Run maintenance


In the Brooder
Mar 6, 2015
Austin, TX
Hi y'all! Still in the process of building my coop and run. The byc community on reddit is much smaller so I asked them some questions because I'm quite overwhelmed by the size of this community, but now I think I need more opinions/advice.

My coop is 4'×6' and the run will be underneath and extend another 4' so it will be 4'×10'. I plan on putting a gate on the end because I want my chickens to be able to free range with supervision sometimes. But they seemed concerned that I wouldn't be able to clean the run very well since its mostly under the coop.

First of all, I thought a run under the coop was quite common. Second, I didn't know the run needed substrate such as shavings or hay. Is this necessary? If so, is it really that hard to clean shavings or hay from under a coop? I mean with the gate and a rake I feel like I should be able to handle it. They basically suggested I scrap my plans and build a tractor.

Now I'm waffling and my coop is half built, I need to make a decision quick!

This is one of those personal preference things. While their concerns are not necessarily invalid, neither are your plans to overcome them. *I* don't see anything particularly concerning about your plan, nor would I hesitate to construct a similar setup. How high will the coop sit off the ground? This would play into how easy/hard accessing the area underneath would be. I do like the idea of an external access point vs. having to access it only from within the run as this will cut into one possible concern which is having to be on hands/knees inside the run trying to reach under the coop section as the run is not always going to be the cleanest, most pleasant place to be crawling around.
You don't "have" to have an added substrate in your run. Some choose to, but using the natural substrate (the dirt) is also quite common. At the moment my run does have hay - left over from having been used to cover the snow because my divas didn't like walking in the snow and I wanted them to get out and get some fresh air this winter. During the summer I don't go out of my way to put litter in there.
Your coop is exactly the same size as my coop. My 4' x 4' coop is elevated by 2 feet with a 4' x 6' attached run. The area under the coop is where my chickens' favorite spa/lounge/nap area. It is nice and cool in the summer, nice and warm in the winter.

I have no problem reaching underneath the coop from inside the run with a rake to stir up the pine shaving daily, doing the deep litter method on top of the 1/2" hardware cloth bottom, which is placed on a dirt surface. There is also a removable front panel beneath the coop so I can pull out the dust pan to clean it periodically.

Here is what it looks like from inside the run. I put a small crate to reduce the ramp slope when they were younger.

Here you can see the removable front panel to access underneath the run. I no longer put food and water beneath the coop, it gets too dusty with the dust bath. Their food & drink are inside the run now.

We have just dirt in the run. Our coop is built on a hill, the run is hardware cloth followed by gravel for drainage followed by topsoil. The entire coop and run is covered. So far we haven't had an issue with mud and the chicken poop just goes away into the dirt.
My coop will be 2.5' off the ground but the run will come up to about 5' where its not under the coop for the hatch and ramp etc. My coop will also be placed at the top of a slope for good drainage. It didn't occur to me to put down a substrate in the run. I was considering sand for the inside but I know it has its own pros and cons. Whats your opinions on sand? If I use sand inside the coop, is it an option for the run, or would it wash away? I do like the idea of gravel and dirt though.
My girls love to get under the coop and nest down. All that is there is dirt and they scratch and lay down and hang out during the day no matter the season. I have dirt or dirt/straw in my runs and I have pine shavings in the coop. I put out a pan with sand in it for a dust bath option other than dirt. I will put my grass clippings in the run as well and they will bed down on that too!

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