How to Build a Covered Chicken Run (Step-By-Step!)

Building a DIY chicken run can feel really daunting, but this project is easier than you may think! Plus, your chickens will love having a safe outdoor space to run around in while you’re at work or off on vacation. 

If you’ve been considering a covered run, then this tutorial is perfect for you! A covered run is an added step, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. The run stays dry instead of muddy. The snow stays out in the winter. Their feed doesn’t get rained on. Eggs stay clean. The list goes on!

We’ve built several covered runs over the past 10 years, so in this step-by-step tutorial, you’ll learn LOTS from our successes and failures.  Let’s dive in!

A photo of our finished covered chicken run

*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products (including Amazon). I’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase through my link, at no additional cost to you! Regardless, I only link to products that I personally use on our homestead or believe in.

The Basics of a DIY Chicken Run

Before we jump right into building, let’s cover some of the most common questions that I get when it comes to building a covered chicken run. I bet you’re wondering about these, too!

Do my chickens really need a chicken run?

If your chickens free-range all day like mine do, you’re likely wondering if a run is really necessary or not. It seems kind of silly if they hardly use it during the day and they get locked into the coop at night, right?

The answer is, yes, they likely do. If you leave for work or go out of town for the weekend, you’ll want a safe outdoor space for your chickens to enjoy while you’re away. I’ve tried letting my chicken free range while we’re gone and it never ends well. The predators seem to figure out that we’re gone pretty quickly and take advantage of the free buffet. Ugh!

There might be other situations like friends coming to visit with their dog who may be a little too excited about your feathered friends. With a secured run, you can keep your flock secure and enjoy your time with your guests at the same time.

A photo of a flock of chickens out foraging

Secondly, a run provides a functional and secure place for keeping their feed, water, grit, crushed eggshells, and oyster shell. It’s best to keep those things outside of the coop for multiple reasons:

  • It keeps other critters from wanting to go into the coop (rats, mice, possums, etc.)
  • It encourages your chickens to leave the coop and go outside, which means less poop in the coop and more fresh air and exercise for your birds
  • It reduces the risk of frostbite in the winter. Spilled water in the coop is a recipe for disaster!

Is a covered run necessary?

I wouldn’t say that a covered run is absolutely necessary, but it is worth every penny and drop of sweat, in my opinion. I started with chickens in 2014 with an uncovered chicken run for a couple of years and boy was it a disaster. 

  • Snow piled up in the run so my chickens didn’t want to leave the coop all winter. They got stir-crazy and picked on each other.
  • During blizzards, I had to move their food and water into the coop, which then led to frostbite and other critters finding their way inside.
  • Mud. Mud. MUD. That was then mixed with poop and rotting, wet chicken feed that got spilled. The place was a soupy, sloppy mess and it smelled terrible.
  • Because of the above issue, their eggs were also super dirty
A large chicken run with no roof on it
Here’s a photo of my chicken coop in 2014 that only had chicken wire as a roof.

Have I convinced you yet?  With a covered run, it stays nice and dry in there. The feed stays dry. The eggs stay clean. The corners of the run become lovely dust baths (so now they don’t use my flower beds!). The chickens are often out all day, even in the winter (if it’s properly winterized). Ahhhhh chicken coop bliss, right!?

Is it cheaper to buy or build a chicken run?

I know you’re looking at those cheap, assembly chicken runs, because in 2023 I earnestly looked at them, too. We moved to our new homestead in a rush (a 30-day double closing – eep!) and I was forced to come up with a chicken coop situation FAST. 

What I quickly discovered is that those pre-made runs are poorly constructed. Every single one of them needed major modifications like replacement of the entire covering or recreating entire new doors because the holes were WAY too big. It was obvious someone who doesn’t actually own chickens designed these.

Plus, most of these pre-made runs are too weak to handle any amount of snow and they are much too small. Always go bigger than you think your chickens will need, especially if you live in a cold climate like I do with long winters (Minnesota). They might be trapped in there for 6 months until the snow melts. No one likes cabin fever.

How to Build a Covered Chicken Run

Wahoo! Let’s get to building! I also want to mention that our chicken run may seem overkill, but we’re the kind of folks who want to do it the right way, the first time. This thing is built to last, we don’t have to worry about predators breaking in, it won’t blow away in high winds, and the roof won’t cave in from a heavy snowfall. It’s worth the effort!

