Open Topped Chicken Yards?


In the Brooder
8 Years
Aug 30, 2011
I've been trying to find information on just making a chicken "yard"...but it seems like everything I find pretty much says if my chickens arent in a closed-top run of some sort, then they will be eaten by predators.

While I in no way want that, my initial plan was to just have the coop in the backyard, and let the chickens out to run around the "non-dog" side of the yard during the day, and then put them up in their coop at night. Our yard is already split down the middle with a 4' high fence to keep the dogs off the one side of the yard (and I will be adding either welded wire of hardware cloth to the backside of that fence to keep the puppy from going through the slats at will like he does now, and bothering the chickens), and the chicken coop has already been placed on the "non-dog" side.
My recent thought, since they are still somewhat flighty babies and I want to be able to catch them without running from one end of the yard to the other after them, was to enclose the area behind the garage (approx 60' x 50') using 4' high welded wire and 4x4 posts. That way, as well, when the chickens are out during the day, if we dont want them having free run of their side of the yard (say, for instance, the gate is open because we are doing something that requires going in and out, or we are entertaining, or mowing, or weedwacking, or something that you really dont want a bunch of chickens underfoot for), we can just keep them in their little chicken yard and they wont be in anyones way.

I just cant seem to find any information on building a yard for the chickens, suggestions, "do nots!", etc...its not too different than just letting the chickens free range, so why does it seem so forbidden and taboo??

I'm not interested in building a chicken tractor and moving it all over the yard...just not condusive to our setup.

Thanks for any ideas and suggestions...
I think a lot of us had the same idea in our head in the beginning, however, once you get started you'll soon realize that everything wants to kill and/or eat your chickens and eggs.

You could be totally fine with what you're wanting to do and if your dog doesn't bother them then it may be a deterent for a lot of other predators. If you clip the feathers on their wings that should keep them from flying over fences and too me it sounds like that is all you're wanting, just a fenced area.
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Our hens are in our fenced yard, and have been since we got them. The fence is 4' tall vinyl picket style, and we've blocked up the spots where the ground isn't level and there is enough space to allow them to go under it. We live in town, but have the following predator animals: dogs, cats, opossum, raccoon, and the occasional hawk. The dogs can't get through the fence, the hens have terrorized the cats, we lock our hens in at night when opossum and raccoons are active, and the trees in our yard would make it difficult if not impossible for a hawk to get a good run at them. I don't worry too much about it any more (I did at first). I think this is another one of those situations where the folks who are so strident about covered runs are just that - the most vocal. What works for our chickens may not be practical for someone else's, even on the same street.

As a matter of fact, I am considering getting some plastic construction fencing and some long inexpensive tomato stakes, to build a temporary 'yard' around my garden so I can let the chickens loose in there every once in a while.
Honestly, my own dogs are going to be my worst predators!! Bird dogs and chickens arent exactly the best mix in the world!! LOL. They already think its their job to keep the yard free of pigeons and squirrels....

I've seen fox in the neighborhood, I'm quite certain there are probably racoon as well. The neighbors cats are a pain in the a$$...I guess in my mind, I just want it to be fine to let them out and run during the day, and put them up at night, and have no issues. But I understand this is the real world, and that is just not going to happen!!

It wouldnt be too terribly hard to make them a smaller fully enclosed run with a top, and then just let them have the run of their side of the yard while I'm out there to keep an eye on them. They are horribly entertaining, after all!!
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Some people will tell you that it has to be covered or all your chickens will be killed. Some people free range and never lose a chicken.

It depends on your individual set-up, space available, local predators, and your comfort level with how safe/unsafe they will be with whatever you choose to do.

Mine free range all day in part of my 6 ft privacy fenced yard. So far no predators. A couple even sleep on top of the coop at night since it's been so hot. But it is a risk I'm willing to take. If something bad happens, I will rethink the arrangement.

I use 3 ft tall plastic fencing form Lowes to block off back part of yard to keep them somewhat contained while freeranging. If they figure out how to fly over, will clip some wings.
I think a lot of it depends on your surroundings. Our chickens roam the back yard all day long with no protection except for the dog occasionally being out there; we live in the city though. The neighbor said she saw an owl hanging around once but I think it was the wacky tobacky talking. I think the hens are big enough to take care of cats and my rotti would love to take care of anything else if he had the chance. Maybe I'm just gambling with fate, only time will tell.
My chicken run is open from the top. But we live in the suburbs so predators are somewhat limited. Although I just lost a 10 week-old Australorp pullet to a predator last week. I just hope I can get him before he gets any more of my gilrs.
But every one is bound to lose at least one chicken to predators.

here is a link to my chicken coop page for your veiweing pleasure
I had a hawk try to snatch one of my BPR's just yesterday. Never had a problem in 3 years until now...
I'm not sure what you'd like this forum to tell you.

Do many folks free range their chickens without losing any to predators? Sure. Will your chickens be in this group? No one here can tell you that.

Sometimes I go to the "predators and pests" forum here. Lots of sad stories. Lots, including folks who free ranged their chickens for a long time and then something bad suddenly happens.

Me, I'm a worrier. I'm also gone all day during the week at work. So, all our coops have roofs on them.

Just this Sunday, while working out in the back yard, a hawk came out of nowhere and landed near one of our (luckily enclosed) coops. And when I came home from work Bill said he scared another one (this one a much larger one than the first) away. And we live in the city.


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