One of the biggest aspects of a chicken’s life is the battle between freedom and restraint. A truly good chicken farmer knows how to strike a good balance here so that his flock isn’t stuck in cages and nesting boxes at all times and instead gives them the option to get some exercise and stretch when it comes to the day-to-day activities. That’s why a good chicken run is necessary for an excellent chicken farm, or even just a farm that happens to have some cluckers pecking about. Here’s what you need to know to build an ideal run.
The first thing to consider is just what sort of breed you’re working with. Different breeds are going to require different things in their runs, so for instance a flock of chickens that are powerful flyers need to be completely fenced in, including the roof, to prevent them from escaping. Still, the standard run will consist of space to run about in, dirt to peck through, and a fence both to protect the chickens from harm but also to keep them from running off.
When you have hens and cocks with feathered feet, you’ll want to adjust your building plans to definitely include a roof over the run, specifically one that shelters the area and doesn’t let rain hit directly into the run, making it muddy. In fact, you want to do everything you can to prevent the run from becoming wet, so plan ahead even for the rain blowing in instead of just falling straight down.
Again, strong flyers need to be kept in using a full enclosure as they can easily leap over even six-foot fences, but it turns out that all ideal chicken runs are fully enclosed. This mostly goes the full distance toward keeping predators out and chicken off the menu, so no cats or hawks or such will be able to climb over or swoop down and grab a quick and easy meal any time soon.
Oddly, you’ll want to be sure not to include really any plants within the run. The reason for this is that chickens can be unbelievably destructive, especially if there’s nothing better to do. If all they have to pass the time is some dirt and a bush, they’ll peck that bush apart. Still, you should include a strong shrub or two, particularly ones with leathery leaves that can withstand a lot of punishment.
As for the flooring, the best way to do things is to lay a foundation of either cement or tile, then cover it with a layer of sand that’s at least 8 inches deep. This will let the chickens peck and scratch all they want and will also keep things pretty clean, all things considered. This does make it all the more important to keep the run dry though, so it’s also a good idea to actually build up the first foot or so of the fence with cement blocks so that wind the wind doesn’t blow too hard and water can’t rush in.
A good chicken run provides protection but freedom to move, and when done right your flock will love you for it by being happy and active. A cooped chicken is a stressed chicken, so get them out and get them running!
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