New run, or let them free?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by pfost262, Dec 28, 2015.

  1. pfost262

    pfost262 Chirping

    Jan 16, 2013
    I currently have my 20 hens in a 14ft by 14ft run and large hen house. The run has become very muddy, smelly, and a bit of an eyesore. I was thinking about getting rid of my run and just allowing the hens to travel the yard and do their business. My yard is a decent size but not overly large and my father says that the hens will destroy it to the point where the entire yard looks like the muddy smelly run. What are some options and is my dad right, will they destroy my hard? I was also thinking about moving them to a larger side of the yard and fencing them in with some electric fence. I'm just tired of seeing my enclosed run.

  2. rudy6482

    rudy6482 In the Brooder

    Mar 19, 2014
    In my experience you might have problems letting them run free. Some of our hens decided they wanted to start laying under the porch then they found a way under the house. Our dogs are still finding really old eggs and its not very pleasant when they bust them open. Is your property well fenced? If not, a nieghbor's dog will end up killing everything. As far as them making the yard a mud hole, that just depends on how many birds and how big of an area. If they are used to sleeping in a coop they should return if you just let them out on a day you can watch them.
  3. The Gate Keeper

    The Gate Keeper In the Brooder

    Nov 8, 2015
    Slidell La.
    If you let them free range all the time you will lose some chickens to predators. having said that you will still want a run to put them in on some occasions. by letting them free range some and putting them in there run some there run won't be such a mess... good luck

  4. Free Feather

    Free Feather Songster

    How big is your yard? I vote free range. Unless your yard is really really small, they are not going to make it look like the run. They will be much happier loose.
  5. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    I think I'd address the issues with the run first of all, because you just never know when you might need it. A good run is an invaluable part of a set-up in my mind, because there will always be times you just can't let them out to free range - bad weather, predator issues, or you being gone for an extended period of time.

    What did you use for the "flooring" of your run, or is just set up on the dirt it's built on? How's the drainage in that spot? Can you make the run bigger? If you use the "10 square feet per chicken in the run" formula you have twice the number of chickens in there than the space can handle. Can you use a deep litter for a surface, or maybe a deep layer of sand? Can you put up a run cover to keep it clean and dry? My chickens have been in the same run for almost 2 years. There is no mud, no odor, and they love it.

    If you don't address the issue of the run's cleanliness, I'm afraid you are looking at more serious issues than just the smell and the appearance. If it looks unsightly and smells bad to you it is certainly affecting - or going to affect - your chickens' health. You can let them free range, but all that's doing is leaving the eyesore there and you haven't resolved anything. They will rip up lawns, flower beds, poop on lawn furniture (and barbeque grills, ask me how I know that!) and you can't guarantee that they will always stay in your yard and not go over to a neighbor's, nor can you guarantee their safety against predators.

    I can't tell you what to do, of course, but I can tell you that if it were me I'd bite the bullet, tackle the issues in the run head on, and change it from an eyesore into a pleasant place for your chickens to be and a safe place to be able to enjoy them. Ignoring a problem and creating a potential new set of problems doesn't seem like it's in your best interests or the best interests of your chickens, your father, or your neighbors.
    1 person likes this.
  6. Wyorp Rock

    Wyorp Rock Free Ranging

    Sep 20, 2015
    Southern N.C. Mountains
    X 2

    Can you post some pictures, that way we can see your setup and possibly make some suggestions to help you solve your problem? There are a lot of creative, caring and knowledgeable people here on BYC that I'm sure can help you come up with a solution.

  7. Free Feather

    Free Feather Songster

    The above is good to consider, but you need to know that unless your run is at least 5000 square feet, there will not be a lot, or possibly any greenery if they are in it full time. You would have to start mulching the bare patches. If the whole thing became devoid of greenery, I would do deep litter in it.
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Your run meets the 10 sqft per bird rule of thumb...just barely.
    Even if it was twice as large is would probably still be vegetationless and muddy.

    Free ranging could ruin the yard, or parts of the yard....and leave poops where you really don't want them.......
    ......and the run is a great tool for keeping the birds safe if you need it.

    If there is standing water in the run from runoff or low areas you need to try and arrange for them to be able to drain first.

    Put down some dry organic matter in the run, it will make world of difference almost immediately.
    Dry leaves, straw, twigs, ramial wood chips, etc.
    A mix of materials, sizes and shapes works best.

    This will help decompose the feces and reduce the odors....
    ......and provide a habitat for micro ad macro organisms that will decompose things even quicker.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2015

  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    Space wise, you have 196 sq. feet. Almost enough for 20 birds, but that 10 s.f. standard is an absolute minimum, and does not allow the ground to recover from the grazing/digging action of your little destroyers! You can put a deep mulch in your run, and turn the run from a detriment to an asset in your yard. Aim for at least 6" deep of compostable materials. You can use leaves, grass clippings, weed debris from your garden, litter cleaned out of the coop, hay, straw, chipped trees from a landscaping company, even used stable litter from a near by farm. That deep litter will absorb all of the excess moisture in the area, attract beneficial insects, worms, as well as bacteria and fungus to create a healthy soil environment instead of the toxic dump that a bare dirt run becomes. This healthy environment will also cut your feed bill! Blooie posted some good ideas: covering the run, among others. While working on fixing the soil in the run, you can let your flock out into the yard for supervised short free range time. You'll eventually find a balance that is right for you. Part of that balance might even be cutting back the size of your flock.

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