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Do chickens need a run around their coop?

When you’re keeping chickens for the first time and you’re looking at what equipment you need you’ll notice that some coops come with a built-in run or a run which you can use around your coop.

You’ll also notice that not all coops come with a run meaning you need to buy one separately at an added expense. But do chickens even need a run around their coop and what is the purpose of having one?

In short, chickens do need a run of some description around their coop to provide a holding area where they can feed, drink and stay safe from predators. Having a run around a coop allows new chickens to become familiar with their surroundings before they’re released.

A chicken run allows the chickens to graze and scratch for natural food in safety while still allowing them access to the coop. You will need a run even if you plan to free-range your hens because there will always be times where you need to hold them back for some reason.

Read on to find out more about the purpose of a chicken run along with some tips on how to create a low-cost run around your coop.

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Do you need to buy a chicken run?

There are lots of different types of chicken runs which you can buy to connect or go around a coop, but in most cases, they’re not always that big or the right shape.

If you can’t find a run which fits your needs, then one of the best ways to create a run is by making a simple wire fence around the coop using strong predator-proof wire with wooden posts.

This way you can create a larger run in the space of your choice, it can also allow you to create a walk-in style run making it easier to get into the coop.

Please checkout the chicken coop and chicken run recommended below.


Do chicken runs need a roof?

If you have a high sided fenced run, you don’t have to have a roof, but there may be situations where a roof is advisable, including:

  • If you have large birds of prey in your area – small chicken breeds and chicks are especially at risk from birds of prey, even smaller ones such as sparrow hawks.
  • Poor weather conditions – if you live somewhere where it’s particularly rainy I would advise having some kind of cover even if it’s just partial so the chickens can shelter.
  • If the chickens don’t have anywhere else to shelter – if your chickens are allowed to wander outside the run by don’t have anywhere else to shelter, some kind of roof covering on the run is a good idea.

For low walled runs, you will definitely need a roof or mesh on top of the run to prevent your chickens from escaping. Chickens can jump and fly (unless their wings are clipped) much higher than you might think.

Some chicken coops like the one below, are raised up which creates a sheltered area underneath the coop.


Keeping chickens in a run

In some situations, it may not be possible for you to let your chickens go free-range outside of the chicken run, or you may need to keep your chickens in the run for a period of time. These situations may include:

  • Introducing new chickens to the coop and run – they will need time in the run with access to the coop to get used to their surroundings and to recognize the coop as home before being allowed to go free-range.
  • If you need to separate chickens for some reason – such as new chickens, illness or keeping chicks and young birds with a mother hen.
  • Predators – if you constantly have predators visiting your garden or land and your chickens are at risk from attack.

If you’re planning to keep chickens in a run for long periods of time, the more space you can give them the happier the chickens will be.

They will also need constant access to clean water and food when they need it.

Chickens will quickly scratch away any grass in a run if it’s kept in the same place, if you’re keeping your run on grass, you might find it helpful to read the following post:

Do chickens need grass in their run


How big do chicken runs need to be?

The chicken run size you will need will allow around 2-3 feet per chicken, this way there will be plenty of free space for them to stretch and graze within the run.

When you buy a coop the seller will normally state how many chickens you can keep in that particular space and the same usually goes for ready made runs.

Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article was first published on October 12, 2020..

It’s important to check this before getting new chickens because if they don’t have enough space the chickens can become frustrated which can lead to aggression and injury.

If you’re making the run yourself, ideally go for three feet per chicken, especially if they’re not going to be able to free range outside of the run and coop area.


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I hope this post has helped you to find out more about why chicken runs are important and best practice for keeping chickens in a run.

You might also find the following post helpful:

Are chickens really that messy

7 ways to get chickens back into the coop to roost at night

Do chickens need grit and oyster shells and what’s the difference?

What do chickens eat naturally when they graze?

Are backyard chicken eggs safe to eat?


Our recommended coop

Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.

This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on October 12, 2020..

Click here to find out more about our recommended coop.