by Jennifer Burcke
Photos by author
When we were designing our coop, we had several features that we worked hard to incorporate. We wanted to use many of the leftover building materials that we had on hand. We also decided to build a ramp for our hens that would lead to a fully enclosed open air run underneath the coop.
As soon as longer days and warmer spring-like temperatures arrived, we decided to open the run and allow the now juvenile pullets access to their safe and secure run. It was an exciting moment when I stood outside the coop and carefully lowered the ramp from the coop to the run. It was memorable for a very important reason: the chickens refused to go down the ramp into the run.
It took a few moments of peering over the edge for our Black Australorp to decide that the promise of a food reward was worth the risk. Hedwig cautiously made her way to the top of the ramp and then slowly walked to the run below, stopping at each piece of cereal to enjoy her reward. She reached the ground, ate the morsels of cereal awaiting her arrival, and then proceeded to sprint back up the ramp into the coop.
While we planned the permanent structure, there was a temporary pen fashioned from a dog run covered in chicken wire. It worked admirably while we determined what type of run we wanted to build ourselves. It allowed our hens to enjoy being outside all summer, eating fresh clippings from the garden and Japanese water beetles from the raspberry patch.
It was odd to be using wire cutters to cut a hole in the hardware cloth of the pen that I had worked so hard to fully enclose. I cut it away and secured the ends from inside the run. This time, I am glad to say that I did not end up needing bandages or a trip to the emergency room.
Ironically, the sandy pen is now our flock’s favorite place to spend the day. They spend so much time in there that we have nicknamed it “The Playground” due to its sandbox like construction and their unwillingness to leave even when it’s time to come in for the night. Sometimes they refuse to exit the playground even when cereal is offered as a reward for returning to the coop. For our hens, that is the most sincere form of flattery.