Newbie questions about run design

Gumptrick

Hatching
May 12, 2015
3
0
7
Howdy everyone, new member here. I've been doing my research for a couple of months now and am getting closer to getting my own chickens. Thanks to all the FAQs & such here I have been able to answer most of my questions. But there are a few things I'd like to get some experienced input on!

Here's my situation:
-Space: I have about three acres so there is plenty of room for the chickens. No concerns with neighbors, room, or local laws. Property is in a rural area and backs up to many acres of undeveloped land. Coyotes, raccoons, possum, foxes, hogs, and cats (feral and bobcats) are in the area so predator-proofing is a major concern.

-Skill: I'm a new to raising chickens but I have plenty of experience with construction & carpentry.

-Goals: Eggs and meat

I'd love for the chickens to have as much room as possible so that they can have a more varied diet than just the feed I give them. That makes free-ranging sound like a great idea. On the other hand, my property is "predator central" so perhaps that is not a good idea? I'm weighing the idea of making a smaller but totally enclosed run--that would solve the predator issue but would also limit the space and diet of the chickens. Letting them free-range has the obvious predator concerns. A compromise would be a larger fenced in run but without coverage on top. I'd appreciate any advice or suggestions anyone could offer. Thank you!
 

redsix

Songster
5 Years
Feb 14, 2015
293
28
124
Virginia
I building a large chicken tractor with an 8 ft. by 8 ft. building. The building is raised 2 ft. off the ground and mounted on 16 ft. long skids so the chickens will have an 8 ft. by 16 ft. grassed area. I may add a chicken tunnel later. I may also let them free range on days I am home.
 

Gumptrick

Hatching
May 12, 2015
3
0
7
I thought about building a tractor since it completely eliminates the worry of predators & also letting the chickens in and out of the coop.

Alas, I see two issues with it:
1) I have a lot of space available so it seems wasteful to keep the chickens in a tractor while there are literally acres available.

2) While I have a lot of space, the ground isn't exactly flat. There are a lot of ruts, old rabbit holes, and other general un-eveness on the ground. That would mean if I built a tractor it would have to have a floor in it otherwise it would not be predator-proof. If the tractor has a floor wouldn't that make it harder for the chickens to eat bugs and whatnot?
 

Eggsoteric

Songster
9 Years
Nov 25, 2010
836
226
216
Maryland
Look into movable electrified net fencing. While it won't address any air predators, it's pretty effective against your ground predators. Good luck!
 

Gumptrick

Hatching
May 12, 2015
3
0
7
Look into movable electrified net fencing.

Thanks, I'll check that out!

How much of a concern are aerial predators? I see large birds around but they are nearly always vultures, which as far as I know only eat carrion. It's rare that I see a hawk, especially a large one. Also the area where I am thinking of putting the chickens has a lot of trees in it so while it's not exactly "hawk proof" there is certainly a lot of branches in the way for swooping down, etc.
 

yyz0yyz0

Songster
8 Years
May 2, 2012
616
112
184
You may start to see more hawks once you have hawk food available, so keep that in mind.

What about a combination of your two run ideas? Build a small secure run for most of the time and have a larger less secure run that is attached to the secure run with a gate/door/tunnel. You can then keep them secure when you need to and also have a place to let them roam for more variety when it's applicable. I have a secure run that my girls are in most of the time and I let them out to free range when I"m home and out in the yard. I wish I had an expanded run like I'm suggesting as right now the gardens are too fragile and I have to constantly keep chasing chickens out of the gardens when I let them out. So this time of year mine don't get out as much as I'd like to let them. If i had the expanded run, I'd let them into it as soon as I get home each day and return them to the secure run at bedtime.

for aerial predators while in the open run, many people have suggested fishing line or string run from side to side and intertwined to deter landing in the run. Can also attach small flags/rags to the string to make it more visible.
 

kjstanton

Chirping
5 Years
Apr 21, 2015
66
2
91
I just got my chicks:) the first thing I did was looked for the breed I wanted. There are charts you can look up that tell you if they are good meet, egg chickens. I also wanted a calm breed and cold hardy. There are also at her categories such as brooding and if they like free range etc. then decide how many. I believe each chicken should have 3 square feet of space. If they will be outside year round then it's not much a concern, but in the winter mine will be inside most of the time, so I want them happy and not killing one another. Then you want a predator safe coop. Do you want it on wheels or in one constant area? Consider how you will clean it if you build it yourself. Some use a shed where they can sweep it out. Mine has a pull out tray on the floor.if you are going to get babies what will they be in until they can go outside... My husband says I research and think way into things, but this has helped me be prepared. Hope my thoughts help:)
 

junebuggena

Crowing
Apr 17, 2015
23,102
8,201
491
Long Beach, WA
Do you have any crows that are seen regularly in particular trees on your property? Crows make fantastic hawk/eagle protection. Put your coop near the trees you always see the crows at. They are territorial and will be a good deterrent and early warning system for your flock.
 

Bine

Songster
Mar 14, 2015
317
119
126
Germany, wrong site of the rhine
Alternativ to a tractor would be a coop with four chicken doors and four different runs. So you can dig in the wire of the run and built a good cover over the runs. We have only foxes, hawks and martins here, but some foxes really dig very hard for a chicken meal and some hawks do take hight risks for a chicken.
Two years ago a chicken owner posted this on his blog..... pics speak for themselfs, I think. http://www.danielskleinefarm.de/die-farmbewohner/raubvogel-wildert-bei-den-huehnern/
 

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