Naturally, you want to give your backyard flock the best possible home, and you want to protect them as best you can and may be wondering does a chicken run need a roof?
Yes, a chicken run does need a roof. The two main reasons are protection against the weather and protection from predators. By leaving the roof open you give easy access to animals such as eagles and raccoons and to the hot sun and pouring rain.
Your chickens will be much safer and happier in a run that is fully enclosed. There are loads of different ways to build a chicken run so read on as I cover the options.
Do I Need A Roof On My Chicken Run?
It is possible to keep chickens inside a run without a proper roof but putting a roof on a chicken run is strongly advised. There are a few reasons why having a chicken run with a cover is advantageous. The main reasons your chicken run needs a roof are:
Stop Escape Artists
Chickens are flightless for the most part and are unlikely to jump out of their run, especially if their wings are clipped. However, there is always the risk that your chickens can escape their run. Trying to catch them and put them back into their enclosure is not a pleasant experience!
Protect Your Chickens From The Weather
Another practical reason to put a roof on a chicken run is to protect your birds from foul weather. If it rains or snows, and your chicken run has an earthen floor, it will quickly turn into a muddy mess. You do not want your chickens shuffling around in a slushy run every time there is a storm and if you live in a colder climate I consider a roof absolutely necessary.
Having a covered run is the best way to protect chickens from high winds and heavy rains. When we built our coop, we strapped a few sheets of corrugated metal to the coop’s roof, which worked very well to protect it from inclement weather. Even during a blizzard, this type of roof was able to protect the chickens from the snow.
Does A Chicken Run Need a Roof Reason #3: Protect your chickens from (some) predators
An even greater problem with not putting a roof on a chicken run is that potential predators can easily get in. Without a roof, aerial predators like hawks or owls can easily swoop down and grab a chicken from the run. Raccoons, skunks, and weasels, are great climbers so a run without a roof is simply asking for an attack.
Does A Chicken Run Need A Solid Roof?
Unlike a chicken coop roof, a chicken run does not need to have a solid roof. If the chicken run is already under cover from the elements (such as under a tree) and the only purpose of the roof is to keep chickens in and predators out, you can use chicken wire.
However, if you intend for the roof to keep the floor of the chicken run dry, it is best to build a solid roof that slopes so it can shed water. This roof has the added advantage of capturing rainwater if you attach a gutter and downspout.
In my experience, the best roof is a hybrid. Build a run with a section of a solid roof and a section of chicken wire or shade cloth. Doing this gives the chickens a dry area for rainy days but still allows sunlight into the run – very important for Vitamin D production and drying out mud.
Best Roofing Materials For A Chicken Run Roof
When it comes to chicken coops, the roof is one of the most important parts. After all, it’s what protects your chickens from the elements. But what is the best material for a chicken-run roof? It really depends on your needs and preferences. But whichever material you choose, make sure it’s durable and easy to clean so your chickens can stay safe and healthy
Metal Roof Sheets (corrugated iron):
Corrugated metal roofing is a good choice and popular option for chicken coops for a variety of reasons. They’re incredibly durable and can last for years with very little maintenance required – making them low-maintenance and easy to clean. Perfect for those who want a chicken run that will withstand the test of time (and the elements).
It’s easy to find scrap or leftover pieces of corrugated metal from construction sites – making this option an affordable one. This is what we use on a third of our run.
When building a chicken run with a corrugated metal roof, it’s important to ensure that the roof slopes and that the corrugations on the sheet metal are running longitudinally (up and down the length of the sheet) and not laterally (side to side). This will help ensure optimal drainage and prevent pooling of water on the roof (and in your chicken run) which you would get with a flat roof.
Plastic roof sheets are slightly less durable than metal ones but still a popular choice, but they are still a great option for a chicken run and is easy to clean. Plus, plastic roofs are typically lighter than metal roofs, making them easier to install. They come in transparent and opaque colors and are readily available from hardware stores.
Plastic is a bit easier to work with than metal sheeting, as it does not require specific tools. You use the plastic sheets in the same way as metal sheets to build a chicken run roof.
Chicken wire is the cheapest material to use for the roof of a chicken run. It is also effortless and convenient to work with.
While chicken wire will not protect your birds from rain and snow, it will function to keep the chickens in and predators out.
