Making the Run More Fun

With the structure up and ready to go, it was time to set up the run for the ladies.  I had a detailed plan going in, but with any home project, it sort of evolves as it goes.  I knew I wanted both soil and gravel in the run.  The soil to promote scratching and pecking and to attract bugs.  I wanted gravel because 1) I have a ton of gravel from clearing out the space and 2) the girls use it to keep their beaks clean and sharp and for the grit.

 

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The ladies enjoying scratching around the fresh soil

I originally marked out a gravel path that led to the coop door but it got very tight around the bush-tree so I opted for a gravel entry area and soil all the way to the coop.  Overall, it’s easier to keep tidy and the gravel stays where it needs to be with the 4″ border separating the two.

I also knew I wanted as many plants as I could fit in there.  Very happy we were able to keep the bush and shape it like a tree. I’ve seen Maple and Pepper both use the perch but not while I had a camera handy (of course).

 

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After doing some research,  including this helpful blog, I decided on this rose tree.  The height would help discourage eating all the leaves and the petals will fall, leaving nice treats for the ladies all over the ground.  Plus more bugs.  The log next to it is intended to be turned over every couple of days for the fresh bugs underneath.

 

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This awesome wall planter was at Home Goods and I just put some plastic to line the back so the wall wouldn’t stay wet for long periods of time. Then I planted this little lavender plant to help keep away flies and for the lovely aroma.  I love lavender.  Also, I can dry out some of it to add to the Coop Confetti I already use in the nesting boxes.

The little rosemary you see on the bottom right there was also suggested by the aforementioned blog since the chickens don’t seem to eat it too much.  I can tell you that they tried a little but after a couple of days, they stopped trying to eat the leaves and settled for pecking at the soil around it every now and then. As with the lavender, I can dry this out and add it to the nesting boxes as well.

 

 

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I found this wall planter on Amazon and it got me really excited. So after I lined the back with plastic, I put some impatiens and begonia in there with a couple little amaranth plants that I had leftover.  The idea was the ladies couple peck at the bottom ones (which they have) while leaving the top ones to grow and flourish.  So far so good but it’s hard to keep the soil moist.  I’m looking into some misters to install to help out with that.

 

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Near the coop door (details in the next blog) and the bottom vent, I built my first swing!  It’s a little low now but once I raise it up, it’ll be the perfect height to peck at those bottom plants in the planter.  I haven’t seen anyone use it yet so I may move it around the run to see if they like a different spot better.

Lastly, I made a small shelf in the front corner of the run to put this little chicken planter I found.  Perfect spot for some more impatiens.  The impatiens seem to really love this spot.

 

 

It’s still a work in progress and there’s bound to be trial and error but it’s definitely coming along. Next, we look at how I set up the inside of the coop. Thanks for reading!

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New Home for the Ladies!

Six weeks or so ago, my dad and I set out to set up a new home for my backyard flock. Their previous accommodations were much too small to be comfortable and the entire backyard was their run.  While it was nice to have them free-ranging all over the yard, I wanted to be able to contain them in a secure run for extended length of time as well as make their coop much more roomy.  Not to mention getting ready for more chickens!

So after much deliberation, we figured the southwest corner of the backyard was a perfect spot.  What follows is a (mostly) step by step accounting of how my Dad and I put up the structure.

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This is what the corner looked like when we started.  We had to take out three bushes where the coop would go but we decided to trim up that bush in the front to keep inside the run.

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The coop and run would go right up against that lily grass on the left.  Altogether it would be 8′ wide by 24′ long.

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Here’s what it looked like after we removed the bushes and trimmed up that front one.  We had a conveniently sized branch from trimming a tree that would be perfect for a little perch!

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My dad took out those back bushes on his own, roots and all.  He’s such a beast.

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Next, we had to remove the gravel and the plastic lining underneath.

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It’s was a LOT of gravel.  We set stakes at the corners to guide us.

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Once we got the gravel all shoveled out, we pulled the rest of the plastic away and cleaned it up a bit. Now time to start setting up the base.

 

 

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Of course, the ground wasn’t level so we set a level line made of twine and set it on the stakes to give us an idea of how far we’d have to dig down.  We wanted to go down 4″.

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The ground was super hard. So we shoveled a bit, wet it down, then shoveled some more.

