Making an Epic Run for your Chickens: Chicken Coop Series

Of course next to a coop, the best run ever is the way to go.  Your chickens need a big space to run, dig and fluff in, so keep in mind how many chickens you have, and how many you want to have. Chickens are so addictive! I don’t care how many times I have to repeat this, but it’s important to build it big enough, otherwise your chickens can become bored and start bad habits, such as feather picking, bullying, or egg eating, all habits that are hard to break! So, let’s jump in to making an awesome chicken run! (Not like the movie) 🙂

Predator Proofing the Run

Just like when you build a coop, you want to make sure that the run is predator proof. The last thing anyone wants is a stray dog or cat getting in and killing your birds (I’ve had it happen). No one wants to wake up to a massacre in the coop, so making sire that no predators can sneak in is a must.

Remember, there are two types of predators, ariel and on the ground, so during your run building, you need to make sure animals cannot dig under the run or swoop in and grab your chickens. I always like to make sure that the coop is the next Fort Knox, just for safety, even if it wasn’t built the DIY way! But let’s not overdo ourselves if we don’t have to. No need to break the bank here! Here’s a few of my go-to tips to make sure that no ground animal or bird of prey can even try to take a go at your birds:

For Ground Predators:

These have fingers and thumbs, big jaws and claws, so make sure that they can’t pry open any doors or dig under the run. Raccoon for example are good at opening latches and taking lids off things, so what kind of latches you buy is a good idea. They can be locks that need a key or pass code, latches that need to be flipped or something else tricky. Using a padlock, deadbolt, and a hook and eye latch secured with a carabiner  is a good idea. Predators are smart when they are determined, so make sure that you are smarter.

Now, you may have the right locks, but that doesn’t stop predators. If they can, they will dig under your coop or run, so it’s important to make sure they can’t do that. For the run, you can make an apron of hardware cloth or make a trench-style barrier so they can’t dig under. In the coop, raising it up, pouring concrete, making an apron or trench, or laying a wood floor are all options. I’ve read stories on people having weasels sneak in and kill their chickens, and I would never want that to happen to you or me, so let’s all make the proper precautions.

For the Ariel Predators

These are a whole other ball game. They fly, have some of the best eyesight, and can swoop down and kill a chicken in the blink of an eye, so it’s important to protect your birds from these as well. Here’s a couple of good hawk deterrents:

  • Placing string or poultry netting across the top of your run: Hawks won’t swoop when there’s something there blocking their way, making this a good option. It also is a good way to keep your chickens from escaping out of the run.I use poultry netting, which you can buy here.
  • Hang old CD’s on a string: Hawks don’t like things that glimmer in the light or move, so the light dancing off the CD’s will scare it away. Not 100% foolproof, but it works! I’m thinking about trying it for myself sometime soon. Why not?
  • Place a fake owl statue by your chickens: Hawks don’t like owls, and a fake owl statue will do the job! One with a moving head would be a good idea as well if you wanted to get fancy!
  • Make a scare-crow: Make a scare-crow, but hawk style! Moving it around every once and a while would be good to, because hawks learn patterns and routines easily, just like humans and any other predator.
  • Sit with your chickens: I know it’s not always possible, but it’s the best way to let your chickens free range or protect and un-covered run. I always sit with my birds when they aren’t in their run, and since their run is covered, I don’t have any worries about them during the day.
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Example of a Coopers Hawk. They perch on things around your coop, so remember that they can swoop in any moment!

Entertainment for Your Birds

Moving away from the topic of predator prevention, we can get into the fun stuff, entertainment and chicken toys! It’s important to give your girls things to do, peck at and play with, or else they will become bored and develop nasty habits. I like to spend hours with my birds, watching for what they are scared of and what their favorite treats are, and what new toys they like best, and here’s a few of my favorite entertainment ideas:

  • Hang a mirror up in the run or coop: Chickens love to stare at their reflections in a mirror, and it’s defiantly funny to watch them do it!
  • Berry Boxes filled with treats: I like to fill empty plastic blueberry boxes with scratch grains,  mealworms, or any other small treat that will fit through the holes. They love to peck at it and and move the box around to get the treats out. Chickens love a good challenge!
  • Water pans: Throughout the day, I’ll fill up a pan of cool water for them to walk in or drink, and I have one Cuckoo Marens who loves it! Little Creme knows when you take her pan away and gives you the stink eye till you come back with a fresh pan! Filling it with grass is another thing I love to do for them, and they love it to!
  • Flock Blocks: These are big squares that are full of healthy vitamins and treats for them to peck at, and I love how long they last. My chickens love this one from Purina.
  • Perches: Place some items to perch on throughout your run such as wooden perch bars, boxes, buckets, or pallets. My birds love the wooden perches I have set up for them. They even tried to sleep on them one night…
  • Dust Bathing Area: Dust bathing not only is fun to them and fun to watch, but it’s also good for them. Read here on Dust Bathing.
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Water pans filled with grass are a favorite around here!

I hope you enjoyed my advice on building a chicken run! Of course making your own run takes a lot of work, but in the end it’s quite rewarding! Tune in for more on the Chicken Coop Series and more tips I have to share!

Dancing with Chickens

© Dancing with Chickens, 2018.

 

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