Where growing, making & good living come together

Portable chicken run from scrap wood & wire

Posted by on Friday 18 February 2011 in chickens, making, wood stuff | 6 comments

I was in a bit of a sulk this morning. My weekends – now that the weather is getting better – usually involve playing out in the garden, or at least cooking up treats in the kitchen but this weekend, I’m out all day, both days, at a youth theatre event with the group I help teach. The event should be fun but, you know, not playing in the garden or making sugar-packed goodies. So I was sulking about losing my play time – until I realised there was nothing stopping me playing out this afternoon instead. Even after five years of self-employment, I still feel naughty playing out during a workday – but as soon as I realised I could, I was up and running for the box of screws and our scrap wood supplies.

I find it funny that I get so excited about making things from wood these days because a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I was capable of doing it. I’m quite a practical girl – I worked as a labourer one summer during uni and I’m happy to get my hands/clothes/face dirty with paint or mud or what-have-you – but I always thought that making things from wood was a Big Serious Skill that wasn’t for my sort. I don’t know why. Perhaps it was because we didn’t really do any big woodwork stuff at school – we did stuff on “resistant materials” (which included bits of woodwork as well as electronics and stuff with plastic/metal) and I remember making little bits of jewellery out of wood and plastic – but it was little things, nothing practical.

I think I started to get converted after we moved into this house just over a year ago – I wanted some airing shelves inside the boiler cupboard so I went over to the DIY shop across the road, bought some 38mm by 19mm lengths, and made them. I think I did a pretty good job – I made them easily removable in case we needed better access to the boiler and they’ve not fallen down yet. Then I decided I wanted a wellie stand for outside and after getting some advice from a friend who is handy with a saw & screws and a scramble around our scrap wood store, we had a shiny new wellie station in a couple of hours. And that’s when the addiction started. I’m not great at it by any means but every time I make something, I learn something new and have tons o’fun :)

Anyway, this afternoon’s project was a portable chicken run so I could let the chickens out of their main run more. I was inspired by Kate from Living the Frugal Life‘s poultry schooner – it would let me use the chickens to weed and de-slug the veg beds but wouldn’t need me watching over them the whole time (or chasing them around the woods when they got the taste of freedom). I wanted to do a hoophouse thing like Kate’s but didn’t have any material to make the hoops – so I ended up making a boring wood frame instead. At least it was all the boring wood was scrap so free though :)

I made the ends first and was a little surprised by how sturdy they were ;)

The sturdiness was beneficial as the only long lengths I could find were lighter than desirable – but with the sturdy end frames and some supporting struts in the middle, it still felt strong enough. So far, so good.

Then I went a’rummaging for some scrap chicken wire – left over from when John’s dad made the main chicken fort last spring – and my staple gun.

As always when I use my staple gun, I give a quick word of thanks to PastLouisa who thought to tape the staples to the side of the gun – I bought it in 1999, three house moves and two cities ago, there is no way I’d still have the staples if I hadn’t done that. Thanks PastLouisa.

It was pretty quick work – smoothing and stretching out the wire – but something gave me the impression that maybe I should be wearing gloves while cutting super pokey wire.

It was getting dark (and cold) by the time I finished stapling the last side so I didn’t have a chance to tidy it up – but it just needs a little more attention (securing loose, pokey bits, especially on the top where it’s doubled up) and then it’s ready to go.

It’s not as pretty – or anywhere near as big as Kate’s schooner – but it will fit into our awkwardly small beds as well as our longer narrow ones and will take two or three hens at a time. We’ll also be able to use it inside the main hen run if we need to keep any of them apart for whatever reason.

A hinged side would made it easier to get chickens in and out of it but it’ll do for now. We’ve got a portable hen run for free and I’ve learnt an important lesson about gloves ;)


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  1. Marie

    I should really make one too. I usually let the chickens out in the garden but they are making such a mess…I guess that way everybody would be happy!

  2. Linda

    Very cool. You can also drape bird netting over it and put over the strawberries when that time comes!
    We made a similar structure with a camp bedframe as the base and alcathene (sp?) piping hoops to hold the chicken wire up. Made a sacking door to put chickens in through.
    Used to separate what I thought was a broody hen but turned out to be a psychologically-disturbed but tasty soup!

    Did you put handles on the ends? to save yourself future ‘no-gloves’ accidents.

  3. louisa

    Hehe, psychologically-disturbed soup ;)

    Marie: they do have a tendency to poo in the wrong place, don’t they? ;) I usually let ours out to roam free while I keep a close eye on them – but the last time I did it, one of them got the idea of roaming too free and it took me half an hour of running around to catch her again. Our first batch of hens are good girls but the new ones are a bit too flighty… I also like the idea of having them pottering about while I’m pottering about – I think I’ll be able to get them out more, whenever I’m in the garden.

    Linda: Great idea about the sacking door – I’ll see how I do without a door for now but if it’s a pain, I’ll remove the wire from one part and use sacking (or perhaps overlapping heavy plastic feed bags) to make a door instead.

    I haven’t put handles on the ends – I’m hoping to tidy up all the pokey bits so neither I or the chickens get hurt by it again. The little cuts on my fingers hurt all weekend!

  4. Jen

    I found your site whilst I was searching for info because my husband would like to keep chickens one day, so all the stories you share are very useful as well as entertaining.

    Your woodworking skills are more impressive than you give yourself credit for.

    The first big wood-job I did was shelves in a boiler cupboard as well (just a couple of weeks ago), which is what inspired me to comment.

    Hope your chickens enjoy the run

    Jen x

    • louisa

      Hi Jen, I commented on your blog – I was very impressed by your new shelves! What’s next on your building to-do list?

      • Jen

        Hey Louisa, thanks, I was very pleased with how they turned out. At the moment we’re having a new bathroom fitted so I’ve left it to the professionals for now. This weekend we’ll be trying the tiling…and I’m already looking forward to the challenge!

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