I’ve been contending with the elements for the past week or so cobbling together the small run to go along with the chicken coop. It turned out smaller than I had envisioned – a combination of my both my imagination and my measurements being slightly off. But it will give the chickens a little room to safely stretch their legs when they aren’t perusing my garden. The roof will provide shade from the hot sun, which I was concerned about since the coop will sit in the sun all day during in the summer.
The roof has gone a little wonky after our recent snow, but it’ll suffice. I included two doors that open outwards to let the chickens in and out and make access easier for cleaning. I was able to use 2×4 scraps from building the coop to enclose the bottom half of the run, which was easy on the wallet and also consumed a large chunk of the scraps that I had stacked on my porch.
I waffled back and forth about whether or not to enclose the area under the coop. Mostly I was concerned about the cost of getting metal mesh (hardware cloth) since I’ve already spent more than I had planned on this thing. But after seeing how small the run turned out I was leaning more towards biting the bullet and doing it so the chickens would have more space. When I found a reasonably-priced roll of plastic mesh that was more than big enough to accommodate the run and the underside of the coop, I decided to go for it.
The plastic mesh is a roll of the dice in terms of safety – a determined animal may be able to gnaw through it. But my zoo-keeper neighbor who lives closer to the woods than me has been using it successfully on his duck enclosure and recommended it. It’s pretty heavy-duty, so hopefully any animals who find their way to my chickens will find it to be more trouble than it’s worth.
I also considered making some sort of of hinged door that would allow me to open the bottom section up for easier cleaning, but it was more trouble than I was willing to deal with at this point. I might regret it later when I’m hunched over inside the run jabbing a rake under the coop to clean poop…
Another safety feature I skimped on (!) was how to prevent animals from burrowing into the run from outside. All the info I’ve read talks about burying hardware cloth a foot deep around the outside of the coop/run. An alternative I found is this corrugated plastic that is usually used around rice paddies (I think that’s where I’ve seen it most). It comes in 20 meter rolls that are almost a foot wide and only costs about 900 yen. I don’t see any animal being able to claw it’s way through it.
The back of the coop nearly butts up against the retaining wall, offering almost no space for any critters to get in. Just to be safe, I slide some stone pavers that I had lying around under the bottom of the coop and run.
For the record, nailing in this mesh was a total pain in the ass. I was on a tarp under the coop with about 2 feet of space, rolling around trying to get sufficient angles to hit the nails. Finding the right nails was also an adventure as I kept buying ones that were too small and would bend when hit with the hammer. I used u-shaped nails (Google poultry staples) and can say that the 32 mm ones stand up under a proper hammer blow.
The good new is that I have enough left-over netting to make a removable screen for the coop when I figure out a good design. But I’m going to let this thing sit for a while. I’ve spent a lot of mental and physical energy on it over the last few weeks and I’m ready for a break. At least that’s what I say now, tired and with more snow in the forecast over the next week.
There are still a few odds and ends to take care of – closing up a few spots that might be vulnerable to predators, building a ramp for inside the run, tweaking the doors on the run so they open and close more smoothly, among other things.
If you see any glaring issues or have any other suggestions, I’m all ears.