Building a Predator-Proof Chicken Run

When we moved to Maine last summer, we were lucky enough to have a beautiful coop from Horizon Structures  delivered soon after we moved in for our chickens and ducks. Because we live in the woods and have to worry about predators like foxes, coyotes, hawks, eagles, raccoon and fisher cats, we spent the next several weeks building them an attached run. I incorporated some neat features and lots of predator-proofing to keep our chickens safe and happy when we aren't outside with them and they can't be out free ranging.

It took us a lot longer than we expected due to my travel schedule and other commitments, but every free minute we had, we worked on it. We didn't quite finish - we lost our race against winter - but we'll finish up in the spring. In the meantime, our chickens and ducks have a nice 18x40 foot run where they're safe and happy during the day. They enjoy a bit of supervised free range each afternoon that the weather permits during which they get to stretch their legs, scratch for bugs and worms and eat weeds and grass. But the run keeps them safe the rest of the time, while providing them plenty of room.

I tried to take lots of photos as we went along, so I could walk you through the process. We were fortunate to find a barn full of scrap wood, so we improvised where we could with what we had instead of buying lumber.

Now, remember, we're not professional builders. I've build smaller coops, bookcases, stuff like that. But I do watch alot of HGTV and DIY we just did what we thought would work, and we're super happy with the results!

4x4 fence posts
2x4 boards
1x6 boards
1/2" welded wire fencing
1" welded wire fencing
Chicken wire
Staples (U-shaped nails)
2x2 boards
Wood screws
Hinges, spring-loaded eyehook, spring

How We Built It
The first thing we did was pace out exactly how big we wanted the run to be and where it would be located. We ended up making it about 16x40, far larger - at over 600 square feet - than we needed for our 12 ducks and 11 chickens, but bigger is always better when it comes to run size.  With the tractor, we scraped sort of a trench around where the perimeter of the run would be so we could sink the fencing into the ground a few inches to deter digging predators.

Then we marked off 8 foot lengths and started digging holes for the fence posts. We chose 8 feet because that's a standard board length, so that would eliminate cutting lots of the boards. After digging the holes, we positioned the fence posts, poured Quikrete and water in the holes then refilled them with dirt.  We attached pieces of scrap wood to support the posts until the concrete set.  We even ran rope across the tops of the posts to make sure they were all level (that's a trick I learned from the DIY Network!)

Once the concrete had set, we screwed boards across the top to further secure the posts, then it was time to start nailing up the fencing.  First we laid chicken wire along the ground in the trench. Chicken wire isn't technically predator-proof, but since it was a second layer of defense and we had a roll lying around, that's what we used. We would also be sinking the welded wire fencing into the ground all the way around as well to prevent diggers.

The 1/2" welded wire went down about 8" into the ground and is slightly curved out in like a J-shape. That's really all you need, but since we had leftover chicken wire, I just laid that on the ground and then shoveled some dirt over it. The chicken wire should also help prevent the chickens from scratching up the grass that hopefully will (eventually) grow back around the perimeter of the run! But you can just dig your trench and put the fencing down a few inches, as long as you curve it out, that will stop a digger in its tracks.

Then we started attaching the fencing to the fence posts using the staples (they're not like staple-gun staples, they're nails shaped like a "U"). We used 1/2" welded wire along the bottom three feet of the run to prevent smaller predators like mice or snakes from getting in - or a brave raccoon from reaching in - and then used 1" along the top. That was mostly a cost consideration. Using 1/2" on the whole run would be the most predator-proof way to do things, but since this is just a day run, the 1" is fine. It will keep out all predators except a small weasel.

Once we had the bottom roll of fencing on, we screwed 2x6s along the bottom to further secure the fencing and finish off the bottom. Winston even gave us a good demonstration as to how it was impossible to dig underneath!

At that point, we got 2x4 screwed up at the midpoint and then got the top half of the side fencing nailed up and 2x4s along the top also. I also got the door for the run built. We had decided to paint the run the same sage green to match the shutters on the coop, so I could go ahead and get the door all ready to put up. Of course the chickens (and Bella) were a huge help during the entire project!

At this point we took a break and I decided to paint all the exposed wood. We also cut and painted the 2x2s that we had decided to use for part of the top of the run. We were going to make a sort of pergola-style roof at the far end of the run. It would keep larger predators from being able to climb up the side and get in, yet still allow in some sunlight while being sturdy enough to hold up to Maine snowfall in winter. A friend who was visiting helped me cut the boards using my brand new compound miter saw! So fun to get a new power tool!

So for the pergola top, we angled the ends of the 2x2s and then screwed them to the top support boards using wood screws. We spaced them the width of a 2x4 apart to make for each spacing using a scrap piece of 2x4. That trick I might have seen on the DIY Network...or I might have made it up myself, not sure. I love how it ended up looking - and love that it was not only economical, but also really functional as well. I think my pal Sara Bendrick would be proud! 

Because we are surrounded by birch trees, we used some cut trees as center supports for the run instead of using lumber. I also made the chickens a swing out of a short birch log. I love how that makes the run blend right into the woods behind it. 

Next, we needed to built a solid roof over the part of the run that butted up to the coop. This would provide the chickens a place to hang out when it's raining or snowing, and somewhere to put their feed and dust bath. We used plywood screwed to a wooden frame that we attached right to the side of the coop.  We were starting to run out of time, so we didn't get to shingle the roof, but we'll do that in the spring. For now, we covered it with a tarp for the winter so the plywood won't rot. Again, it's very functional and was very inexpensive to build.

It was finally time to get the door installed using hinges and a spring-loaded eyehook. I also added a spring so the door would swing shut automatically behind me. And of course I added a few cutesy signs (I couldn't make up my mind which I liked better!), some decorative scrap wood in the corners, and nails to hang some wreaths from that I can change depending on the season.

We still had about half the top of the run left uncovered, so for the winter, until we decide how we want to finish it off (and until we get the plywood roof shingled), we just stapled some poultry netting across the top. That will keep out aerial predators and be easy to keep free of snow for the winter.

So that's our new chicken run. We love how it all turned out. I'm not sure how much it would have cost had we had to buy all the materials, but if you have some scrap wood and fencing that you can use, you can really keep your cost down. 

In the spring, we'll shingle the plywood roof, finish off the top (probably with 1' welded wire fencing), and then do some landscaping both inside and around the run.

Update: It's spring! Time to get the top finished and get some landscaping done

Want to take a quick tour? 

Want a tour of my new coop? Click HERE.

I would love for you to join me here...
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