What Size Run Should I Give my Chickens?

The chicken run is your biggest investment after the chicken house. The answer to this question is of course the biggest run possible, however, practically most of us have space limitations.

There are two popular options to consider – the first is to give them a movable run that is large enough for them to exercise in (fat hens don’t lay eggs!) and light weight enough for you to move regularly. This refreshes the grass underneath, providing fresh grazing for your hens.

An area of one meter squared per pair of hens is reasonable with a height that allows hens to jump up in the air to peck at greens etc that can be hung in the run to give them more exercise.

The second option is to fence them into a corner of the garden or use a larger fixed run that is big enough to give them exercise and to supply them with extra greens. This type of run will unfortunately soon turn to mud and many poultry keepers cover the floor of their run with bark chippings or similar so that they can be cleaned out regularly.

With either of these run options, there is nothing better than to see your chickens free ranging around the garden from time to time when you are around to keep an eye on things. This will benefit them enormously and within minutes of being allowed out, you will see them exhibiting their natural behaviours.

Do chickens get fed up in their run?

Chickens can get bored if they are kept in a small or overcrowded area. If chickens are given enough room to exercise, and to exhibit natural behaviours like jumping and scratching then they should not suffer from any boredom. With boredom comes feather pecking and other vices that can be hard to cure.

Chickens are prone to becoming ill if they aren’t given the correct diet and part of this diet is usually obtained from being allowed to forage on even a small area of ground.

Remember if you have a small run, you can let your hens out from time to time, to free range in your garden. There are some plants that chickens won’t touch and they will enjoy it and have some foraging time. You can also hang vegetables like cabbage or sweetcorn by string or in a net for them to peck at which decreases boredom. If you hang these slightly above pecking height, this will help your chickens exercise as they jump up to peck at them. Old CDs can be hung up in chicken runs to give the birds something to attract their attention to stop them from getting bored but ultimately, you can’t beat letting them out for a little free range foraging, which allows them to exhibit their most natural behaviour.

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Tim Daniels

Tim is the founder of the poultrykeeper website and lives in Herefordshire, UK. He keeps Cream Legbar chickens, Silver Sebright bantams and hybrid layers for eggs, Abacot Ranger ducks, Brecon Buff geese and some quail.

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