We all know the benefits of free ranging chickens- higher egg nutrition, better chicken health, and lower feed costs just to name a few. However, there are also many reasons that people choose NOT to free range their chickens- protection from predators, city by-laws, or just trying to contain the mess or keep them out of the gardens. Is there a way to have the best of both worlds? Can you "free range" chickens in an enclosed run?
While this solution technically would not be considered free ranging, it does allow chickens to have access to dirt (where they can dig and dust bathe) as well as a limited, but constant supply of fresh greens to peck at. As you can see, this was a store bought coop and run (seen all the way on the back side. And built on to it is a large run. Normally just a few chickens would peck all of the grass from this run completely bare within days, not allowing any greens to grow back.
In order to keep the greens growing, simply set up base of 2x4's around the bottom edge and lengthwise every few feet inside and put a layer of small square chicken wire across the entire bottom. I suggest a 1/4” or 1/2” hardware cloth. This allows the grass to grow up through the holes to be eaten by the chickens without pecking it bare.
The poop falls through the grate to fertilize the grass, and rain also falls through to naturally water it. Make sure to leave the floor of part of the coop ungrated so that the chickens can also have an area to dig in the dirt and dust bathe.
Voila! Happy, healthy chickens in an enclosed coop with plenty of access to natural greens!