A photo of a completed covered chicken run


  • 2x2s – to mark level for the run (can be omitted if you have flat ground)
  • Posts – we used yard timbers
  • Sand
  • 2×4’s
  • Oil-based exterior varnish (optional)
  • Trusses (pre-made, or you can build them yourself!)
  • Hurricane ties for trusses
  • Corrugated steel siding – for the roof
  • Rubber gasket siding screws
  • Ridgecap for roof
  • Exterior construction screws 
  • Galvanized nails
  • Hardware cloth – we used 4′ wide panels
  • Chicken wire – we used 4′ wide panels
  • U-nails
  • Staples
  • Coop door – we like premade screendoors
  • Hinges
  • Door handle
  • Door latch (basic) or door latch with built-in safety release (recommended)


  • Post hole digger
  • Measuring tape
  • Water level or laser level
  • Level (4 foot)
  • Hammer or finish nailer
  • Power drill
  • Staple gun


Step 1: Decide on run size

This is honestly the hardest part, but my word of wisdom is always to go bigger than you think you need to. The best way to prevent squabbles and health issues is to avoid overcrowding. The more space, the better. Plus, there’s always that pesky chicken math, too. Your flock size will inevitably increase over time!

The run in our previous Poultry Palace (see photo below) was 20′ x 16′ and that was a good size for 40-50 chickens. Our current run at our new homestead is 12′ x 16′ and with 21 chickens it’s still a bit roomy and could easily fit 30 chickens.

A photo of the poultry palace with some chickens outside.

Once you have a rough size estimate, you’ll want to fine-tune it based on standard lumber dimensions so that you have minimal waste and spend less money overall. If you plan to buy trusses instead of constructing them yourself, look into what sizes they come in so you can size your run accordingly. 

Step 2: Set the posts

Measure out your post locations. Using a post-hole digger (we rented a skid steer attachment because our soil is so rocky, but a manual one works if you have nice soil!) dig your posts 2 feet deep. If your ground is on a slope like ours is, the ones on the upside slope will need to be buried deeper to keep the tops level.

A skidsteer with a post hole digging attachement drilling holes

Then, insert the posts into the holes. Add some sand to one hole and tamp it down with the post until the height is just right. You’ll use this 1 post as your datum. Then, add sand to the following holes and check level according to your datum post using a water level or laser level.

Ryan and I using a water level to check the height of each post

Next, you’ll want to measure between each of the posts to ensure that they are spaced evenly. We used a 48-inch spacing for our run. Tacking on some 2x4s to hold them in place is helpful. 

The posts to the covered chicken run have been set with cross bracings

**If you get decent winters like we do and experience frost heave, you may want to consider brushing the bottom 30″ of the posts with oil-based exterior varnish. This fills the wood grain and will minimize frost heave.

Katie painting varnish on the posts for the chicken run

Step 3: Start the frame

Continue to build out the frame by adding 2x4s to the future roof line and along the ground, being sure to check level as you work. Secure these with construction screws. At this point, you may need to do some dirt work to level out the inside of the run if there’s some slope to it like what we had. No need to add special flooring in the run, dirt has always worked well for me.

Triple measure, check square and once everything is in place, then fill in the post holes with soil. Concrete isn’t needed here.

The frame to the covered chicken run is almost complete.

*If you’re a visual learner like me and would like to watch a video of us building this DIY covered chicken run, definitely check out my YouTube video where I show it all step by step as well!

Step 4: Add the roof

Trusses can be a little tricky to build yourself, so if you’re not an experienced DIY’er I’d recommend buying them pre-made. But, if you’re up for the job, give it a go! We just studied the trusses in our outbuilding and then modified it to scale so that it would fit our run. Ours is a 4-12 pitch.

Ryan assembling our custom trusses on a flat concrete floor in our shop

Secure the trusses using hurricane ties, spacing each truss 4 feet apart. Just ensure your trusses don’t block the coop door from opening! We had to modify the back truss to allow the door to open properly (see below). 

A close up view of the modification we had to make to our truss

Next, add stringers 2 feet apart to run across the trusses to provide stability and attachment points for the corrugated steel siding. Then, add the steel siding and secure it with rubber gasket siding screws. Finish with a ridgecap on top. 

