Pallet Project: Build a Cheap Chicken Run 17


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Feed your chickens for free

By Loriel, contributing writer

You know how they say once you become a homeowner, the projects never stop? I’m pretty sure that applies to a homestead (no matter how large or small) as well.

The latest project on our backyard homestead was to create an extended outdoor chicken run. Although our chickens do have a roomy outdoor area that’s completely enclosed, I still feel like they don’t have as much space as they need. We don’t have the option to let them free range in our yard because we don’t have a fence at the property line.

Recycle pallets to create a free chicken run to give your hens more space to roam.

Originally, I was going to put two more 4′ x 8′ garden beds next to the two beds I already have, but I decided to sacrifice that growing space for the chickens to create an outdoor run for them. (I did manage to convert the tops of the pallets into small garden planters, though.)  I plan to build a few grazing boxes in the run to allow fresh greens for the girls, too.

Recycle pallets to create a free chicken run to give your hens more space to roam.

We’re on a tight budget and I wanted to try and come up with a creative way to use free resources, so I thought of pallets. Oh, the glorious pallet with it’s 2,304,982 uses. We picked the nicest looking pallets we could find and started planning.

Make a pallet chicken run

You’ll need:

  • pallets
  • 4′ x 4′ posts to ensure the sturdiness of the enclosure
  • screws; 4″, 3-1/2″ and 2-1/2″ (we used Primeguard Exterior Screws by Grip Rite)
  • drill gun
  • measuring tape
  • level and string, optional
  • post hole digger, optional

Directions

First, determine the size of your desired enclosure.

Then, measure your pallets to figure out how to lay them out to fit your space.  Keep in mind that you may need to cut a pallet in half to make it fit your area like we had to. Determine what size opening will work best for you for your gate. We used an opening of 32″ — consider the possibility of moving large items in and out of the fenced area.

Recycle pallets to create a free chicken run to give your hens more space to roam.

Depending on how technical you want to be, square up the “fence line” using a string and level. The grade of your land will determine the level of your fence-line. We dug out and added dirt as needed at each pallet to accomplish our level fence.

Recycle pallets to create a free chicken run to give your hens more space to roam.Now that you have laid out the pallets, it’s time to fasten them together.

We connected the first pallet to a 4″ x 4″ off of our existing chicken run, then secured a second pallet in place by butting it right up to the first; choose your screws  according to the thickness of the two pallets together. Drill screws into multiple places of the pallet (top, middle, bottom) to secure them together.

Recycle pallets to create a free chicken run to give your hens more space to roam.

I would not use more than two pallets without adding a 4″ x 4″ securely in the ground to ensure your structure has adequate stability. Use a post hole digger to make a 12″ deep hole for the 4″ x 4″. Pack soil around the base of the post with the end of a shovel so it’s nice and stable. Screw the post and the pallet together.

Recycle pallets to create a free chicken run to give your hens more space to roam.Repeat, adding two pallets then a post until you’ve completely enclosed your area.

Right now we have a make-shift PVC gate (basically a frame made of PVC pipe with plywood screwed to it) but we’ll eventually make a framed gate. I have plans to turn the tops of the pallets into planter boxes for chicken and people friendly herbs, ornamental and edible flowers for the bees/butterflies, and veggies like lettuce, kale, and spinach that do great with shallow container planting. I’ll also use the ground at the base of the pallets to plant hardly veggies and flowers. The chickens will be able to eat the tops off, but their scratching feet won’t be able to destroy them.

Note: My smallest girl did squeeze through the bottom of a pallet that was missing a plank. She was definitely living the high life on the other side of the fence. To ensure no escapees, make sure the bottom of the pallets have minimal space in between each plank. You may need to add an additional plank like we did to cover the hole up. Also, if you’re concerned with your girls flying over the pallets, consider adding poultry netting around the top perimeter.

Once the enclosure was done, I joked to my husband that this area is big enough for a goat or a pig. He rolled his eyes at me. Okay, maybe we won’t get a goat or pig but definitely MORE chickens. 🙂

 

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17 thoughts on “Pallet Project: Build a Cheap Chicken Run

  • Super Mom - No Cape!

    You know… I was just looking at your pallet enclosure and if you were able to find some type of fine mesh screening (maybe at a salvage yard) you could apply that to the inside of the pallets (the side where the chickens are.) You could then fill the entire pallets with soil (not just the tops) and plant greens and herbs in the slots on the outside of the fence. Then you wouldn’t really have sacrificed that growing area at all but created lots of vertical planting. And it would be really pretty as well.

  • peggy

    When we used pallets to build our chicken run I layer the pallets down using weed cloth looped it in between the slates added potting medium an planted herbs for my girls to enjoy

  • tessa

    I wonder if this would work for the %#$*( baby goats that constantly get out? Love them but, honestly!

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      I’m not (yet) a goat owner, but this made me laugh.

    • Mary

      Line the bottom of your pallet fence with some welder wire or rabbit fencing, then, yes, this will work. We’ve done that for years, and now rarely have an escape artist!!

  • Candi

    The fence turned out great! Makes me want to build a fence out of pallets too; but I’m not sure what I’d put in it…..
    Nice job!

