Question about Hen Run and how quickly 10 hens will take it to dirt

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Penske, Dec 28, 2007.

  1. Penske

    Penske Songster

    Dec 28, 2007
    Hi All,

    This forum is great! It's way past my bedtime, yet I can't stop reading--such good information!

    If I have a planned hen run that is about 265 square feet and a hen house that is about 110 square feet for 10-12 hens, will they be happy? How quickly will they take the run to dirt (it is currently wooded and natural tall grasses, etc)? Also, will they stay warm enough in the hen house if it that big? I want the hen house big enough so that if the weather gets horrid (windy--which it does on Nantucket!), they will still be happy inside.

    Everything is in the planning stages at this point...

    Any advice?


  2. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Hen house will be fine. Only problem with the size is that it will make you want more!!!

    As for run longevity... Depends on how well rooted the plants and how well they do with abuse. I know the 16 youthful standard sized birds I have on weed duty have almost killed a oh... 800 or so sq foot area in the time they grew between 1-5 months old. They have 3 months left to turn the area into a huge mud pit so I can grow stuff in it this spring. I suspect they will succeed and I'll have a new gardening spot! This grass is the most terrible stubborn stuff to rid of though so it's tough. I can barely get a shovel though it. :eek:

    Edit: I measured the area where the chickens are on duty and it's about 20 x 50 feet. So they almost have 1000 sq feet dead in 4 months.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2007
  3. Penske

    Penske Songster

    Dec 28, 2007
    WOW! Thanks for the information!

    That certainly put it in perspective for me. So, mine will probably have the area bare in about 2 months! I suppose then I'll just put down other things for them to scratch around in--alfafa, hay, leaves, right? Sounds like grass will not have the chance to grow. We will not be able to move them around--will bare dirt with "toppings" be healthy for them?

  4. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Bare dirt with toppings will be fine. Unsuspecting bugs will wander in and get snatched up just like that. Your run will be plenty big for a dozen or so hens. With the 10 sq foot outside room per hen rule... I cannot imagine 100 hens on the fence in area!

    Your run may last more than 2 months if it is the start of the growing season. But yeah, no grass will be able to get themselves well attached before being scratched and eaten. No plans to free range? If not, I suggest getting a cover for the run so hawks don't eat them, and putting an L shaped frencing along the outside of the run so digging things like coons and dogs cant get in. Also, chicken wire is often not enough as dogs can chew right though it. Most recommend hardware cloth, or chain link with hardware cloth around the bottom 18 inches or so. I personally use two layers of 1" chicken wire from probably the 40's or 50's, when wire was still made tough unlike the new stuff you see today.
  5. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Crowing

    May 8, 2007
    You might want to think about making a few grass protection frames for the run, before they destroy all of it. You just make a frame with 2x4s and put hardware cloth over the top of it. The grass will grow through it for the chickens to eat, but they won't be able to scratch it up. Plus, the wire is sturdy enough that they can walk on it.
  6. SeaChick

    SeaChick Songster

    Apr 25, 2007
    Southern Maine
    Our 6 hens have a 11 x 6 run and we've been using dried autumn leaves over bare dirt. The run has a roof so the dirt stays dry except around the edges. Works well except they scratch up a LOT of dust!!!
  7. RubberChickenLubber

    RubberChickenLubber Songster

    Oct 19, 2007
    Newton, NC
    To keep foxes and dogs out you can also run electric fence on the outside of your run about 3-4 inches up from the ground and about 2-3 inches out. That way when the animal goes to dig it hits the fence. We learned the hardway after losing our entire stock.
  8. Hi and welcome Penske,
    You can try to preserve some good green grass by laying down some chicken mesh on a part of the run so they cant take the roots when they try to scratch. They will start to scratch it but will find it uncomfortable and will stop.
    Then they will always have a grass fodder supply to munch on when they need it.
  9. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Why not subdivide the run so you can do 'rotational grazing', chicken style? Real pasture lasts a lot better that way, and I don't know why a big chicken yard wouldn't also.

    Divvy it up into 2 or more areas, then run them in just one area while the other(s) rest and regrow.

    Two possibilities for managemant:

    either a) true rotational grazing, where you make sure to switch out of each 'paddock' in time to prevent long-lasting damage to the soil and grass roots;

    or b) (especially if the area is near the house or neighbors and you care about looks) create one or more 'sacrifice areas' that can get thrashed however much the chickens thrash them PLUS one or more 'luxury paddocks' that get used only as much/often as the grass can tolerate, so they stay nice and green.

    Since your crossfencing would only be there for keeping chickens sorted into the right yard, it could be something fairly weebly, like 2" chicken wire. Height would depend on flyingness of your particular chickens. Wouldn't have to work perfectly 100% of the time. You'd want to plan carefully where to run the crossfencing to allow access to all paddocks from a yard right around the coop. If you did plan B you might need some slightly weird shaped paddocks to keep the luxury paddocks near the house/neighbors while still allowing access from coop, but this is commonly done on horse farms and is no big deal.

    Just a thought,

  10. Smitty's Farm

    Smitty's Farm Songster

    Aug 24, 2007
    St Clair County, Il
    Penske - WELCOME TO BYC!!!!!! [​IMG]

    My run is 20 x 14, so about 280 sq ft. My flock of 16 stripped the grass down to dirt within 3 wks to a month and that was with a little morn and afternoon free range time. I guess most people and books recommend about 8 - 10 ft per chicken in the run, but more is always better.

    You are worried about them keeping warm in the winter. How cold does it get there? Insulate the coop you are going to build & keep drafts away from where you install the roosting poles. You can use Deep littler method and other techniques to help keep them warm. On the coldest nights you can give them a little scratch before bedtime to help them generate a little extra heat with their metabolisms working to digest it. I haven't used any heat in my coop yet, but it hasn't been extremely cold here yet. I wanted my flock to acclimate to the weather before using it. It's gotten as cold as 18* on a few occassions, but my coop is insulated and seemed to stay above freezing for now, who knows what is going to happen when we dip in the single digits.......I may be breaking out a heating lamp then. My coop is about 8 x 10 and I wish it was bigger.

    I think planning a coop bigger is wise b/c you will be addicted one you start and you will have them room to feed your addiction. [​IMG]

    Good luck! Keep us posted on the progress. What kind of chickens are you going to get?

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