Should I free range or build a run?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Peeps298, Oct 29, 2010.

  1. Peeps298

    Peeps298 Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 28, 2010
    Long Island, NY
    Hi guys, i just finished my coop and the next step before I get my birds is to decide whether to free range or build a run off of the coop? Initially I thought i would build a run, but the more i think about it, free ranging the birds sounds pretty cool. I have a decent sized fenced in backyard and i was thinking as long as i clip the birds wings I shouldnt have to worry about them hopping the fences. My concerns are hawks in the area, or stray dogs and cats that might bother them during the day. Anyone out there have any opinions on free ranging verse building a run?


  2. Gallo del Cielo

    Gallo del Cielo La Gallina Resort & Spa

    May 6, 2010
    My Coop
    I would build a run. You can then let them free-range when you're there to watch over them. That's just my advice, I think others let their birds out unsupervised all day long. I live in town and there are too many things (hawks, dogs, cats, coyotes) that could get them. You also have to think about what you would do when you leave town. Perhaps you could get someone to let them out first thing every morning and close them up right at sunset every evening, but it you have a run connected to the coop, you'll have a little more flexibility.
  3. Moabite

    Moabite Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 24, 2010
    Good idea to have a run ready in case, but free ranging in the backyard as a few down sides.
    1.) They scratch all day long. Don't think you can just rake up a pile and come back to get it later.
    2.) They poop by the back door and on everything else.
    3.) Predators are likely.
    I only let my birds freerange when I'm around the house. Our dogs look after them, so I'll run errands and such, but keep them in the run/coop while I'm at work. Also, by keeping them in the run, it is easier to collect the fertilizer they leave behind.
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    What they said. Free-range AND build a run.

    Even if you do end up permanently free-ranging your birds, there WILL be times when you want a run for a few hours or days, and this way you will HAVE it.

    And frankly a lot of people who start out wanting to free range change their minds once they've lost a few (or many) birds to hawks, loose dogs, etcetera or have gotten tired of pooey back porches and extensive egg-hunts. (Although of course the opposite is also true, there are some folks like me who switch *to* at least partial free ranging. But even then, still very very handy sometimes to have that run available...)

    Because the need for a run can come up *real quickly* sometimes, you'd be a whole lot better off building it now, with time at your disposal, rather than going "ack, there is a pack of dogs loose" or "oh no, I have to go away for the weekend and hate to leave them locked in the coop the whole time".

    Good luck, have fun,

    Last edited: Oct 29, 2010
  5. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Some people feel free ranging is the only choice because it is their natural state. Obviously, it is risky, especially if you do not have dogs or other livestock who will help deal with predators. In the end it's a personal choice. I have a very large chicken yard but free range anyway; I have 3 dogs who bark furiously at any invading critter and never bother the chickens.
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I agree. Build a run. It does not have to be huge or tremendously elaborate, but I find times that I want to leave them locked up for a few hours in the morning or sometimes for a few day. A few examples.

    I raise chickens for meat as well as for the eggs. I leave them locked up in the run so they cannot see me butchering the chickens. I don't know if this is required, but I feel better this way.

    When I find a hen laying outside the coop/run, I leave them all locked up for a couple of days to break her of the habit of laying somewhere else. I don't even have to know which one is laying outside. I just lock them all up.

    I housed a broody with chicks out of the coop area, in a tractor just outside the run. A snake was visiting the coop to eat eggs and I wanted the chicks in a snake proof area for a while. When I was ready to move the broody and chicks back into the coop, I just left them locked up a couple of days in the coop and run so she would take them to the coop at night.

    When you first let them out of the coop, it gives you a chance to let them free range just a part of the day until you can build confidence in letting them free range all day.

    When I started, I did not know why I would need the run, I just knew I would so I built one. It gives you a lot more flexibility, so I recommend building one.
  7. TigerLilly

    TigerLilly I failed Chicken Math

    Jul 18, 2010
    Central Florida
    Add my vote to the "build a run" section. Like a lot of others, I let mine free-range when I'm home because of predators (& I live in the 'country'). Mostly I only have to worry about neighbors' & stray dogs, but still...Mine are in a 12 x 7 run & they seem to be content. It's better to be safe than sorry, even if you still let them range all the time!
  8. chics in the sun

    chics in the sun Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 1, 2010
    What they said....

    I have a smallish run/ coop (it's Florida, so it's sort of like a big bird cage with a sleeping loft - mostly all open to keep it as cool as possible). That way they have a bit of room to wander around in while I'm at work, then when I get home I let them out to free-range. I would hate to have them completely locked in a coop all day, but would be worried sick to let them free range when I am not home. We have a lot of hawks here, too, as well as dogs. And one annoying neighbor that lets his pit-mixes roam free on occasion. They are pretty savy with the free-ranging. They know to take cover if the hear of see a hawk glide above them.
  9. joemwm

    joemwm Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 15, 2010
    yes do both even if you like me free range your birds a run is still needed
  10. grassfedeggs

    grassfedeggs Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 31, 2010
    I free range 100% of the time, but I live in the country with very few dogs around. I have lost a few birds to hawks, but I figured that I would so I keep more birds than I need. I have had very little disease and sickness however. My birds enjoy foraging throughout the day, we only keep birds that are hardy and known for being great foragers. I do not clip wings because they would have a better chance at escaping a predator if they could use their wings to fly a little. I do have two small runs that I use when introducing new chickens or confining a hurt bird. In my opinion it's so much easier to just go outside in the morning and let the chickens out. I love how they take care of themselves all day! Of course winter is a different story, I'll keep a part of the yard snow free for them and feed them well. I hope this helps!

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by