Chicken wire is an excellent option if you have a tight budget and are not too worried about weatherproofing your chicken run with weatherproof material. As I mentioned about two-thirds of our run is covered by chicken wire.
Shade cloth is another excellent option for the roof of a chicken run. It is cost-effective, and the material is easy to work with and install.
Shade cloth is not waterproof, but it keeps predators from swooping down into the run and keeps chickens contained. It also provides some shade for chickens on hot summer days. Just bear in mind that shade cloth is not predator proof and a determined raccoon will get through shade cloth.
If you want your run to look stylish then consider shingles. Wooden or asphalt shingles have a classic look and work great for weatherproofing.
An asphalt shingle roof has a lifespan of 25 to 30 years, so they are incredibly durable. Wooden shingles should be made from hardwood, like cedar if you want them to last.
The only drawbacks to shingles are that it is the most expensive roofing material for a chicken run, and it takes much longer to install than roof sheets. Shingles were outside our budget so we went with metal sheeting.
Does A Chicken Run Need A Floor?
It is not ideal for a chicken run to have a solid floor. You want the chickens to be able to scratch in the dirt and enjoy dust bathing. They are not able to do this on a cement or wooden surface.
The best ground cover is an earthen floor. Putting a wire mesh floor on a chicken run would provide extra security, but it would interfere with the chickens’ natural behaviors. To secure the chicken run, you should bury the wire of the walls at least 12 inches underground. Digging it into the ground will prevent pests from tunneling their way into the run.
Add organic material like wood chips or straw to the floor of the chicken run. This material will help keep the run from becoming muddy and give the chickens something to scratch through.
How Large Should A Chicken Run Be?
A chicken run should not be too small. Without enough space in the run, chickens are likely to fight with each other. Having enough space is also important for hygiene and preventing health problems.
An individual chicken needs at least ten square feet of space inside their run. Therefore, a small flock of three birds requires a run that is 5×6 feet, and a flock of six chickens needs a run that is 6×10 feet. For further information on how much space chickens need read my article here.
Chicken Run Designs
There are many ways to design and build a chicken run and they can be broken down into three main types:
· Portable chicken runs or chicken tractors
· Large stationary chicken runs
· Chicken tunnels
Portable Chicken Runs
Having a chicken run that can move has many advantages. Your chickens can have fresh forage every day. They can have the benefits of free-ranging without the risk of predators.
A portable chicken run or chicken tractor is a great way to harness the benefits of chicken poop. As the run moves across your garden, it will leave organic chicken manure fertilizer behind. A big win for sure!
Movable chicken runs typically have an A-frame design or are rectangular pen. By attaching wheels to one side and handles to the opposite side, you can move the run around your garden or yard.
Large Stationary Chicken Runs
A stationary chicken run is a great option if you have the outdoor space and budget for it. It will provide your chickens with plenty of room to roam and exercise.
The most common type of covered chicken run is a large wire cage that is attached to the chicken coop or hen house. Stationary chicken runs protect birds from rain and snow more effectively than other types of runs.
Stationary chicken runs are the best option for protection against predators. Chickens have plenty of space to roam in a permanent run compared to a chicken tractor, and they are more practical for keeping bigger flocks.
If you decide to build a stationary DIY chicken run I highly recommend you make it tall enough to stand up in easily. We made a mistake as first-time chicken keepers of cutting corners and building a run that was only 5 feet tall – what a mistake!!!
I have some ingenious setups in my time as some of them have been chicken tunnels. Chicken tunnels are where you use chicken wire or wire mesh to create little tunnels throughout the garden. They allow the birds to roam around the garden, bathe in a dust bath and scratch around without damaging plants and pooping everywhere. You can then reorganize the tunnels depending on your plant’s needs.
The chicken wire should be dug into the ground for extra security.
Below is a video from Backyard Chickens on how to build a chicken run
So I hope I answered the question does a chicken run need a roof? A chicken run with a roof will protect your chickens from wild birds and other predators. It will also give them some relief from the hot sun and sudden summer storms.
David Cameron is a passionate chicken enthusiast. Growing up, he always wanted to be a veterinarian and loved animals. After graduating from veterinary school, David spent over 40 years as an equine veterinarian. He and his wife retired a few years ago and moved to North Carolina. Here, David’s love of chickens grew even more – he now has 7 chickens and 6 quail. If you have any questions about chickens, feel free to reach out.