Rotating Run: Chicken Coop Extension

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About: Building design/consulting in SE Minnesota. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to peek in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyday... i have to...

The Rotating Run. So happy to share this instructable for something we've come up with for our backyard ladies!!

Our Goal. As always we are looking for ways to keep our chickens active through the summer. The chickens actually have less freedom at our house when it's nice out because we are more protective of the lawn.. which we try to keep relatively manure free. We also have to protect the garden from our ladies that would quickly tear through a bed of kale.

The rotating run allows us to pasture the front yard and get more use out of the portion of our yard that isn't enclosed by our 4' fence.

Great for neighbors. As you can see in the photo our neighbors also love it because kids can come walk over and share some table scraps with the ladies. The ladies - Lil'T, Kiki3, Barb and Candy - are a fixture of the neighborhood and a regular stop to and from a nearby park.

Supplies:

See the Tools & Materials section for a complete list.

Step 1: Pasturing Backyard Chickens

Pasturing is a great way to maintain a healthy lawn. Throughout the post I'll share both how to make and use the run. The key is not to overgraze. For this approx 40sqft run I move it every 2-3 days.

Important Features

  1. Connection to Coop: You can see how I've used an old futon as a raised section move the girls out into the yard. From the connection point I have a pivot to rotate the run.
  2. South Facing Lattice: The coop is made of lattice and deer fencing. By keeping the lattice on the south side of the run the chickens have excellent shade to graze on hot days.
  3. Fully Enclosed: An earlier prototype helped me to learn that the chickens need a wire base to the run. A chicken's first instinct when they find dirt is to dig holes --to find bugs and to dirt bath. That doesn't work for my yard.
  4. End Door: I use a door from an old dog kennel to form a door at the end of the run. Not necessary but nice to have. We use it every few weeks to let them out typically around dusk.

Step 2: Tools & Materials

These materials are items I had gradually accumulated mainly from neighbors and a few area dumpsters.

Materials:

  • Lattice - when i search online it's very expensive... I think it's much more reasonable at home depot at just under $40. The sheets I use are 2' wide... you'll likely want to cut with a table or circular saw. I believe mine were previously seasonal displays at a senior center that closed.
  • Welded Wire Fencing - also hard to find online but here is a 50' roll showing welded fencing at the 2"x3" size I'd recommend. Mine is 2"x4" spacing and I find it's wide enough that young chicks can through the gap.
  • Wire - I use electrical wire that I stripped down. It was a two wire product that I was able to get a red and black line out of... this material was pulled out of a dumpster after the low voltage electrical roughin. Likely from a life safety system (alarm). ---you could use zip ties but why pay more
  • Chicken Wire - I connect the run back to the coop with cut sections of chicken wire. These are scraps from a temporary run I had up for the baby chicks when they first came outside. See instagram.com/kuzkycoops for pics.

Tools:

  • Wire Stripper - always handy. I used the wire stripper for the wire I used as ties. functionally as a cutter and needle nose for twisting small sections of wire.
  • Tin Snips - shears are useful for cutting the chicken wire. not to be used to cut the welded wire.
  • Circular Saw - I found the lattice material already cut to 2' widths. If you purchase at 4' width a handy circular saw like the dewalt framing saw goes a long way... :)

Digital File - also included for reference is a TinkerCAD model of the layout. I show how the 'funnel' is used to make a flexible connection back to the main coop... we'll get to that!

Step 3: Layout to Length + Fold

Here I show my weathered wire fencing laid out next to the lattice material. The two foot wide lattice material is lined up and joined using screws. The screws bite right into the thick plastic.

Fold the fencing to create a tunnel or U-shape out of the metal.

Step 4: Form a D-Shape

Here I am connecting the welded wire to the lattice using the twist tie method with wire. I was careful to make connections along the same side of the lattice so that the material would make a D-shape.

Why a D shape? The D-shape is important so that the welded wire sides can sit flat and rest against the edge of lattice --the D's vertical section. It makes it easy to run the tunnel in either direction. It also makes it harder for the wind to blow it over. ---I find a few angles aren't as ideal for my positioning and in the fall there were times I needed to use stakes.

Step 5: Twist Tie Method

A couple shots at how I make the connection and use the twist ties. The twist ties are made of copper. Similar to a paperclip if you work the metal too much it will break. If you put it in place once... or even 10 times.. .it will last hold up well ---and no rust.

Step 6: Funnel Connection to Coop

Here is how I rigged up a connection back to the coop.

Two Funnels. Using two large triangular sections I made two funnels. The two smaller ends were connected by weaving wire through the fencing. The larger open ends to connected to the run and coop. See photos and the diagram under tools and materials for reference.

Step 7: First Version - Fail

Here's the first version I setup for the ladies..

There are a few reasons the prototype Failed...

  1. Not a tunnel. Once they reached dirt they started scratching. I as left with patches of exposed soil that only started to regrow by late fall. --one year later all is fine.
  2. Structure. The lean-too approach was useful and the sticks woven into the chicken wire helped keep it's form. Clearly it's lacking and made for awkward sections when the lattice would bend.
  3. Wire Connection. I liked that I was able to run wire along the length of the lattice and make ties back to the chicken wire. Yet it never felt permanent or secure.

Step 8: Pasturing

Here are a few photos of the rotating run in various positions. For most of the season I kept it on a 3-4 week cycle moving across the lawn. This left plenty of time for grass to regrow. Once we hit the fall and the grass grew more slowly I added the east rotation to provide about a 6 week recovery period.

We love that the chickens come right out to the street! Always nice to see when neighbors bring a few scraps for the ladies!!

Step 9: Ready for Backyard Chickens?

We hope you see a way to draw on this instructable to improve your chicken coop. It's so simple and it's really improved the quality of our yard. Our ladies also enjoy having more interaction throughout the day. If they ever are scared of a dog coming down the path they simply move back into the house... that's a great benefit of the welded wire --they are so secure!

Thank you for reading! Jeff

Here are a few more instructables I've put together to help make raising backyard chickens more accessible:

Our neighbors love our ladies... they affectionately tell us it reminds them of their time working in Uganda ---we love that!! .....a bit of a shameless plug but they leave for missionary work in Ghana July '19 with their three kids. They will be working on the front lines of child slavery with IJM. Here's a link to their crowdfunding site if you'd like to support their 3 year mission.

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    8 Discussions

    This is such a cute idea! I personally don't have chickens at home but I think that this is such an interesting way to have your pets do something additional in terms of maintaining your home! Not that eggs for breakfast isn't already a benefit in itself, of course!

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    jprussackCameronRobertson

    Reply 26 days ago

    Yes, thank you!! Maybe one day you'll have a few ladies helping maintain the yard! ---they also eat bugs, weeds and any scraps!

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    jeanniel1

    4 weeks ago

    What a great idea and for community interaction. Allowing people to see and interact with the chickens make them more "humane," and real. I also would not have known chickens can survive in the winter outdoors, too! Thanks for sharing

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    jprussackjeanniel1

    Reply 26 days ago

    Of course - thanks for commenting!
    Yes, kids in the neighborhood love the ladies!!

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    woodlouse

    4 weeks ago

    If rabbits can get through the gaps wouldn't foxes be able to as well?

    1 reply
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    jprussackwoodlouse

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Fortunately we don't worry about foxes inside city limits.... If you had to you could go with a 2x2 fencing or a chicken wire wrap. Grass would pop through chicken wire.