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Finally done digging!  Our backs were hurting quite a bit by this point.

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Now that the ground was mostly level, we put sand down into the small ditch so we could get a completely level and flush floor to set the bottom of each wall down.

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Now that we got the prep out of the way, its time to set up the first wall of the coop!  The base is redwood and the studs were treated pine.  I’d end up going thru and sealing all the studs with wood sealant. We made two of these to start.  Now time to stand them up.

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We set up the back wall and secured it with extra studs.  Then we attached the two walls, making sure they were both level.

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Good, good.  Sturdy.

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With three walls up, it’s almost a structure!

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We put up a couple more walls and took a break.  When we came back out, look who was already making themselves at home!

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Looks like a good spot for a quick bath!

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We got on a roll and I forgot to take a bunch of pictures. (That’s kind of a theme during this project.). It’s hard to remember when there’s good company and good music and you’re making great progress.

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We got most of the rafters up before I remembered to snap a couple of shots. My dad insisted on it being built close to building code so it’s basically a small house. The rafters are every 24″.

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Once we got these up, the whole structure was pretty sturdy for just being a wooden frame.

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I had no clue what I was doing but thankfully my dad is always quick to teach me the way.  He’s so patient.

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I had no idea it was so involved.  It’s be much more difficult with just one person.

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It’s all coming together! We’re almost done with the rafters by this point.

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Now time to put the roof on!  We used pressed plywood sheets since we were going to put roofing material on top.

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Look at this guy.  Such a stud.

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He was really tired here but he just kept on going.  Unbelievable.

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While my dad was making adjustments on the roof, I started putting up the walls. to the coop.

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Almost completely enclosed!  My ladies are gonna be so happy!

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I took this just to give a sense of how the roof was set on the rafters.  It was slightly wider than the sheets so we had to cut strips to fit.

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Not a paid advertisement! But I got this Black and Decker Matrix gun that had different attachments including a small circular saw.  Came in incredibly handy.

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Why hello there!  Just a Chicken Guy hanging out on the roof.

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We decided to go with a lattice roof over the run to let some light in and for general ventilation.  I wanted to be able to grow some plants in the run so this worked out nicely.

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The front door to the coop was finished and covered in lattice. The back wall that you can barely see is completely covered with the weather-proof siding on both sides.  The front side wall would be 1/4″ hardware cloth.

 

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We had extra lattice so we covered the front with it to give it a more polished look in the end.

 

So almost a whole day goes by and I completely forget to take a lot of the pictures I originally wanted to take.  I was just having so much fun putting this together! But basically, we put up all the walls and lattice.  I ordered the hardware cloth on Amazon so it was on it’s way.  Time to start working on the inside!

 

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We got these nesting boxes from the local feed store.  They were only slightly more expensive than the raw materials to make it myself so why not save some time?

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I made this roosting bar to fit the space.  This shows the rounded top and middle bar but I ended up changing this after doing some more research.

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You gotta have ventilation!  If my research taught me anything, it’s that you can’t really ever have too much.  Being in Southern California, we don’t ever have to worry about it getting too cold.

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I got this metal sheeting at Home Depot and cut it to fit over the nesting boxes to prevent roosting on top.

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More ventilation!

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I wanted to use the deep litter method for handling the droppings and bedding so I dug out a 5″ ditch under the nesting boxes and where the roosting bar would be.

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I had all this extra dirt and space so I made this “sand box” for the ladies to use as a bath if need be.  Don’t worry, I’m going to add more than just this hard dirt.

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Here’s the inside with the bedding down.  As you can see, I changed up the top bars to a 2×4 and a 2×3 because it’s more comfortable for the ladies. I also made a little ladder to make it easier for them to get up and to prepare for newer chicks.  Around the perimeter is a good sprinkling of First Saturday Lime.

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I cut out these circles and set hardware cloth behind them to keep it all rat proof.

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Finally, time to finish setting up outside.  I put down about 3 inches of generic garden soil and 3 inches of gravel for the front entry.

Here’s the ladies in their first night in the coop.  Chicken is the only one who’s willing to space out for comfort.  The others figured it out soon enough.

 

I’d like to thank my dad for the considerable time and effort to make this happen.  The ladies are much happier now and we can keep the backyard a little cleaner.  On my next post, we’ll take a look at some of the plants I put into the run.  Thanks for reading!