Introduction: Building a Chicken Run for Beginners
This is an 8'x6' fully enclosed chicken run made primarily of 2x4s. A run of this size, if it is used as the primary daytime habitat for your chickens, will be adequate for 4-5 chickens, provided you also have an appropriately-sized coop. Mine currently houses 3 adult hens.
This is the first time I've ever designed or built anything like this from scratch. This project is completely doable by beginners, with a little attention to detail and a few key tools. If you can use a circular saw and drill a screw into a piece of wood, you are ready to tackle this. I'm going to write this Instructable with beginners in mind.
For this project, you will need the following:
Approximately 22 pressure-treated 2x4s. I primarily used 2x4x8s, but you could get away with mixing a few 2x4x6s in there.
4-6 smaller boards such as 1x2s or similar, or a 8'x6' wooden lattice, to support the roof
1 wooden screen door
1 box of 2.5" deck screws
1 box of 2.5" Kreg pocket hole screws
A few miscellaneous smaller screws and washers (we'll get to these when we put the roof on)
Hinges and a latch for the door
4 sheets of 8'x26" corrugated vinyl roofing sheets
A couple packages of corrugated roofing closure strips
Welded wire, chicken wire, or hardware cloth of your choice
1 box of Fencing staples
Kreg pocket hole jig kit
Drill and set of bits (cordless is fine, but mine ran out of juice after about 4 hours of each day of work, so bear that in mind when managing your time)
Chop saw, circular saw or miter saw
Bar clamps, especially if you are building this solo
Standard issue household tools such as a hammer, level, ruler, etc...
Step 1: The Design
Please see the attached Sketchup design for a full schematic. (Sketchup is a free 3D modeling tool, available here. It's got a steep learning curve, but it's a great tool for beginners to try out designing from scratch virtually before you start sawing away at expensive lumber.)
This project is designed with an 8 foot by 6 foot footprint, with a single-pitch sloping roof, and utilizing a screen door purchased from a store. I wanted a run that was tall enough for me to get into and move around in, for ease of cleaning and maintenance.
There are a few (very few) miter cuts and several pocket holes, so these are the key skills a beginner will learn building this project. Other than that, it's all done with butt joints and deck screws.
Step 2: The Footprint and Corners
Nearly everything in this project started life as a pressure-treated 2x4 (note that 2x4s aren't actually 2 inches by 4 inches, they are 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches--not knowing this will screw up your math). For that reason, when I give cut lists, they will be lengths only.
8' -- 2 (that's two 8-foot 2x4s)
6' -- 4
7' -- 4
Create the footprint with 2 8-footers and 2 6-footers. Sandwich the 6-footers inside the 8-footers and use deck screws (assume all screws in this project are high quality 2.5" deck screws unless otherwise specified) to fasten at the corners, as shown in the diagram. Drilling pilot holes prior to driving the screws is highly recommended for all parts of this project.
Congratulations, you now have a rectangle.
Now make the corners. Determine which 8-foot side is going to be the front and use four 7-foot 2x4s to make the two front corners. It's nice to have a helper to hold these up as you screw them in, but you can also use a couple of big bar clamps do do your holding for you. See the pictures for how to position the 2x4s, and attach each to the frame with 4 screws in a box pattern.
Do the same with the four 6' 2x4s at the back corners.
Step 3: Door Frame, Front and Back Walls
6'8" -- 2
7'9" -- 2
6' -- 1
A standard cheap screen door from the hardware store is generally 80" tall--that's 6'8". It's time to make a door frame for the screen door. Measure the width of your door and mark where each side of the frame will be. It's better to slightly overestimate than underestimate here (if you underestimate, your door just plum will not fit, if you over-estimate, you'll have a little gap).
It's time to get your pocket hole on! If you need an intro on using a pocket hole jig, please consult YouTube and practice with some scrap wood. I have a Kreg pocket hole jig kit that includes the jig, a drill bit, and a driver bit.
Drill two pocket holes at one end of your door frame pieces.
Measure the width of your door and install your door frame pieces on top of bottom frame on either side using 2.5" pocket hole screws and a pocket hole driver bit (see the image).
Now for the beam across the top that eventually you'll mount your roof to. This was the one measuring error I made, so learn fro my mistake: Even though the bottom frame is 8 feet long, your top beam will not be. Because the corners are attached inside the structure, this shaves off a total of 3 inches (1.5" from each side) from the width of the top. So either use a full 8 foot 2x4 but be aware that you'll be attaching it to the corner beam with 1.5" overhang on each side, or cut your material so that it's 7'9" rather than 8'. Measure twice, cut once.
Hoist that roof beam up on top, line everything up, and attach it with two deck screws to the top of each corner and door frame piece. If you measured everything accurately, this top beam should run flush across all 6 2x4s that are acting as your front wall.
For the back wall, we don't need a door frame. Instead we'll use a single 2x4 installed right in the center. The back wall is one foot shorter than the front (to create the sloping roof). Use a 6' 2x4 attached in a similar way as your corners, flush with the ground on the inside of the bottom frame.
Attach a 7'9" roof beam across the top of the back as you did with the front, and secure it to each corner and center piece with 2 deck screws.
You should now have a sturdy front wall with a door frame that fits your screen door, and a back wall that is 1 foot shorter than the front.
