Let me first go back a little and say I like to reuse salvage materials as much as possible. Our initial chicken coop was made with reclaimed lumber from other projects that were no longer in use. We had recently had our house roofed, and I had all the old facia boards that had been stripped and replaced. These made a nice enclosure to protect the flock from the elements. Now back to the more recent past…
Our next step was to build a larger run area for our ladies. The wife and I both sketched up and discussed the space we would use for the run. A little bit of digging and heavy lifting later, and we had some very large landscape timbers stripped from an old flower bed and moved to two sides of the run. Numerous holes were dug with my new post hole digger and we had treated 4x4s standing around the perimeter of the run and a couple in the interior to help support the protective over netting.
This is a good place to tell you about budgeting. With any project it is a good idea to set a budget and allow a little variance for unknowns. I already had a set of older post hole diggers, but on the second hole one of the wooden handles broke. A quick trip to the local Feed and Seed, and we had a new but albeit sturdier set of fiberglass handled post hole diggers. Could I have purchased a new set of handles cheaper? Yes, and I could have even made one out of scrap lumber, but I see the new set at an investment. My old set was already worn and were not really efficient with the effort put in them. My new set had much thicker, heavier blades, and with the added mass really made quick work in the rocky soil.
We opted to use sackrete to anchor our 4x4s in the ground. I really suggest the quick set mix that you pour around your posts and then add water. This made really quick work of the job and required little to no bracing because we tamped the material down before adding water. By the time we had all the 4x4s set in concrete, the firsts ones were dry enough to start attaching the landscape timbers. Attaching a 3.5 inch thick piece of treated lumber with a 6in x 12in creosote impregnated timber was initially puzzling. I soon found the best option with a product from GRK. Utilizing almost an entire package of GRK 5/6″ x 5.125″ washer head interior/exterior screws, we made quick work of attaching the posts to not only the timbers, but also treated 4x4s to finish the entire lower perimeter of the run.
These fasteners are around $30 for a 40 count package, but for their purpose worth every penny. With two fasteners per post and additional vertical supports, they really solidified the posts with the base and allowed us to continue to the upper cross pieces. These were attached with standard 2.5″ deck screws making sure they were level and that the verticals pieces were plumb. Once the top rails were in place we started attaching the wire. We had initial thought about using hexagonal chicken wire to wrap the run, but after some research found that it was not recommended due to a strength deficit. We opted for a slightly more expensive option of 36″ wide 2×4 welded wire. This was attached to the exterior of the coop utilizing 5/16″ staples.
If you have never used a manual utility stapler they can be fun, but tiring. However, 7400+ staples later and you find your self with hands cramped in a hopefully non permanent kung-fu grip! Don’t worry, getting a little warmth to them and some liniment rubbed in and they were back to normal. The chicken run was really starting to shape up. We then stretched a large bird netting over the top. This was attached with more staples(Yikes!) Staple, stretch, staple, stretch, rinse and repeat. The final step was to move our original coop ( affectionately know as Coop 1.0) into place on the open end and attach it to the new run.
With this completed, we now had two doors allowing access and egress from the run area. The ladies really enjoyed their new space. We soon added some temporary electric fence posts and some plastic landscape fencing and gave them free run of a large section of our yard. With this attached to an already fenced section of our back yard, the flock definitely had a sizable space to explore. Although our area is not 100% perfectly safe for the chickens to be free range every day, due to wild life and stray dogs, they enjoy the freedom of the yard almost daily.