Winter Benefits to a Covered Chicken Run

snow on covered run

snow on covered run

For backyard chicken keepers, winter can present some interesting issues.  Chickens are wrapping up their molt.  There is reduced egg production due to short days.  Cold temperatures can freeze waterers, chicken combs, and even eggs.  But one thing that most of us have to deal with (to varying degrees) is snow.

Believe it or not, by doing one simple thing, you can make snow less of an issue.  Folks, cover the top of your chicken run.  You can go simple and use inexpensive materials for a seasonal solution or you can spend more time and money and come up with a year-round fix.

looking up at woven wire roof

looking up at woven wire roof

The simple solution is to cover the run with a tarp or piece of plastic.   This is the least expensive route.  In some instances, you may already have a tarp or a large sheet of plastic.  To keep the tarp from collapsing under snow load, pull it taut and secure to the top of the fencing of the chicken run.  Once temperatures begin to warm up, you can remove the tarp and store it away for the next winter.

However, if you want something to be a more permanent solution, you can create a roof for the chicken run.  Now you could go all out and build rafters,placing  sheathing over the rafters, and then top with shingles, creating a traditional roof, which is the most expensive option.  Or you can go with a less time and money consuming route…covering the top of the run with a small grid woven wire.  In both of these scenarios, these are permanent covers for the chicken run. In the previous photo, wooden rafters were nailed into place to create a foundation for woven wire.   (In urban settings, some communities may require a covered chicken run to ensure that the enclosure is predator proof.)

Benefits of a Covered Run

  • Keep most snow out of the run (less run winter maintenance)
  • With a permanent roof, creates a predator-proof chicken run
  • Helps block the wind (in the event of the wire grid covering, snow will settle on it and helps block the wind)
  • Helps block visibility of chickens from aerial predators
  • Allows year-round access to chicken run
inside of a covered chicken run

inside of a covered chicken run

Whether you live in on a farm or urban homestead, a covered run provides many benefits.  Select materials from what you already have on  hand or purchase items from a store.  You can go with a temporary or permanent solution, but in either case, your chickens benefit from your actions.


18 responses »

  1. Good morning. We have had chickens for years. Nice coop with window and big run. We have just recently moved to a top of a mountain completely off grind. No electricity. We have built a new coop as the old one was way to big and heavy to big up the mountain. My question, due to the extreme cold and wind we get up here, would it be beneficial to cover the sides of the coop in black shingles? The shingles should generate heat inside the coop as well as an extra barrier for wind. Your thoughts?

    • That would be a great starting point. The shingles add an extra layer to help keep out wind and weather, plus the black color will help retain heat.You can also get ‘heavy’ chicken breeds which are more cold hardy.

  2. We bought tarps from the company that made our chicken run (it’s for ducks, but that’s another story!) They are heavy-duty with grommets so they lash on to the wire very easily. I overlap them to keep the rain and snow out better. Also, we use black tarps in winter to absorb the sun and tan ones in the summer. Good luck with the weather!!!

  3. We don’t get snow here (well, very rarely) but I hadn’t considered the poor chooks when I see everyone’s photos of their snowy covered properties. They must hate it – no scratching for bugs or dust baths, such cold temperatures. Poor little things!

    • This has been by far, our snowiest winter yet. It really helps them out with a covered run. We just use the 1/4″ woven wire over wooden rafters. The rafters can handle the ‘snow load’ so the covering won’t cave in. Our chickens are generally out in the run except when the temps dip below 20F.

      • In spite of the cold, we have not had any frozen combs (or eggs), but we turn on a heat lamp in the coop when the temperatures dip below 20F. My husband saw a newspaper article that claimed that no one is alive who remembers when winter had been this cold…the year was 1899!

      • Oh dear, doesn’t bode well for the future then if it’s going to get colder, does it? We have had an unusually cool summer this year so it will be interesting to see what winter will be like. Last year was a very long, hot summer with a milder winter which was really nice but rarely happens.

      • Our previous winter and summer were pretty mild. A lot of insects were able to overwinter because of the mild weather. I just hope that this winter is cold enough to kill off those pests. But I already find myself daydreaming of spring. I hope your weather allows you to have a very productive garden.

      • Yes, that is one good aspect of a cold winter – killing off pests. Winter does comes to an end and spring is an exciting time, I love spring and the sense of rejuvination.

        The garden is doing well, though some things are taking a long time to ripen… but I am not complaining 🙂

      • Mountain Pine Beetle has been decimating pines and the Emerald Ash Borer has been spreading across the country. I have spoken with Forestry professionals and they are hopeful that this harsh winter will help kill off a significant number of those pests. I envy your time in the garden. Enjoy!

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