The Chicken Run

Posted by on Jun 18, 2010 in Chickens, Farm Blog | 24 comments

When we built the original coop, we only had a few Buff Orpington hens.  Although the coop itself could accommodate more chickens, the run, despite being generous in size, seemed just about right for a half dozen hens.

The original coop and covered run

After we moved the older hens out to the ark in the gardens this spring, this year’s chicks moved into the larger coop.  We knew though, that the run would need to be expanded to accommodate our new additions.

We began framing in the run extension last week

While the pullets are still small, they’re spending most of their time in the run during the day.  As they get larger though, we’ll start ranging them outside.  However, at the moment our resident Red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks, and ravens seem a little too interested in our twelve week-old brood. Even as adults, as we did with our previous hens, if we’re not here to keep an eye on the flock, they will be in the run during the day for their own protection.

Even a rooster can't defend his hens against everything

Our pullets recently had their first encounter with one of the bobcats that like to wander through the yard.  They’d never seen a bobcat before.  He surprised them, by popping up along side the run around 5 PM in the afternoon, and our first clue something was amiss, was an explosion of feathers and dust, along with audibly hysterical chickens in the yard.  Nobody was significantly injured, but if they weren’t in the run, it’s very likely someone would have become the early-bird special for the evening.  There were a few bloodied beaks that resulted from too many pullets dashing for the coop door at once, but the injuries were minor, and could have been much much worse.

This Delaware was one of four hens with a bloodied beak after Bob's visit

This photo is a couple of years old now, but this is exactly why we don’t leave our chickens out unattended!

 

Just a small snack, this Bobcat (Lynx rufus) is absconding with two Brewer's blackbird nestlings

Bob can easily take down a chicken.  So, to give the girls more space, and still keep them safe from our predators, we’ve now tripled the size of the original run by building an extension to the side.

 

The new chicken run extension has tripled the space available for our new flock

We elected to make the extension shorter than the main run so as not to turn the original run into a dark and gloomy cave.  The extension has a solid roof, but was attached to the main run so as to create a clerestory of sorts, still allowing light through to the original run.

The new run is shorter than the original, and fitted with a slick-surfaced metal roof

Although we shingled the main roof, we elected to use a sheet metal roof for the extension. As it’s closer to the ground, and we’ve watched bobcats try to climb the run walls in the past, we decided to go with a slick surfaced roof for the extension to discourage animals from climbing up there.  We’ll see how well that works for us over time.

We still need to add the sand base to the extension this weekend, but as our rapidly growing chickens were getting quite anxious for more elbow room, we’ve given them access now that the actual structure is complete.  Now they have plenty of room to flap, hop, jump, and run around as much as they like.

The girls all seem very happy to have so much extra room

 

Interestingly, even though they now have more shade on warm days due to the solid roof of the extension, they still really prefer to be under the coop when it’s hot.  It’s also the first place they retreat to when something scares them, as you’ll see in part of the video below.

I was intending this week’s video to show how roomy the new run is.  However, as you’ll tell from the first 10 seconds of this clip, filming inside the run is a bit of a challenge!   Remember last week when I said they peck lenses?  Add in a small red light on a video camera, and…well you’ll see for yourself…

Is it me, or were the girls laughing after they knocked the camera over?

Frodo

Fowl Friday wouldn’t be complete without a note or two about Frodo.  With the run extension in place, we’re really anxious to get Frodo turned back out into the coop.  He’s only made a smidge of progress on filling in his bald spot in the past week…but it’s progress nonetheless. On the upside, all the extra attention he’s getting is turning him into quite a sweet little chap.

 

11 Weeks: Frodo still has a bald spot

12 Weeks: Frodo's feathers are finally starting to emerge!

Anticipating Frodo’s imminent return to the flock, we’ve moved our temporary chicken tractor directly along side the new run extension.  Frodo, and his friend, who now seems to have acquired the name Sam (of course, who else would Frodo’s friend be), both spend their days in the tractor where all of the pullets can see them.  This allows them to re-familiarize themselves with each other, but still protects Frodo’s skin from our persistently pecking pullets.

 

Frodo and his friend 'Sam'

The next step will be sneaking these two back into the coop one night, after everyone has roosted for the evening.  That though, is likely still a few days away.

Next Fowl Friday, we’ll update you on the progress of our turkeys, who are growing faster than our weeds!  Meanwhile, with poultry construction projects completed, it’s time to get back in the garden!

