I spent all winter thinking about my garden and how I would need to make a chicken run. I mean, the chickens are great and everything, but I need to dig and make things grow. So I had to devise a plan because, unfortunately, there is nothing I can download from the internet to tell me how to make a run in my specific yard. I knew I wanted to build the run along the south fence. This is furthest away from our neighbors and is sheltered by a row of crepe myrtles and crossvines; important during Texas summers. The mobile coop could be parked at one end and I would be able to roll it out to change the straw. Cleaning the run was the tricky bit. I couldn’t put on a real roof because of the trees. What to do? Here was my plan A:
I bought ten or so 1″X2″X8′ boards, 50′ of 4′ high cattle fencing, 10 u-fence posts and 50′ of plastic chicken netting. These were all very cheap. The most expensive piece ($30) was the post driver. (But it was totally worth it because slamming posts into the ground is so fun I might just have to build random fences around the yard.) This particular fence is parallel to the back fence, just outside the crepe myrtles. I polyurethaned the wood, only because I had some leftover from another project. Then I nailed the boards to the top of the cattle guard and attached the whole thing to the posts. (The fence wire slips into tabs.) On one side of the run I cut the board and bent the fence to create a door/dead-end.
On the other end I parked the coop, blocking off half the exit. To close off the run completely I built a door out of the scrap wood and cattle guard and attached it to the main fence. This door allowed us to reach the coop doors so we could change their food and water. The egg door was on the outside of the run. As for the roof/cleaning situation, I attached lengths of 1x2s with hinges so they were perpendicular to the top rail of the run fence.
They could swing down into the yard, opening up the area for cleaning. Then they could swing back and rest on 4″ lengths of scrap 2x2s I had nailed to the back fence. Brilliant! Genius!
At this point we got to go crazy with the staple gun and attach the chicken netting to the hinged struts, basically creating a triangle from the back fence down past each crepe myrtle. In some areas we also attached the netting between the front of the crepe myrtles and the run fence. Done.
We put the chickens in their jail.
They were angry and confused.
For the rest of the day they scooted back and forth along the fence, bokking pitifully, finally flopping down in a corner to stare at us with beady uncomprehending eyes. Then I had to feed them, and I realized that opening up the gate and walking under the crepe myrtle branches while trying to keep them from escaping was tricky and annoying. But I still had faith.
The next day Migas escaped. She just jumped up from behind the trees, walked down the roof strut and jumped into the yard. The others were livid, but couldn’t figure out what she had done. We decided to temporarily enclose the area behind the crepe myrtles, even though it would mean I could no longer lift the roof to clean. Rob’s parents were due to arrive and Graham’s birthday was coming up. Neither of these situations work well with a backyard covered in chicken bombs.
This solution worked for a couple days. Then HennyPenny (HP) escaped. She figured out how to “climb” the crepe myrtles through the netting and pop right out into the yard. (With this feather in her cap, she has risen in the pecking order, and now routinely commands first pick of any tasty bug or kitchen scrap.) Still, we kept throwing her back in the run and adding more netting between branches.
We made it through the birthday party with the chickens in prison. The next day, however, while Rob and I were on an actual real date, the in-laws witnessed a near disaster. HP had climbed the tree to attempt another escape, but this time she got stuck in the netting and was dangling by the neck from the roof, screeching and flapping frantically. Before anyone could figure out what to do, she freed herself.
Well, that settled it. I wasn’t going to have a chicken run/death trap in the back yard. So we’ve had to scrap the whole project and start again. Will we succeed? Kill the chickens? A little of both? I will report on the results.