To coop or Not to coop. That is the question......


8 Years
Mar 7, 2011
Raymond, NH
Hello to you!

I am a very new chicken enthusiast, so new that I don't even have my chickens yet! They are due to arrive the end of May and I want to make sure everything is all set and ready to go by then.

I am turning my garden shed into a chicken coop, it's pretty good size and I think my soon to be 10 chickens should be very happy in there! My question is do I need to build a run for them or can they roam free unsupervised?

My backyard where their coop will be is fenced off (around a 1/4 acre area if I had to guess) and it has 6 foot privacy fence around 3/4 of it and the side facing the river is 4 foot coated chain link. My plan is that I wanted them to be free range in this backyard fenced area, I'm not sure if this is practical?

Do I need to keep them cooped up when I am not home or can they mosey around the yard while I am away without getting into to much trouble? I read a few places that once they are free range it's hard to start cooping them so I don't want to make that mistake.

I guess my biggest worry is them disturbing my neighbors by jumping the fence while I am not home. Luckily the 6ft fence is near my neighbors and the 4 foot fence will only lead them to the river. I do have gardens and perennial beds but they are already fenced off because of my dogs and hopefully the fencing will keep the chickens out to! I know having them free range there is a chance of predators but I am willing to risk it for them to be able to free range, our area honestly doesn't have many predators and doesn't seem to be too much of a problem here. Though I might find out different after getting chickens!

So how much trouble do chickens get into when left on their own?
I'd rather not build a run if I don't need to....
Any advice from the seasoned chicken owners out there?

Thank you!!

Sounds like you have a nice setup for them! There are just a few things I'll mention:

Even my heavy breeds like Buff Orpingtons will hop on over a 4 foot fence if there is something they want on the other side. You can extend this vertically with some taller posts and bird netting or deer netting that is black (will not be seen easily).

Free ranging is always risky for half-grown chickens due to hawks (and they will even go after full-sized chickens). You will need a run to grow them out.

You will need a run to go out of town, so the person caring for your chickens doesn't have to catch them at night to close them up, if they arrive before the chickens want to go to bed.

There are all kinds of unforseen circumstances that may occur and you will be mighty glad you have that run. You can use a dog kennel- but an owl pulled my chick through the chain link and ate it. Use chicken wire (hardware cloth is much better) to wrap the sides and something on top too- like netting or chicken wire.

Nothing is predator proof except 1/2 inch hardware cloth, and with an apron or buried around the edge.

Free ranging when you are not at home is risky. Expect losses from is a personal decision. I have mine in a huge garden fenced in- all day but they have hideaways like under woodpiles and pallets to get away if they see a hawk. Owls, raccoons, hawks, neighbor dogs, weasels, rats, possums, etc. all love the taste of chicken.
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Don't forget to consider the possibility that your own dogs could become chicken predators. It happens, sadly.
Thank you for the advice, very good suggestions that I hadn't thought about such as going on vacation etc. I'm sure my mother wouldn't want to chase around the chickens when she pet sits for us! So I will definitely be putting in that run.

Yes, that would be horrible! I think my dogs will be okay though, they have been around a friends chickens and were very well behaved. We also have always had birds that flew around as they pleased and my dogs didn't bother with them and my dogs groom and sleep with my house rabbits. I don't think they have much of a prey drive lol and we have trained them well! Even my cats are good with the rabbits and birds, our cockatiel use to sit on both of our cats and pull their tails and they didn't even budge and our rabbits are always following the cats and dogs around the house. I guess we all kind of live in harmony around here, thank goodness.
Well, it's your life... but I have to say that it is always a big red flag for me when people say those sorts of things, as they tend to be the people most apt to be posting later on in the Predators and Pests section of the forum with thread titles like "oh no, my dog killed half my flock!".

All it takes is one moment. Chickens are not rabbits, they are fluttery and often more apt to suddenly panic away from a dog in an enticing manner. A certain number of people whose dogs kill their chickens, it does not seem to be prey drive per se, so much as something suddenly moving and the dog wanting to "play with" it.

Just sayin'.

Good luck, have fun,

Patandchickens- I hear ya! But if my dogs don't mind a cockatiel and parakeet flying at and landing on them in the house wouldn't they feel the same way about chickens? Our birds fluttering around them doesn't seem to get them upset and they certainly spends a lot of time flying past the dogs heads! Wouldn't it kind of be the same thing? When we go over my friends house who has chickens they are just roaming around and my dogs don't even pay attention to them and her rooster pecked my male dog in the nose, he just flinched and ran away. They are big lazy dogs, maybe that's why?

Obviously I would be rather cautious at first, but I think they will be okay. My grandfather always had his shepherds with his flocks?
Well, all I'm saying is that there are lots of people whose dogs have been fine with their chickens for months or years, and then one day, piles o' feathers.

Are you getting chicks or full grown chickens? If it's chicks, just be aware that their small size may make them look more like a doggie snack than a full grown chicken.
from North Carolina! I am in the planning phase as well - just trying to finish up my coop and run. I can't wait to get my chickens!!! I have two big dogs also and while I plan on being a responsible dog and chicken owner, like you I think their personalities will be well suited for chickens. I agree whole heartedly that a lot of dogs can't be trusted but after reading a ton on here I think you will find that just as many BYC'ers have chicken friendly dogs as there are people with dog-eating-chicken incidents. I know we are both going to make sure we fall in that first category! Have fun and make sure to post pics as you go!!!


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