Chickens to Sunset: Let us out

February 6, 2011 | By | Comments (7)

Every time I see a photo of chickens roaming free in nature, I sigh. We have, as you know, a nice garden here at the magazine’s offices, but we can’t let our chickens explore it unless they’re supervised. Left on their own, they’ll eventually drift over to the kale, the cabbage, the strawberries, and whatever else we’re raising to eat…and new seedlings don’t stand a chance.

None of us have time to stand around being chicken-sitters, so the birds don’t get out much. This pains me. Even though they have a pretty big yard—it’s about 60 square feet—they’re obviously so happy when they’re allowed to wander around the garden, all alert and vigorous, pecking and scratching and clucking. They get to fully be chickens.

A while back, Johanna came up with an idea for a super-simple moveable enclosure made from a roll of chicken wire and some rebar. It worked pretty well, but the materials were heavy, hard to handle, and left snags and rust stains on office clothes.


She also made a teeny-tiny chicken tractor:


That was fun, but 2 square feet of ground is only fun for so long. What we need is  a lightweight, hassle-free enclosure big enough for all the chickens. So I’ve started researching.



Dog gates could work, but they get pricey when you buy enough to make a decent-size pen. And they look too low–our chickens could scale that in a second.

A chicken tractor like this one, made with metallic tubing, would be easy to lift, but intimidating to build if you’re clueless with tools.


Courtesy Karl O’Melay at


We need something that’s ridiculously easy to put together. Also, because we change our garden’s design a lot, it has to be malleable, so we can plop on whatever path or open spot is available.

Maybe something like this? It uses lightweight PVC pipes, chicken wire attached to the pipes with baggie ties, and a tarp to shield the birds from the hungry eyes of hawks:


Courtesy Robert Plamondon,

We’ll visit a few building-supply stores and see what they have. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, we’d sure appreciate hearing them.


  1. Carol

    I made one of these for our meat birds. The weasels pulled them out thru one inch chicken wire and ate them as they pulled them thru because of course the chickens do not fit thru. Wasn’t pretty and felt bad for the birds..

    March 22, 2015 at 4:42 pm
  2. Sarah

    I stapled plastic hurricane fencing to bamboo poles. It’s light weight and flexible.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:07 am
  3. tina k (friend of nugget)

    That Deer Dome is attractive! I have a friend that made something very similar to house ringneck doves. For the top dome, he used a discarded satelite dish, build supports to whatever height you need, and covered it all with chicken wire and reinfoced the bottom 3 feet with heavy galvanized wire to make it more preditor proof. For shade, he used the fabric from a discarded market umbrella and stretched it over the top.

    February 7, 2011 at 9:09 pm
  4. KathyG

    I just remembered these. I saw them at the Deschutes County Fair last summer. Ultra cool, portable, AND they provide an electric outlet so you can play music for your chickens. Really. What’s your budget?

    February 6, 2011 at 6:57 pm
  5. KathyG

    I saw one portable run made with bamboo, fastened with zip ties. Looked doable, even for a non-tool-wielding person such as myself. I think it was a link from Mother Earth News website.

    The biggest drawback to a lot of these cheap, easy, lightweight, etc homemade runs is they look so damned tacky. Everything I’ve made so far has looked fairly trashy. The chickens don’t care, of course, but I work hard to have a nice-looking garden, and I don’t really want it to resemble the county dumpsite in the back corner.

    February 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm
  6. KathyG

    I so hear you, and agree about loving to see the girls out and about. My 8×4 ft fully secure run is turning out to be small for 5.5 chickens (one is a bantam). Late December, when they were at their peckiest, and the days were short and dark, I started letting them out in a small area, enclosed by a portable dog run I got at the thrift store. They loved it. Then I thought, there’s so much snow everywhere, if I clear a little path in the lower part of the garden, they will stay there. And it worked. Until the snow melted. Gradually they moved into the whole veg garden half of my yard and they have become Weapons of Mass Destruction to paths, beds, and perennials. Yikes.

    I have commissioned a run extension but in the meantime am using a collage of leftover wire tree protectors, composter parts and tomato cages. I tried a fence like you describe made of 4 ft high wire, and they flew right over it.

    So I am wanting to create some kind of mini-tractor like you are researching. I will await your solution with eagerness.

    I’ve just done a post about this on my blog, if you are interested.

    ‘How Are You Going to Keep Them Down on the Farm …… Now That They’ve Seen Paree?’

    February 6, 2011 at 6:47 pm
  7. michelle

    I bought a 4 sided black wire dog kennel – open top and bottom – on sale and ziptied shade cloth to the top. The kennel is made of 8 panels so the shape can be changed to fit wherever I want to put it. Working great so far!

    February 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm

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