Run design long and narrow?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by wb6jbm, Jul 24, 2008.

  1. wb6jbm

    wb6jbm New Egg

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    Jul 24, 2008
    Butler County Ohio
    first, Greetings to all. Great place here. (1st post)

    i've been around chickens for quite a while, on and off, in the last 48 years, but am about to take my first foray into having them myself, instead of just 'birdsitting'..

    i've been watching, reading, researching for months. and am finally about to solidify my design plans, but before i actually started,,, figured i would stop lurking, register, and get validation....


    the run is specifically what i'm wondering about...

    the plan is, for it to be (eventually) about 150' long. 3' high, and 5' wide. completely enclosed. (built modularly, in 4 foot long segments, with every 5th segment having hard walls (basically like a 'chicken island' along the 'chicken turnpike')

    the land is basically a mix of old hardwoods, and scruff, not flat, but not quite like in WV.

    basic construction is 4 foot long 'segments', that are 3 foot high, and 5 foot wide. covered with 1" chicken wire on top, 1/2 inch hardware 'cloth' along the sides, and extending out (burried 6 inches) 1 foot along the sides.

    wood frame construction (2X4's).

    i figure, this should give the girls plenty of 'interesting things to do', shade, sun, etc....


    each second 'segment' having a 'removable' top, for 'maintenance'...

    from a construction standpoint, it gives me a 'manageble size' modularity, so that i can get the coop, 'support equipment (water/feeder/lighting/ventilation)' in place, and at least the first 16 feet (4 segments) done before winter sets in. (mainly so that over the winter i can 'test' the water system, and fix whatever breaks, etc.... in a small setting)

    so that early next year, it's time to run down to Mt Healthy, and pick up some fuzzy little ones! just a few. i'm thinking not more that 6 or 7 to start, mainly so that in the eventual 'oops' moment, i don't loose a huge number of the girls...

    the setting is extreemly rural, and let's just say, not easy to get to. so a lot of the overall 'system' will be automated.....
    i.e. automatic pop door opener
    automatic waterer
    HUGH feeder
    etc etc...

    and yes, i have a bit of an engineering/electronics/automation background, so i do not consider the automation part to be any big deal.






    anyway,,,,, the question is,,,,,

    with it being 3 foot high, 5 foot wide, and, well, as long as i care to make it,, are any of those dimentions BAD? do the chickens NEED to have 'high spots'?


    once we get done 'cutting' the 'driveway' out to where the coop will be, i'll get a site setup with some pictures, and more specifics on the 'design details'.....


    and

    i'll ask about the possiblity of making a 'chicken cave'......


    thanks

    /rick
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2008
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Hi, welcome to BYC [​IMG]

    Interesting concept. Normally I would say that you'll regret a long 3' high run BUT you seem to have thought through the access issue here a lot better than most do. Realize that you still won't want to be chasing a chicken through this thing, though [​IMG] Also, all those access panels will *each one of them* have to be very securely locked down so that nothing can get in that way. Otherwise (and I have to say I do have some lingering reservations about the chicken-chasing angle) it sounds workable, although I have never heard of it being done quite that way.

    The very narrow / very long aspect may be a little more complicated for you, though. First, remember that you're getting very poor value for money when you fence in a long narrow strip like that -- you could fence in an equal area with significantly less work/expense (i.e., a smaller quantity of fencing supplies) if it were more squareish. I realize this is likely to run along an existing fence which somewhat changes the calculation but you will probably still have to do extra predator-proofing (digproofing, at least) on that fence.

    Second, and more problematically, I am skeptical that the chickens are going to percieve this as really being a 750 square foot run. Mind you this is just intuition/guesswork, but I would really betcha they will spend the majority of their time relatively close to the coop when the run is that narrow. Whereas a, say, 10x75' run, or 20x35, I suspect would be much likelier to encourage them to wander.

    Five feet is probably *just* wide enough to avoid the worst of the other potential problem with a very narrow run, which is one chicken either setting up a roadblock that nobody else will go past, or cornering some unlucky schmoe in the end of the run and giving them a thorough clock-cleaning. (The latter may not happen simply because I honestly doubt they'll get to the 150'-away end, or hardly ever). I have a temporary run set up right now which is about 4'6" wide and 14' long, and notice that the narrow width does seem to distort chickens' behavior because even if someone doesn't totally prevent others from going past they can make the others *real* reluctant to do it. I'm not saying don't do it -- especially if this is just going to be for 6-7 chickens, it sounds like a reasonable thing to try -- but I think what I'm saying is, if you have ANY reasonable alternative it might be worth thinking again about it, especially if you ultimately want a larger flock.