24 Comments

  1. Your chickens really get treated so well. I didn’t realize all the things involved with chickens until you started doing these regular posts on them. Glad they will be safe from predators in there. I hope Frodo will have enough feathers soon to join the rest of the chickens.
    Catherine´s last post…Garden Bloggers Bloom Day June 2010.

  2. Your chickens have a well engineered home! I’m glad Frodo ‘s feathers are coming in nicely. I hope he is accepted back into the flock without much drama! I enjoyed this post. I always look forward to your fowl updates!
    debsgarden´s last post…Tropicana Canna Lily

  3. you’ll let me know when Frodo and Sam find the one true ring….

    • You’ll be the first to know, promise 😛

  4. Yeah, be careful is Frodo goes in visible from time to time…

    And crikey! Your chickens’ habitat is larger than my entire back yard.
    Lisa´s last post…Buried in the Garden

  5. Nice coop and run! I notice you used hardware cloth instead of chicken wire, this detail alone conveys a very clear idea of the caliber of predators around. How is it with rodents, can they burrow into the coop to get at the chicken’s feed?

    Also, great bobcat photo!
    Angela´s last post…Purple Sage

    • The hardware cloth (we use 1/2″) prevents small songbirds from getting in too, and stealing/contaminating feed. We actually use hardware cloth under the coop and run too. As we live in the woods, the last thing we want is rodents getting in the coop. It stresses out the chickens, and the last thing we need is to be giving the rodents a free lunch! Also prevents skunks, coyotes, and raccoons from digging underneath too, and lasts a LOT longer than buried poultry wire, that usually rots within two years.

  6. Ah, now I feel better. I had a miserably long day at work, and then I had to get groceries, but I knew Fowl Friday would set things right.

    Frodo really looks like such an attractive guy! Too bad we can’t have roosters here..
    Town Mouse´s last post…Telling Alligator Lizards from Fence Lizards

    • Unfortunately, with all the achievements in poultry breeding and genetics over the centuries, we have yet to perfect the quiet rooster. It really is a shame they’re loud, from dawn to dusk. Some roosters are actually sweet, calm birds. Although I’d rather listen to a rooster, than a car alarm going off at all hours!

  7. Hi Clare – I love following the tales of your girls! Such fun to read…but obviously a lot of hard work for you too with all those extensions etc.
    You have a pretty and eclectic collection – a kaleidoscope of feather patterns. On what basis did you choose them e.g good egg layers, meat(yes the Bobcat knows they taste good too :()or just because you wanted a variety flock

    Laura x
    PatioPatch´s last post…Indian Bean Tree: Woodpecker Woodcraft

    • Laura, our first chickens were only Buff Orpington hens. We enjoyed them so much, this time we thought we’d not only get more, but also branch out a little. We had a few criterion when we selected breeds. The most important was size. No bantams breeds, and preferrably toward the heavier end of the standard breed spectrum. We didn’t want to make it easy for some of our aerial predators to swoop in for a free lunch. The smallest of these hens would be about 6lbs at maturity. Another important factor was egg laying. We don’t eat our hens, so meat production was not a concern. We wanted at least modest egglayers, of medium to large eggs. I cook a lot, but am busy enough that I don’t want to be forced into weighing all the eggs to figure out egg-equivalents for cooking. The most important consideration though, was temperament. Some breeds have a little bit of a reputation for being not-so-friendly. We wanted chickens that were relatively calm, and that tolerate confinement. Not that our hens are hurting for space, but they’re not ranged full-time. Last thing we want to deal with is chicken-wars in the run! That brought us to the following five breeds: Buff Orpington, Black Australorp, Delaware, Partridge Plymouth Rocks, and Golden Laced Wyandottes. The Delawares have turned out to have the best disposition. They’re quiet, but curious, and love to sit in your lap. The GLWs are the most ‘aggressive’, in that they peck anything new. The Plymouth Rocks and Austraorps are the most shy. The Brahma (Frodo) was a surprise (a ‘bonus’ chick from our hatchery), but I personally think he’s awesome, and am so glad they sent him. The Plymouth Rock roo, we expected to be a hen 😛

      • Dear Clare

        thanks for taking time to detail the how and why of your chick choices! The Delawares sound like my kind of bird though the colours of the Australorp are divine. In all this, what stood out for me was your comment “I love to cook” (you weigh eggs?!) – So your’re Curbstone Clare the chef who is also a gardener, photographer and blogger of note whilst caring for her chucks and turkeys. I thought Wonder Woman was just an 80’s tv program
        Laura x
        PatioPatch´s last post…Read the Label: Begonias not Tomatoes!