Ryan sitting on top of the roof while installing the steel siding to the covered chicken run

Step 5: Finish the framing

We’re getting close! Now, frame in where the door will be. Then, add in blocking by placing more 2x4s to fit the vertical gaps between the horizontal boards so that everything is flush. This will provide a smooth surface to attach the chicken wire and hardware mesh. Lastly, add cross pieces at each corner to add stability.

A diagram showing how the cross pieces and vertical filler pieces are added

Step 6: Secure chicken wire and hardware cloth

One of the biggest mistakes that I see people making with chicken runs is using only flimsy chicken wire (too weak – predators can break through) or they use cattle panel fencing or chain link fence (holes are too big). Hardware cloth is the gold standard, but it is pretty expensive.

So, we’ve found a hybrid system is the best of both worlds. Use hardware cloth on the bottom section where predators are most likely to come through, and then use the cheaper chicken wire up top. For added protection, dig out a trench along the outside and bury the hardware mesh 8-12″ to keep predators from digging underneath.

Starting to attach the hardware cloth and bury it under the group to prevent predators from digging underneath

We like to use U-nails to secure the hardware mesh and staples to secure the chicken wire. Don’t forget to add chicken wire up along the roof edge by the trusses!

A close up view of how chicken wire is attached to the roof trusses

Step 7: Prepare & install the door

While you can build your own coop door (and we have in the past), we’ve found that buying one was actually cheaper overall and saved us a lot of time. 

Remove the flimsy screen material from the pre-made screen door, then replace it with sturdy hardware mesh. If your coop door needs to be shorter than the standard door height, chop the top off, reassemble, and then secure it with glue and an internal screw. We chopped ours to a height of 66″. Modifying a pre-built screendoor into a chicken run door

The final step is securing the door in place with a set of hinges and attaching a handle. We like to add a door latch as well so that it closes securely, just be sure to set it up so that you can get back out if the door closes behind you! You can also buy door latches that have a safety release built-in (I have it linked in the materials section above)

A close up view of the latch and handle for the chicken run

Bonus Features to Consider in a Chicken Run

Divided off areas

If you are designing a coop and run from scratch, I’d consider dividing the coop and run into two sections. That’s how we designed our previous poultry palace and it was so helpful to be able to keep flocks separated for multiple reasons:

  • Bringing in new adult flock members
  • Introducing new chicks to the flock
  • Giving broody moms a space to raise their chicks
  • Isolating sick or injured chickens
  • Separating the flock for breeding

The Poultry Palace with divided run and coop and arrows showing all of the doors

We had doors in between both sides so that if I didn’t need to keep them separated, they could come and go as they pleased as well. It was SO nice to have options! Someday, we’ll build Poultry Palace II – I sure miss it!

Roosting bars

We built some temporary roosting bars in the summer of 2023 after we moved and the chickens were living in a carport while we were building their coop. After they moved into the coop, I decided to throw the roosting bars into the run to give them a playground of sorts and they LOVE it!

I noticed that my chickens especially loved the roosting bars in the run during the winter. That way they could be out in the sunshine while keeping their feet warm and off of the frozen earth. Highly recommend!

Chickens up on roosting bars that are set up in the run


While this isn’t necessary, it is so helpful if you experience below-freezing temperatures in the winter. The goal in the winter is to keep the humidity levels in the coop as low as possible to reduce the risk of frostbite. That means you’ll need to keep their waterer outside of the coop and in the run instead.

I don’t know about you, but I have a heck of a time trying to keep their water from freezing on those nights that get down to -30F. I tried many different strategies and failed miserably until I discovered heated dog bowls. They are AMAZING! So, long story short, having a power source available in the run is so helpful to be able to run them in the winter.

The Homesteading RD's Product Picks:

This heated dog bowl is worth its weight in GOLD come winter time! This is the only solution that I've found to work well in our cold Minnesota winters. I run 3 of them for 40-50 chickens.

Watch Us Build Our Covered Chicken Run!

Other DIY Articles You’ll Love:

Thanks for reading signature

Achieve Your Best Harvest Yet!​

Grab your own FREE copy of my Garden Growing Guide. It’s fully customizable to your growing zone and can be printed or used digitally. Happy Gardening!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top