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Friday, June 5, 2009

Homemade PVC Chicken Run

The chickens are still growing and it seemed like they needed more space in their run. We already provided them with a 4x8 foot run with their coop, but they looked cramped. I decided to build an addition for the chickens in the form of a PVC run. It could also be described as a chicken play pen because I find that they run around and jump as if they are playing. For a 10x10 foot PVC chicken run, you will need the following materials:

* 11 - 10' PVC pipe (3/4 inch, schedule 40)
* 8 - 3/4" T joints
* 8 - 3/4" elbows with a tee coming out (this is for the corners where 3 pipes meet)
* 8 - Male 1/2" threaded to 3/4" slip adapters (the corner pieces were 3/4" slip x 3/4" slip x 1/2" thread so I needed to convert)
* 2 rolls of 40" x 25' of 1" square plastic fencing
* 22 feet of bird netting (7 feet wide)
* Plastic zip ties

PVC pipe cutter
Scissors or wire cutters

The construction of the run is basically a cube with fencing and netting around it. I made three of the sides the same, with the fourth adjusted to line up with the chicken coop doors.

1. Start by preparing the PVC pipe for the bottom and top frames

For 3 sides (total of 6 pipes): measure 5 feet from an end, mark the center, and cut. Repeat until all 6 pipes are cut.

For the 4th side (2 pipes): measure 4 feet from an end, mark, and cut. This will make 2x 4 foot lengths and 2x 6 foot lengths.

The 4th side is the one that will butt up against the coop. We designed our coop to have access doors that open on both sides. These are in addition to the pop door that enters the existing run. To access the PVC coop, one of the side doors is opened and the chickens can jump out.

2. Assemble the sides of the frames by attaching the pipes to the PVC tees. This will result in 6 sides with this configuration: xxxxx T xxxxx and two sides with this configuration: xxxx T xxxxxx (x denotes length of pipe in feet).

3. It will make it easier later if your install the corner elbows with tees/male adapters to the sides now. Install two corner pieces to a side. Repeat for 4 of the 8 sides.

4. Next comes the supports. The side access doors to our coop are 40 inches from the ground to the top of the door when closed.

For the 4 middle supports: In order to account for the stack up of tee + pipe + tee, the pipe must be cut to a length less that 40 inches. For the side supports, I cut to a length of 37.5 inches.

For the 4 corner supports: I couldn't find elbows with a tee that all had slip connections, so there is an extra male threaded to slip adapter needed. The adds extra height to the tee which means the PVC pipe supports on the corners need to be shorter. For the corner supports, I cut to a length of 35 inches.

5. Assembling the run would have been easier with two people, but can be done alone (I did it). Start by laying the sides for the bottom frame and connect the corner pieces so there is a large rectangle on the ground. Install the middle supports (these are the longer ones) into the 4 tees on the bottom frame. Then install the corner supports.

6. At this point there is a rectangle with pipes sticking out of it. Take one of the side pieces assembled in steps 1-3 above and attach it to the supports on a matching side (remember the one side was different). Repeat with all the sides and connect the pieces as they line up.

7. After the frame is built, install the plastic utility fence around the sides. Since I designed this to butt up against the coop, I left the 4 foot section on one side open. This is where the chickens enter the run. I used plastic zip ties to hang the fence, being careful not to tighten them down too tightly before stretching the fence around all the sides. I used two pieces of fencing (hence the two rolls). They met up at one of the side supports so they both could be attached securely.

8. The last step is to hang the bird netting across the top. The kind we had is pretty flimsy so I had to be really careful not to tear it. It is likely that I will have to replace it at some point. Once the netting is secure, the run is complete.

It does require two people to carry the run. I had my husband help me put it next to the chicken coop. We opened the door and the chickens jumped out (really we had to coax them out because they didn't know what to do). But eventually they learned and are freely moving in and out of the new PVC run as well as the older run under the coop.

Note, I didn't use any glue to attach the PVC together. This was intentional in case we wanted to reuse the pipe at a later time. I found that it also helps with the flexibility of the run. Our property is not flat and finding a 10x10 foot section to place a rigid run would be difficult. There would be gaps along the bottom where the chickens could escape. Not gluing the parts together allows some slight bending at the joints and results in the coop adjusting to the slope of the ground.

Overall the chickens seem happier. Another benefit is that we won't have to move the coop as often because the chickens are spending less time in the space.

Please feel free to post any questions or feedback in the comments section. I'd love to hear from you.


Anonymous said...

I like this run alot, how does it hold up in the wind?
I'd like to make one 6 ft tall.
Would I have to weight it down?

Michelle said...

@Anonymous - Thanks for asking. Here in Loomis we don't have a lot of high winds (especially in the Summer). In the 5-10 mph breeze we have today, the run is not affected. We do have the PVC run sitting right next to the more sturdy wooden chicken coop/run. This helps provide some stability on that side.

If we were to weigh it down or keep it anchored, it would require some additional work. Since the PVC pipe is not glued, it easily comes apart. This makes is convienent for moving it on uneven ground and having it adjust. However, for keeping it anchored, we would at least glue the top level of pipe to keep it from pulling apart. Once the pipe is secure with PVC glue, we would use rope/string attached from the top corners and stake it like a tent. Good luck on your run and please let me know if you have any other questions.

ohiomom said...

Thank you so much for posting this with all the directions. This is exactly what I've been wanting to build for my chickens. I have printed the entire entry to use for plans. Thanks so so so much! I can even have my kids help me and we can make it a homeschool project :)

Michelle said...

@ohiomommy - You're welcome. This run has served us really well. It is currently being used for our 9 chicks this Spring. They aren't quite big enough to free range, but get exposure to grass and sunshine within the confines of this run.

joanne said...

just wondering what you ended up spending (approx) on this wonderful play pen?

Michelle said...

@Joanne - The play pen came out to around $70.

Anonymous said...

Hello...I was wondering how tall the run is? I am building one myself going off your idea, and am deciding how tall I am going to make it.

Anonymous said...

Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this post
and also the rest of the site is really good.
Here is my homepage ; Coop Plans

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