  • Sandy

    I love the pallet run idea, as we use pallets around our farm also. Do you clip your hens wings, to keep them inside their new pallet run? My hens fly out of my high fencing! I was considering clipping them this spring. I admit, it makes me nervous. What is your opinion on the subject?

    • Mary

      Just line the top with some attractive welded wire (stretch post to post). We use a green wire, and eventually hope to top with wood to tie into the pallet fence “look” This addition has kept our hens out. (We also have clipped wings to no avail). We’re also going to experiment with building planter boxes on top–we think this will make it harder for the chickens to fly up, because it will be harder to find their footing. Another advantage, is more growing room! Haven’t tried it yet though–probably by fall.

  • Loriel

    HAHA! You might have to put some netting on tops because I’ve heard goats can practically get out of anything. 🙂 … You should know that though, right? 😉

  • Donna Allgaier-Lamberti

    I would also suggest chicken wire stapled to the outside of your pallets. A raccoon or other predator can easily slip through the pallet openings, or reach through and pull a chicken head out, twist and off. We have had that done more than once here. Also the pallet board itself provides a sturdy foot hold for a dog, coon, mink, etc to climb up and over the pallets. Chicken wire with its tiny hexagonal holes won’t prevent this climbing 100% but will lessen the chances of it happening and will definitely stop the reaching through stuff. I know, and appreciate that you are on a tight budget but we got quite a bit of old rusty chicken wire from Craig’s list for just $20.00. We used that chicken wire to cover over a vegetable garden fence (with smaller than cattle panel size openings) that we thought was secure, but turned out, was not. It was heart breaking to lose all of our three chickens to coons in one night, especially after raising them from babies. Donna at The Small House Homestead.

  • Toni Angus

    Don’t exclude Hawk dangers from above…need a netting. I love all the ideas about pallets.

  • Susan

    I am so glad to see REAL chicken yards for a change. Chickens are messy kill all the grass in the area. I get so tired of seeing these pristine chicken coops with luscious grass all around. Obviously they haven’t had their chickens very long.

  • HollyG

    We made a pallet fence for our pigs one summer. It worked really well – no escapes.

  • Mary

    In theory, a great idea. We’ve been a “pallet” family for many years. Here’s what we’ve learned. If you have wind, only 2 pallets will stand together for any real length of time. After every 2 pallets, we turn one sideways, making a “T” in the pallets fence. We continue this design until we reach the post. (you can use these newly formed sections as planter boxes, compost bins, structures to outline climbing/spreading vines, etc…) We do still use posts at the end of each section.

    If you have determined chickens, a pallet fence alone will not protect your garden. Even with wings clipped, our pasture raised hens can fly to the top of the pallets. We topped our pallets with 2 feet of wire mesh fencing (many styles are available–we choose a strong gauge green welded wire that would look attractive and provide support for climbing vines in our garden.) We are also planting on both sides of some of those pallets–food for the chickens on the outer side, and food for us on the inner side. Covering the chicken’s garden on the outside with folded scrap rabbit or welded fencing (or similar products), allows the plants to grow until they are tall and dense enough for the chickens to enjoy.

    Pallets are a wonderful fence, and pen material–you just need to know their limit, and how to compensate for those limitations. Another example– because our pallets are not chemically treated, ants and termites love to live under them–slowly destroying the wood, and using the space in and around them for mounds. You might think of lining the area under the pallets with something that decomposers don’t like, but that doesn’t negatively impact your garden when it rains (think run-off chemicals). Another reason for lining the ground under the pallets, is that weeds like to grow up in the bottom of the pallets. We welcome weeds as food for our animals, but some weeds will not be eaten by livestock. It then becomes very difficult to control those weeds.

    Also to note, in our area, it’s very difficult to find pallets that are all the same size, much less ones whose slats line up. We often have to go back to the same source for months to accomplish a goal of even fencing–even then, it’s rare. Designing the pallets has become fun, especially since we do have some slopes in our yard. Another “fun” way to make the pallets look nice, is to leave the corner posts (and any posts), tall. Install a hook and hanging basket, a seasonal or American flag, a butterfly/bird feeder, or home décor on them. Adds some personality to the garden. Adding windsocks, chimes, etc… help keep birds out of the garden, if that’s your goal.

    Do instruct your children (especially older ones) that climbing over the pallets can causes slates to break, and the structure to weaken (it’s hard to climb over without pulling on the pallets). Try to climb where the cross supports are–using those to lean on, if necessary. Be prepared to replace individual or sections of pallets over time.

    So many possibilities! We love our pallets, especially now that we better understand how they function! Have fun with your project!! (We even made a round pen with our pallets!!! Just so many possibilities!!)

  • Deborah Jackson

    I came across this on pinterest and laughed because this fall we did the same and made a run out of pallets. A few of my chickens are bantams so they fly right over and the other girls can sit on top of them but they usually stay inside. But we did put our posts every two pallets and it’s working fine. We also made our 12×12 coop out of pallets and scraps from our neighbor’s torn down shed. What a deal. I really love the idea of using the pallets to plant in. Great use of space.