I'm about to embark on my chicken adventure and need some feedback/information/opinions... I'm having a coop constructed by a fellow here in Seattle and it looks like it will be nice and secure. I'm planning to locate the coop and run at the end of our house, which is bounded on one side by the house and on two other sides by the fence. I'll frame in and screen the remaining side. In the center of this area is a tree, so the space is fairly shady, doesn't get direct sun, and doesn't really grow grass (although it might foster some impressive weeds now that I've raked all the leaves out of the area). The area is 14' x 9' and I'm planning on 4 chickens. One days when we are all out of the house (3 days a week) they wil be in the run, but when someone is home they will free range. Do they need a lawn/grass in their run, or will damp earth be okay? Or can I give the run a layer of straw to frolic in? Does the coop need to get direct sun to keep it warm enough in winter? Would there be a problem with keeping the compost bin in with the chickens, in their run? Should I cover the top of the run with chicken wire? I was planning to do this, but am a little flummoxed with how to deal with the tree. My thought was to build some kind of frame around the tree trunk and staple the chicken wire to it somehow... My husband is not fond of the idea of chickens in general, so the location was chosen mainly because it keeps the chickens close to water and the compost bins, while not locating them in the middle of the yard. It also lets me take advantage of existing fences and walls. Thanks for your input!