My family has decided to take the plunge and get some chickens. We live in the middle of town (like behind the grocery...literally the middle of town). We have a large yard, but we can not free range due to being where we are. However, I have an area that is fenced in with privacy fence. The main portion is 10'x36'. I want this to be one big run for our chickens. I am planning to take netting or wire from the top of the fence over to the ten feet mark, and then make a tall wire fence down to the ground. This way they can't fly off into town and are pretty much enclosed. I would like to make a coop to put at one end, then have the rest open space. We are going to get 5 chickens. I realize this is a lot of space for only 5 chickens. I want them to feel free-range even if I can't really let them into the yard to roam. So here is the question(s): 1) How bad would they tear up the grass/area. It is not a pretty area anyway, mostly weeds, but we are renting the house. I am not so much worried about what the landlord will think, since the house was crap when we moved in and we have fixed it up on our own dime. However, my mom (who will share in the labor and eggs) is worried it will kill the yard forever. 2) We are in a very rainy area for half the year. The area is grassy and nice in summer/fall, but in winter/spring it is muddy. Is mud an issue for the chickens? It does not get puddles or anything, just muddy (we have clay soil). 3) Would you suggest just clipping their wings instead of covering the top of the area? We don't have predators (except a stray cat) in the area since we are (again) in the middle of town. On that note...how do you keep cats away? We are going to close them in the coop of night of course, but while they are young (after the chick phase, when I let them out in the area) I worry the cat would bother/hurt them. Anything else you can suggest to help us get started would be great. This has been a dream of mine for a while and I am excited to find a community full of people who also think about chickens on a daily basis. lol.