be aware that trying to keep ducks and chickens in the same enclosure can be, um, "not pretty", as ducks make an awful muddy mess. Not that it can't be done, especially if you ahve lots of space and/or are willing to deprive the ducks of the option of getting into a container of water; but it does tend to work *better* to separate them.

Good luck, have fun,

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Thanks for the wealth of information.... very helpful. I feel lucky that I have a farm, so space isn't an issue. I will have to build sturdy because I do have foxes and racoons on my farm. I think my dogs keep them at bay because I haven't seen any evidence of them around my house - just in the fields and woods. I will also have to have a top because I have hawks and an eagle - I don't want to lose any of my girls.

Thanks again. I've got a few weeks to get my supplies and to get working - just brought the chicks home yesterday, so it'll be awhile before they go outside to the coop.

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