Story by Rebecca Nickols
I’ve been a free range backyard chicken keeper for years, but recently I’ve grown tired of the mess my flock creates. I still adore their endearing personalities and amusing antics, I’m just done with the “deposits” they leave on the deck and driveway! And – I’ve had a few episodes of stray dogs attacking my flock. – It was high time to construct a larger run / yard for the hens.
I’ve shared the evolvement of my coop and run over the years:
I’ve had several additions (and loses) to my flock. – Adding Color to the Flock – I’ve struggled with the decision to keep or give away a rooster. – She’s a Rooster! – I’ve dwelt with predators – both domestic and wild. – Top 10 Chicken Predators – And I’ve came up with a lot of ways to incorporate my flock into my gardening chores and routines. – Gardening with Chickens
This year – it’s the chicken yard!
We constructed the yard of 6′ cedar fence board. The dimensions are roughly 20′ x 30′ – which adds an additional 600 square feet of roaming space for the flock. If you use the rule of 10 square feet per chicken in the outside run, I have enough space for 60 hens! – I currently have 8…
Because it started resembling a privacy fence, we added a viewing window.
To connect the run to the yard, we cut an opening in the chain-link run and framed out a “chicken sized” entrance. The door is hinged to open and close and I rigged up a method of securing it without actually having to go into the yard.
Advantages of the chicken yard:
-Cleaner for my yard and deck.
-Somewhat safer for the flock – at least from stray dog attacks.
-Provides a larger area for the flock to roam and forage.
-I can control what the flock eats or avoids eating.
Disadvantages of the chicken yard:
-It’s not predator proof. My run is protected with a “skirt” of 1/2″ hardware cloth both around the perimeter and top. Around the run – buried into the ground – is 3 foot of chicken wire. These actions prevent a predator from reaching in, digging under or attacks from above. The yard, however, is not covered or protected from owls or hawks attacking from above. Raccoons or opossums could easily climb over the wooden fence (see photo below of the raccoon we trapped) and a fox could dig under the fence into the yard…
-I still have to remember to shut the yard / coop up at dusk.
-Keeping the yard clean from accumulated chicken waste is a must. – Free ranging on 7 acres is definitely cleaner for the hens.
-Boredom for the flock. There are more bugs, weeds, excitement – on the other side of the fence…
-I miss having the girls greet me every time I step out of the house!
-Expense. – Fortunately I have a husband with skills and motivation. We still probably spent $500 in wood and supplies building this yard. – Not to mention the time and labor involved.
Plans for the future:
-An automatic door for the run / yard connection.
-Somehow cover the top of the chicken yard for added predator protection.
-Incorporating a vertical chicken garden into the yard. – Watch for posts this spring!
To view what else is happening at our Southwest Missouri property visit: the garden-roof coop
If you enjoy bird-watching (in addition to chicken-watching), I invite you to follow my Facebook page: Rebecca’s Bird Gardens