Backyard Fenced Chicken Range

Build a fenced range for your yard that will protect your chickens without letting them destroy your yard.

  • The bare patch in this yard shows where chickens have pecked and scratched the ground near their shelter.
    Photo by © IvonneW/
  • Six-way rotation offers more options during seasons when vegetation grows especially fast or not at all.
    Illustration courtesy of Storey Publishing
  • To rotate yards without moving the housing, put chicken-size doors on different sides of the coop.
    Illustration courtesy of Storey Publishing
  • A range to protect the birds from sun and wind can be as simple as a roof on posts.
    Illustration by Bethany Caskey
  • “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens” by Gail Damerow has helped over 2 million people begin raising their own chickens.
    Cover courtesy of Storey Publishing

Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens (Storey, 2017) by Gail Damerow helps readers through the ins and outs of rising their own chickens. For more than 40 years, this book has been the go-to guide on everything about chickens, from choosing your first chicken to fending off parasites and illness from your flock. In the following excerpt, Damerow explains how to design a fenced range for your chickens.

Sheltering Methods

Sheltering methods are as varied as people who keep chickens and range in style from complete confinement to total freedom. What each method is called depends on who is trying to sell you on the idea as being new and different. If you enroll in an organic certification program, you’ll need to abide by the program’s definitions, which may or may not be the same as those in general use.

The basic options are:

• No confinement (free range) — seen most often in rural areas
• Confinement to a portable shelter with a fenced foraging area (pastured, range fed, day range) — used on farms with available pasture where the fence or shelter can be relocated periodically
• Confinement within a floorless portable shelter — used in family gardens (ark, chicken tractor), and on farms (pastured poultry) with enough land for the shelter to be moved frequently
• Confinement to a permanent building with an outdoor fenced yard (yarding) — the traditional method for housing homestead poultry and other small backyard flocks
• Confinement within a permanent building (loose housing) — generally used for raising broilers or breeders or maintaining a flock during cold or wet weather
• Cage confinement (hutch, ark) — most often used in urban and suburban areas and for show chickens

Fenced Range

A fenced yard gives chickens a safe place to get the sunshine, fresh air, and exercise they need to remain healthy. As many advantages as fenced confinement offers, it has one big disadvantage — chickens can quickly destroy the ground cover by pecking at it, scratching it up, pulling it up, and covering it with droppings. The smaller the yard, the quicker it will turn to either hardpan or mud, depending on your climate. Therefore, your first consideration when designing your perfect chicken shelter is its impact on your land. By planning your land use carefully, you can easily avoid creating a situation that soon becomes unsightly and unsanitary. Where space for a yard is truly limited, and you have only a few pet chickens, one way to avoid the problem is to level the small yard area and cover it with several inches of clean sand. Go over the sand every day with a grass rake to smooth out dusting holes and remove droppings and other debris. Some folks choose to use gravel instead of sand, but droppings get packed in the spaces between bits of gravel, and eventually the mess has to be removed and replaced with a load of fresh gravel.

The larger your yard, the better chance you’ll have of maintaining some vegetation in it. Since chickens are most active near their shelter, denuding will start around the entrance and work progressively outward. In a nice roomy yard, the ground cover may continue to grow in areas farthest from the doorway. Between the barren area and the grassy area may grow a band of weeds so tough or unpalatable the chickens won’t eat them and can’t trample them. To keep the vegetated areas tidy and safe, you’ll need to mow occasionally. How often depends on the climate, time of year, and number of chickens.



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