The guilt....of not letting them loose

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by grullablue, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. grullablue

    grullablue Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 27, 2008
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Ok, let me first say I've had chickens for several years, but this is my first winter without. I adopted my hens out to a pen-free farm (where my girls go after they "retire") and I had surgery, so instead of worrying about them, too, I figured this would be a good time to revamp the coop/run and raise some new chicks. I plan on getting my assortment of new chicks around March. Possibly McMurray again, but I'm checking my options.

    I have always felt so guilty not letting my girls out. But we live with a woods and pond in our backyard, LOTS of hawks, owls, coons, possum, coyotes have come into the backyard day and night, and stared me straight in the eye.....etc etc. So with all of that, as well as a busy highway we live on, they lived in my 8x12 coop, with a 10x12 attached run. I had 8, I'd like to consider having a few more this time, but think about space, and think about my run needing to be bigger.

    Whenever I go to a farm with chickens running loose, I just love it. I think my fear with the road is because of this farm I used to drive by regularly, they had chickens, geese and ducks all running loose, along a highway (not as busy as mine), and I hit a goose years ago. I never forgave myself. I always watched and slowed down when I went by this place...but this one just came out of nowhere I swear, and it was dark.

    Having a small flock, I just don't want to risk losing any if I can help it. So, they got hand picked grass daily and lots of fresh veggies of various kinds (I work in food service, we have salad/fresh veggies daily and throw out what isn't used, I take it home!)

    First many girls could I realistically keep in my space? (8x8 chicken area inside coop and 10x12 run).

    Secondly, does anyone else feel the same way? Want to keep them safe, but feel guilty doing so (although our neighbors have gone thru several flocks due to predators)

    Third question....I'm considering tearing our run down and making a new one, at least twice the size. Those of you who have used hardware cloth, is it really expensive to fence in a whole run? I've never looked into the size or cost of rolls. Have not yet, anyway. I may consider using the 2x4" squares, and running the fabric over it along the bottom. Right now we have kennel type panels for the run, an old kind that bolts together, and we also have it across the top of the run also. So it's quite the fort knox.

    I am looking forward to new chickens this year, have my breeds picked out, and will have quite an assortment compared to just two breeds before. I will have to get a minimum order of 25 prior to April, I'm just wondering how many of those I can realistically, comfortably keep in my given area.

  2. LOL, I was trying to configure how many chickens you could keep, so I did-



    So if you went with the 8ft per chicken rule, than you can keep 150 birds. LOL. Yeah, I severely messed up! Lol.

    If you went with the 8ft per bird rule, than you could keep 15 birds. Not ideal. If you decide 10ft per bird, than 12. If you decided 12 ft per bird, than 10 birds. With 8 birds, you were keeping them at 14ft per bird (or so). You can decide how many birds to keep, but the absolute maximum would be 15birds. Personally, I think 12ft per bird is fine, and you can keep 10 birds, IMO.

    And yes, I feel guilty locking them up. I don't blame you, but if its what keeps them safe, than absolutely do it!

    If you double the space they have now, than you can keep 20 with 12ft per bird.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2014
  3. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    First off, yes! My chickens have an ample run (16x36), but I still feel guilty when I keep them in due to fertilizing the yard or whatever, because we do typically free range ours - we are lucky to have mostly fields directly surrounding our property, so stray dogs or RT Hawks are our only daytime predator. Our property is fenced now, so stray dogs aren't an issue any more.

    That being said, personally, I could never use the minimum 10 sq. ft. per bird run space if my birds were contained most/all of the time. In your current set-up, I would feel okay with keeping 9-10 birds, since the overall space would give them about 20 sq. ft. each. My bantam coop (silkies/d'uccles) DOES only offer 10 sq. ft. each, but I free-range them 98% of the time.

    Of course birds raised in closer quarters don't know any differently, so just give them as much space as you're able.

    Because I have three coop runs, I would've gone broke using only hardware cloth. My bantam run is the exception, since it's small, I did do it entirely in HW cloth. I used 2x4 welded wire on my runs (including tops), and only used hardware cloth along the lower 24 inches, to prevent reach-ins. We have had raccoons at nightime, and have never had one get into the runs, so the spacing is enough to keep them out. Critters much smaller than a raccoon that can climb would be able to get in. Personally, I think it MIGHT be cheaper to use the 2x4 welded wire with chicken wire over all of that rather than HW cloth all over, depending on your run size. If yours are closed inside a housing at night, that might not be an issue for you, since most predators that will be out in daylight probably won't try the 2x4 welded wire...
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2014
  4. teach1rusl made me think of something. You can do 8sq ft no problem (though I do think that's overcrowded) if you clean consistently. If you won't have time to do daily / every other daily cleaning, then you will have to keep less birds.
  5. wolfandfinch

    wolfandfinch Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 5, 2011
    Vancouver BC
    I'm doing 10sq ft per bird for run and also can't free range. We have hawks and eagles and raccoons and coyotes so it's a concern. I used hardware cloth. It's cheaper to buy on amazon online than anywhere else
  6. grullablue

    grullablue Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 27, 2008
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Thank you for the input! (and information, I didn't recall what the square footage per bird was). I have pics of my coop on the coop page at Right now the run comes straight out the side. I think I will end up adding another 10 feet out, and also make it L shaped, so that it goes perhaps 10 feet off the back, then over. That will actually more than double the run space. I like watching the chickens run around and play on things, perches, logs, etc etc. My last flock of girls also loved standing in water. I would possibly consider incorporating that into "new" run plans. I planted hops outside my run last year, so somehow would want to keep those, yet replace the fencing. I figure I'd better do it now, before they get too big. I was amazed how fast those hops grew!

    I had australorps and RIRs. I've really been having fun looking at chicken breeds, and this time decided to go with australorps again (since I liked them so much!) as well as buff orpington, silver laced wyandottes, and perhaps Delaware and/or easter eggers. I can't believe I didn't see those silver laced wyandottes before! Wow!

    So now that I have had chickens but don't currently, I'm thinking of what I'd like to do differently....water is one of the first things. Oh they sure messed up the pail I had....was a full time job keeping it clean!

    Thank you MUCH for the feedback!
  7. OScarlet

    OScarlet Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2013
    We can't really let ours loose because we have two big dogs, one of which licks her lips when she sees the chickens. When one has got out they leave her alone but I know that one day...
    So we bought two folding dog runs (silver 4ft high one made by precision) and made some stands to make it less wobbly. You can get "lids" -- extra panels that clip on. We move them to a different part of the yard every three days or so. A determined predator would easily get in, but it would stop a casual one with our dogs around... I hope! They are only in it when I am in and out and the dogs are too. They have a travel coop (low level hoop tractor) that is secure that they can go in if I'm going to be out for the day but it is much smaller.

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