    JMHO,

    Pat
     
  3. wb6jbm

    wb6jbm New Egg

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    Jul 24, 2008
    Butler County Ohio
    thank you pat!

    hrm. that was two things i didn't consider, 'chicken bullies' and 'chicken chasing'...

    obviously, with the chicken chasing, we could have available a 'blocking door' that could be put in one of the access's, to block the run, and reduce the available 'getaway' area..

    and

    i've NEVER chased a chicken before. but i've never 'chicken sat' for over 3 weeks at a time, so i'm sure there will be a reason to at some point.


    as far as expense/efficience of design....... it's not that cost is irrelevent, but it's not really the driving factor..... the bigger issue that i was concerned with, was structural integrity of the 'roof', and the ability for it to be built modularly.

    i.e. a 5 foot width 4 foot length 'panel' for each roof segment should be strong enough so that when Mr. Coyote jumps up on the top, he at least won't collapse the roof!

    the 3 foot height is what i figured would be the minimum i could go, so that it will be possible to access the run from the 'roof panels' and still allow the chickens to not think that they are riding in a miata with the top up. also, there IS the wind profile that i'm concerned about... i've had to chase enough deck furniture during thunderstorms, and i'm NOT interested in chasing chicken run parts all across the property.




    a high 'edge to volume ratio' IS one of the desired design points. i'm interested in maximizing that so that i get the benefit of the chicken 'runoff' for nice green growies just outside the length of the run. it may end up with nothing growing INSIDE the run, but by golly, just outside of it,,, WOW... (our dirt here in butler county is mostly clay, ugha, and if you want to grow anything, you almost HAVE to use 'mels mix' (peat moss + vermiculite + compost) so that you have dirt you can actually grow something in, other than weeds. there is also the 'maintenance' issue of it as narrow as possible, so that the normal 'runoff' during rain will mostly result in a 'self cleaning run' (not real interested in having to shovel/rake/blah the dirt IN the run every week, the coop, yeah, the run, NO)




    as far as the 'chicken bullies'... wow. didn't even consider that. although it would be funny (at least once) to watch the 'WHAT IS YOUR QUEST" interaction,


    hrm. with the desire to have it modular (so it can easily extended), be able to be constructed without the use of ladders and cranes and other 'tall things', i'm really really liking that i'm to understand that a 3 foot height is fine (as far as the chickens are concerned).


    i want to make sure i REALLY understand, re: width, i will lose a LOT of edge but taking it to 10ft wide still allows me to build 5X4X3 'modules', but just arranging them differently, will eliminate the bigger 'NONE SHALL PASS' issues.


    and yes, the intent IS to have a much larger flock, but it will be AFTER the 'beta testing' is done. (including a winter).




    anyway, THANK YOU!

    /rick
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2008
  4. swampducks

    swampducks Overrun With Guineas

    Feb 29, 2008
    Barton City, MI
    Quote:Well, my run is 5 feet high, with perches at 2.5 and 4 feet and I've yet to see them perch higher than 2.5 feet, but my chickens are young yet and I've only been doing this chicken thing for about 2 months.

    Quote:I think the modular thing is a great idea, and since you already thought about changing the shape I don't have to suggest that. You could also keep the straight run concept and just have side rooms every 10-15 feet or so rather than a big square.

    Quote:I bought 6 st run chicks in May, and one died within 2 days and another didn't really thrive and died at 5 weeks leaving me with four and 3 of them turned out to be cockerels! I wish I'd gone with 10 or all pullets. Just something to think about.

    Good luck and welcome.
     
  5. wb6jbm

    wb6jbm New Egg

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    Jul 24, 2008
    Butler County Ohio
    "four and 3 of them turned out to be cockerels!"

    oh that poor girl..... [​IMG]


    yes, 'chicken habitrail'!!!!


    /rick
     
  6. Buff Hooligans

    Buff Hooligans Scrambled

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    Jun 11, 2007
    My only comment is that you will be needing to get into the run yourself to do maintenance (raking, repairing holes they dig, cleaning up treats they don't eat, adding sand, etc.). A 3-foot high run will not allow this.
     
  7. swampducks

    swampducks Overrun With Guineas

    Feb 29, 2008
    Barton City, MI
    Quote:The tops are removable.

    Quote:Ah, but I have 25 more straight run chicks coming next week, eventually she will have friends. [​IMG]

    And DH has plans for 2 of those cockerels. [​IMG]
     
  8. brandywine

    brandywine Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 9, 2008
    Western PA
    One workaround for the "won't range that far from the coop" issue -- which is the first problem I thought of reading the description -- would be to insert small modular coops along the length of the thing, and keep separate populations of birds along the run.