Step 4: Side Roof Beams and Walls
5'2"* -- 2
6'* -- 2
Time to make some miter cuts! I have a miter saw, but some elbow grease and a miter box will work here, or a very carefully measured and drawn angle and a circular saw.
Because the roof slopes with a rise of 1 foot and a run of 6 feet (I hope I expressed that correctly--I havent' taken a geometry class in about 25 years), the beam that connects the front wall to the back needs angled cuts in order to express the slope. A 10-degree angle works here, and looking at the image (and the Sketchup design) probably makes it clearer than I can in words how you're going to cut this. This piece is going to be laid in with pocket holes with the broad-side facing out, like the bottom frame.
Once you've got the piece cut (if you screw up, you can just cut the mistake piece down to use as one of the many horizontal braces), drill two pocket holes on the inside of each side (facing the interior of your structure). Attach it to the front and back corner and roof beams with 2.5" pocket hole screws.
Do the same on the other side.
The final vertical pieces will be the side walls, one on each side, and these will also require a 10-degree miter cut to allow for the sloping roof. See note below about placement. You will also want to measure the distance from the side roof beam to the bottom of the frame because you will likely come in a hair over 6 feet for this. Do not pre-cut this piece. Wait until you have an exact measurement.
Once you have a measurement, cut a 10-degree miter cut on one end. On the mitered end, drill 2 pocket holes. Attach the non-mitered end to the bottom frame in the same manner as your corner pieces, with deck screws on the inside of the frame. Use pocket hole screws to attach the top to the side roof beam. Do the same on the other side.
A word on my placement of these side wall pieces: I was using welded wire that is 4 feet wide. Because I didn't want to have to cut it any more than I had to, where possible I placed vertical pieces at 4-foot intervals. Because the sides are only 6 feet, I placed these side beams 4 feet from the front, leaving 2 feet on the other side. If your placement differs, measure the height required for these pieces because it will be different than mine.
Step 5: Horizontal Braces and Front Door
Varies. Allow yourself at least 3 2"x4"x6's to accomplish this.
Almost done with the frame! The final step is to cut and install horizontal braces, (I did mine about 3 feet off the ground, but that was for no particular reason). Precisely measure the spaces between all of your vertical beams and cut pieces to fit. Drill 2 pocket holes on either end of each piece and install using pocket hole screws.
Now install the screen door in the door frame using a couple of hinges and lock/latch hardware of your choice.
Step 6: Security
To fully enclose this run, you can use welded wire, chicken wire, or hardware cloth. I used welded wire because I live in the city, in a fenced yard, and predators have never really been an issue during the daytime when the chickens are inside the run.
Using fencing staples to hang welded wire is just a slog and there's no getting around it. I tried to make it easier on myself by keeping as many 4-foot areas as possible (the wire was 4 feet wide). But really it's just a lot of hammering and a lot of wire-cutting.
Use a staple gun to hang the wire (from the top down) at first while you hammer in the first few fencing staples to get it in place. Regular staples won't hold it permanently but they'll keep it from curling back up on you while you get started with each section. I put a fencing staple about every 4 inches.
You could also install wire to enclose the top if you don't want a solid roof. In which case: hey, you're done! But if you want a roof, continue to the next step.
Step 7: The Roof
Before putting the roof on, you need to build some sort of support for it. I used little 1x2s to create a lattice-like structure on the roof. Another option would be to use a sheet of actual lattice, cut to fit and screwed down to the structure where appropriate. Just something so that your roof panels have a wee bit of support in the center beyond just the front, back and side roof beams.
Installing a corrugated vinyl roof is actually fairly simple.
Even our fairly small Home Depot had a nice selection of corrugated roofing supplies. Sheets come in panels that are 8 feet long and 28 inches wide. Cutting them down to size is the most irritating part, as I found that all of the recommended methods were equally crappy. I wound up just using some big aviation snips (giant tin snips). I cut 1 foot off each panel, to ensure a few inches overhang at both the front and back of my run.
When you pick up your panels, you'll also need to pick up a couple packages of corrugated roof closure strips. In addition, you'll need screws smaller than the 2.5" whoppers we've been using up until this point. 1.5" should work well, and you'll need some metal washers. Read through these instructions before selecting the size of washer you'll need.
The closure strips go along the front and back roof beams, screwed down into the beam every couple of "valleys" with 1.5" screws.
Hoist your vinyl sheets up onto the roof, so that the "valleys" and "mountains" in the sheet and the closure strips match up. Every couple of "mountains" drill a pilot hole with a very large drill bit (1/2" or more) on a very low-speed, low-torque setting. You're drilling through plastic here, so it's not power that is needed but finesse (so the vinyl sheet doesn't crack). Once the pilot hole is drilled, use a 2"-2.5" deck screw and a washer to drill down through the pilot hole into the wooden roof beam (see diagram). Do not fasten too tightly, the washer should be able to still spin a little with a small amount of effort. Continue this process all the way down the front and back roof beams, attaching the vinyl sheet to the closure strip every couple of "mountains".
And that's it! You're done!
Paint or seal your run as desired. You'll notice there's no actual chicken coop as part of the project and that's because we already have an old A-Frame coop that for now we've just moved over to butt up against the run so the chickens have a place to sleep at night. Future plans include construction of a new coop that is fully integrated into this run, as well as some chicken-assisted compost bins that are also integrated with the structure in some way. Stay tuned, chook fans.