Topic of the week - Chicken run management

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by sumi, Sep 25, 2016.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

    Jun 28, 2011
    Rep of Ireland
    For many chicken keepers free ranging the flock is not an option, so their birds are confined to a chicken run most if not all the time. All that traffic in a smaller space can throw up issues like build up of droppings, mud when it's raining etc. I would like to hear you all's thoughts on chicken runs. Specifically:

    - How big should you make the run/how much space per chicken?
    - How do you predator proof the run?
    - How do you manage droppings build-up and how often should you clean the run?
    - What are the best flooring/bedding materials (if any)?

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    Last edited: Jan 27, 2017
  2. Psychochick

    Psychochick Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 9, 2016
    My run started off as huge for the 6 chickens I planned on getting, now it feels a little overcrowded with my 19. However they spend very little time in the run, I let them out into the garden. It's about 30 square meters (320 square feet) in all, but that includes 2 coops, a sick pen and an old rabbit hutch they use as shelter.

    To fox proof it I spent 4 weeks preparing the run before the original hens arrived. I buried vertical flagstones along the sides of the run so it has 3 foot of solid concrete underneath. If foxy can bury deeper than that in 1 night respect to him. I then put coated wire 6 inches down the concrete on the outside of the concrete and nailed it to fence posts. I also lined the edges with heavy rocks but I think this may have been overkill. Cage wire is also over the top and I have trained blackberry brambles over the run so anything trying to climb over the run gets a lovely amount of thorns in their feet whilst the chickens get some lovely blackberries in the autumn and I get caught going to lock them up at night.

    Build up is scraped off when the run starts to get slippy. Frankly it's a real pain as the run is built on heavy wet clay and this forces its way up through the stone chippings I put as a base which means it needs doing a lot, even though the hens spend a fraction of their time in the run. I'm considering planting a few chicken proof plants in there just to dry the ground out so I don't have to do it every ruddy month, twice a month in winter or they'll end up with trench foot.

    Bedding material is just wood shavings (bulk from the local building supplier, he prepares them for us, massive 2 meter by 1 meter bag for 99p) I've given up with flooring material, it's just one more thing to scrape out. If I could find something that isn't concrete that I could hose off once a week with the coops I would consider, but I can't. Suggestions welcome.
    2 people like this.
  3. gmfwlbrdr

    gmfwlbrdr Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 31, 2016
    I have diffrent size coops or domes individual s are rotated in 4x4 x4 at least every other day,for larger groups the pens are 4x4 x8 or ten ft long ,and moved also every couple days to new grass ,,and the yard has electrified netting around the perimeter.
    1 person likes this.
  4. KayC2016

    KayC2016 Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 16, 2016
    Remlap, Alabama
    I have a 25 x 25 enclosed run with netting across the top and the coop is in the middle. We now have 10 hens. The ground started out as grass but as you can imagine that is well gone by now. I put a small amount of pine shavings down throughout the run but I know I'm going to have to come up with something better with winter approaching. We are new to chickens and just started this all in July of this year. We are upgrading as we go along. The fencing is buried about 4 inches into the ground with cement. All the girls go to roost at night and are locked up till morning. We live on 12 acres and their are lots of predators that roam at night. The coop itself is has one side with a solid floor and the other side with small hardware cloth. We did this so that during the summer they will have additional ventilation on that side. The inside floor is covered in pine shavings.[​IMG]

    1 person likes this.
  5. SNJchickens

    SNJchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Because I live in a suburban development and because my flock has increased to 11 temporarily I clean my run twice a day and rake out completely once a week. I do use lime on the subfloor to neutralize any stray poop odors. I bed with grass clippings in summer and a combination of pelleted horse bedding and chopped straw in winter, each bedding laid over a sand/clay subfloor.

    My girls do get free range time daily while I clean or do yard chores.

    Don't be upset by the initial photos in my coop article. I begin by showing my "starter" coop housing 2 then 4 hens!

    The cleaning chores are not onerous because keeping chickens is very enjoyable. The hens will wander into the run as I clean to either check my work or cluck their approval.
    1 person likes this.
  6. owlmeadowfarm32

    owlmeadowfarm32 Just Hatched

    Sep 1, 2016
    I have many different sized coops all of them free range unless they are one of our breeding flocks.
    1 person likes this.
  7. mclanea

    mclanea Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 19, 2016
    San Diego
    - How big should you make the run/how much space per chicken?
    Where I live, the city says that you need 6 square feet per bird if they are kept in a coop. Our coop/run area is 48 square feet. (3 chickens)

    - How do you predator proof the run?
    Our coop/run is covered with a corrugated metal roof. The sides are either the wood for the coop or 1/2" hardware cloth. The biggest risk to our chickens are our dogs, when I let them free range in the backyard I'm careful to make sure the dogs are supervised.

    - How do you manage droppings build-up and how often should you clean the run?
    I do some maintenance to the coop/run on Saturday mornings. I remove visible poop and replace most of the straw, putting it in our compost bin. I rake out the run at the same time. It's sandy dirt with some rocks. Basically, I remove anything that's obviously nasty but most of the poop just gets worked into the sand, it's about 4 inches deep. So I don't thoroughly clean it out each week, but I do a little clean-up which helps to control the flies, it seems.

    - What are the best flooring/bedding materials (if any)?
    I don't know what the best is. So far, I've used pine shavings and straw in the coop. And the run is the sandy dirt that was there when I built the coop/run. I'll be keeping an eye on this when it starts to rain later in the fall.
    1 person likes this.
  8. chickens really

    chickens really True BYC Addict

    I have 11 hens...My coop is 8x12, run is 8x12...I also free range while I sit with them...In the run I have higher roosts, stumps and a swing...My Run and Coop is sand...I clean my Run twice a week will a rake and till in the rest once a week...I have a fully wired run and have a tarp on the top to keep out rain....I clean my coop daily with a kitty litter scoop and put the droppings in a pile to add to my flower gardens in the spring....

    1 person likes this.
  9. urbanchick1950

    urbanchick1950 Out Of The Brooder

    How do you keep rain from pooling on the tarp roof?
  10. fasuchicks

    fasuchicks New Egg

    Sep 25, 2016
    We have a two pen run (25x25 each) connected with a chicken wire tunnel. We have an old canopy over one section of the pen for rain/sun shade. The coop is small with Birdseye sand (similar to peastone). We just started with the sand in the spring but it has been very easy to clean, eliminating most of the smell as the waste dries quickly and can be scooped out with a rake. One pen is dirt that they love to dig in for dust bathes and mud holes when it rains.The other pen is mainly grass. Both runs have trees in or next to them. We also put hawk netting over the pens.
    1 person likes this.

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