  8. Dear Clare, The chicken hotel is coming along a pace. It will soon be ready for the Inspectors to grade it for ‘star’ awards!!

    I am always most interested to read of the activities on the farm of the chicken and am filled with admiration at the way in which they are really taken care of. Sadly, I do not believe this is always the case.

    I do hope that you are enjoying a peaceful weekend without too much work! And Frodo is feathering up nicely.
    Edith Hope´s last post…A Tale of Two Women

  9. Clare, I love your chickens! and it pains me to see what happened to one of the Delawares.

    Friends of ours have some that have roamed freely until recently when a fox took the lion’s share; two years ago coyotes took nearly all their lambs, a problem that in prior years did not exist.

    I have wanted chickens, but I need to consider my age at this point.. my mind and heart want to care for more than my body can tolerate.lol

    The video was so funny! I love what you are doing here, but remember to pace yourself dear lady.

    I do hope you are enjoying this weekend. It appears we have a forecast of sunshine for the next 10 days here in the Willamette Valley. The tomatoes are going to love it!
    Diana´s last post…GGW Picture This Photo Contest

  10. Another excellent chicken post, Clare! I’m just brimming with ideas now on how to construct our first chicken coop. My main concern has always been predators, as we also have coyotes, bobcats, foxes and raptors around here that have infiltrated some of our neighbors’ hen houses and chicken runs. You’ve given some great advice on how to keep such incursions in check. Btw, Frodo rocks!
    Camissonia´s last post…Navajo Chickens

  11. Goodness, if I were a chicken and that bobcat suddenly appeared I think I’d die of the fright alone!

    Just remember that if the girls don’t take to Frodo and Sam they can always come and live with me Clare…it’s not like I’m far away at all 😉 Now that has put me in mind of a more serious question, do you know if chooks and ducks tend to get along?
    Heidi (GippyGardener)´s last post…My Garden Bouquet (MGB) for June – Winter White

    • Chickens and ducks do get along. If I was mixing flocks though, I’d avoid getting a male duck. They can be aggressive to female ducks, and the stress can cause precipitous declines in egg production. We’ve considered getting a couple of ducks here. Their eggs are great for baking, and we had a duck at our last house for a while. ‘Daisy’ was a stray duckling that somehow wandered alone into our garden at just a couple of days old, and found our pond! She was a ton of fun, and actually full of personality. I think it would be fun to have a duck or two 🙂

  12. Clare they sure were pecking at that red light! they are such inquisitive little creatures and they sure did get back into that coop when they heard that noise overhead.

    I think you have made a fabulous run for the chickens and I’m glad to hear that Frodo is improving and getting used to being near the rest of the gals again.

    Looking forward to your next update
    [email protected]´s last post…Oriental Poppies and Wishes do come true!

  13. I listened to the video again, and it DOES sound like laughter!

    That is such a well-constructed run. One could do much worse than be a chicken at CV. I do hope the girls have recovered from the run-in with Bob.
    villager´s last post…Bloom Day – June 2010

  14. Like a good story, love to keep reading your tales! My heart even beats faster checkin’ out the bobcat (starting to scare us at the lake too)! Until the next chapter … good luck, Clare!
    joey´s last post…IN HONOR of FATHER’S DAY ~ "DERLING SANDWICH" & PINE FLOAT

  15. Wonderful chicken update!! So glad to see Frodo making fine progress towards becoming a total studmuffin gentleman. He is adorable. Your facilities there are so soundly built, it’s very inspiring!! Bravo!!
    Bonnie Story´s last post…Historic Stone Barn in Sonoma

  16. Great job on your run extension. Sweet little Frodo…I hope his feathers grow fast. My Brahma doesn’t seem to be so far behind the others in growth now. She’s about the same size as the Barred Rock and has gotten more courage now.

    Can’t wait to hear more about the turkeys!
    Jackie´s last post…Happy last Friday of Spring!

  17. That video was hilarious! Helloooo? What’s in there? What’s in there?
    Do I sense a new LOLchicks internet meme coming our way?
    Christine´s last post…Backyard Archaeology: One Dime

    • LOLchicks…hmmm…now there’s an idea! 😛