    That could turn a necessity into a virtue, as you could raise different ages, sizes, types and even species along the length, and add and remove housing as needed.

    I think that it would be necessary as a concession to how chickens behave. Though one way to encourage them to range the length would be to place their feed at the far end during the day.

    I think the interaction with bullies would be more of a straightforward "None Shall Pass" than a "What is Your Quest?" kinda thing. (Come back here, I'll bite yer knees off ...)

    Narrow spaces and choke points are always trouble when dealing with social animals.

    As for critters getting on top -- raccoons will certainly enjoy this, as may many other species who have heard you got stuff there that tastes just like chicken. The narrowness of the run also means that critters will have better opportunities to reach through and nab birds than they would in a more square or round pen. Two words: hot wire. On top, along the perimeter bottom, and 10" or so up from the bottom, all along both sides -- and install it before you put birds in. Bait the hot wire with bacon and peanut butter, and let the local critters train themselves.

    Also, what about deer? If deer currently travel through the intended run of your modular system, you may have difficulties with them attempting to jump the run and instead crashing and destroying it. 3' high is a hop to a deer, but the width is just enough to be problematic.
     
  9. wb6jbm

    wb6jbm New Egg

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    Jul 24, 2008
    Butler County Ohio
    "insert small modular coops along the length"

    Cha Ching!!!!!! [​IMG] we have a winner!!!!!

    we've labeled them 'chicken islands' (think of the PA turnpike).

    "Hot Wire", Kencove,,,, quickly becoming one of my FAVORITE stores!

    "raccoons will certainly enjoy this",,,, yep, that is why, we have finally landed on 1/2" hardware cloth vice actual 'chicken warh' for ALL the 'cage part'.

    "what about deer" mmmmmm tasy treats, them deer are! seriously though, i've seen how a deer interacts with a 'chicken moat'. it's funny the first time you see it. no, it's funny EVERY time you see it!
    although this isn't really 'textbook' chicken moat, we have mapped out all the existing deer paths, and for whatever reason, there are NONE where we are building.
    but we have still considered deer in the planning. (and the dehydrator, and the freezer, and the....)

    "25 more straight run chicks coming next week",,, WOOT!


    thanks y'all. this board is great!!!!

    /rick
     
  10. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:That sounds like a very good plan for utilizing a long thin strip like this.

    "Hot Wire", Kencove,,,, quickly becoming one of my FAVORITE stores!

    Do not overlook www.premier1supplies.com . Personally I think their stuff is better, nothing against ken cove.

    a high 'edge to volume ratio' IS one of the desired design points. i'm interested in maximizing that so that i get the benefit of the chicken 'runoff' for nice green growies just outside the length of the run. it may end up with nothing growing INSIDE the run, but by golly, just outside of it,,, WOW...

    That is an interesting *idea*, but I suspect that is not how it is really going to work out for you. What poo runoff will mostly give you is a soluble nitrogen (N) subsidy to the soil. However, clay soil is not generally particularly deficient in nutrients as such - anyhow that is never its MAIN problem. (BTW, I actually lived in Butler Co OH for 3 years back in the early 90s, in Oxford! [​IMG]) Your main issue is more likely to be needing organic matter and soil aeration (note that the first also helps produce the second). Composted coop litter will help with this, but poo runoff will NOT.

    there is also the 'maintenance' issue of it as narrow as possible, so that the normal 'runoff' during rain will mostly result in a 'self cleaning run' (not real interested in having to shovel/rake/blah the dirt IN the run every week, the coop, yeah, the run, NO)

    Again, I regret to say that I really do not think it is going to work out that way for ya. If you have a substantial grade on the run footing, you will get erosion and it will slump down til it is basically flat. And if you do *not* have a substantial grade on the run footing, the poo is going to pretty much stay where it falls unless the local creek jumps its banks or something.

    If you are concerned about low-maintenance for the run, IMO the best thing you can do is to splurge on a delivery of sand or roadbase (mixed sand-gravel-dirt) to put 4-6" in the run, with grade boards to prevent losing it right away. This will help keep the run footing DRY, and it is *damp* pooey ground that causes smells and the worst of the flies. The drier you keep your run footing, the pleasanter it will be for everyone. (A roofed run takes this a step further but is probably not practical in your situation).

    Or if you are willing to trade off low-maintenance for usefulness in soil-building, put a layer of something organic in your run and let your chickens poo the heck out of it for a while, then compost it some and put it on the gardens. Because it will tend to stay damper than sand, you will have a bit more of an aroma issue, but OTOH it will allow the chickens to make more of a contribution to your garden soil.

    Just somet thigns to thing about,

    Pat​
     

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