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Bird Shelter

Last Updated: 11/1/19

The chicken house and run facing east on 12/24/06.

Bird Shelters
My Turkey/Chicken House and Run
Photos of My Turkey/Chicken House and Run
Photos of Other People's Bird Shelters and Runs

Bird Shelters

When someone keeps turkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, peacocks, or any other large, domestic or wild birds, they need to contain the birds for their safety. The shelter must provide the following: prevention of escape, protection from predators, protection from weather (wind, rain, snow, sleet, hail), room to exercise, access to light and fresh air, places to feed and drink, roosting sites, and something to do. In general, a bird shelter should consist of a house (for complete protection and roosting) and a run for exercise and well being. Most bird shelters include roosting sites (branches, wood beams), food bowls, water bowls, some sort of floor (dirt, cement, wood, etc. with pine shavings, straw, or some sort of litter), and nest boxes.

My Turkey/Chicken House and Run

I have combined the information about our turkey/chicken house and run from my turkey and chicken pages and expanded on that here. This is a history of the turkey/chicken house and run.

The house and run my chickens now live in has gone through a number of incarnations. First, it was a playhouse when we were kids, 6' x 6' x 6' with a deck on top with railings. The bottom was open then. Sometime in the 1980's, my mother decided we should get some quail and release them. As a transition between an indoor brooding box and freedom, my father took some chicken wire and enclosed the bottom of the playhouse. The quail were soon released and never seen again. We did this one more time and one time with three ring necked pheasants. They also were never seen again.

In 1992, my mother had us get a pair of Eastern wild turkeys. They also were slated for release and after a few weeks under the play house, they were let go. But, unlike the quail and pheasant, Bonnie and Clyde did not go anywhere! So, I got them to follow me back to the play house. My father built the run onto the house, and the rest is history!

The run is 14'2" x 8' x 8'5" high. The height allows for flying and me not to hit my head. A large black cherry tree goes through the roof. On two cut off branches in the cage, a board (2 x 4)was nailed which provides the outside roost. Clyde roosted on top of Bonnie's nest box after she died. He never roosted on the wood beam with Bonnie. Before the nest box, he just slept on the ground. Clyde did not fly much but he tried to flap and kick me when I was in the cage. I always carried a shovel with me inside to shove him away.

During the summer of 1998, my father replaced the big pens' chicken wire with large-holed vinyl-coated wire. He also enclosed the small pen with rabbit wire windows and plywood. A slanted roof with shingles covers the top while the floor is still dirt. The height inside the small pen is now closer to 8 feet (it was 6 feet). Then, I could close Clyde in there during blizzards, etc. to keep him out of wind and water. No matter the weather, he would not take shelter on his own. This is one of the reasons turkeys are considered stupid but they certainly are smart in other ways.

By 2000, the turkeys were gone. The cage was empty for a year and then my mother got chickens. During the time that we had the chickens, I made a number of modifications. After the foxes dug in and killed my rooster Beebee and hen Salty, I laid chicken wire on the ground all around the perimeter of the house and run, and use sod staples to hold it down. When Pondet had two chicks, I used chicken wire to divide the run into two sections. That was temporary.

On 12/16/06, Speckles attacked his father, Sugar. Sugar would not go inside the house to roost. That would not do because I was worrying about the foxes and weather. The run has no protection from the weather. So, on 12/23/06, with some help from my father, we used vinyl- coated wire, cable ties, the wooden beams, and u-shaped tacks to divide the inside chicken house into two sections. I also replaced the opaque greenhouse plastic that was over three of the windows with plexiglass. The fourth window was already plexiglass. This lets in a lot more light, plus I can remove the plexiglass in the summer to allow for air flow so Sugar can have fresh air and light even though he is now confined to an area about 6' x 3' by 6' high.

In 2018, the chicken house and run were renovated. See below under Chickentopia!


My last chicken died on 9/30/15. In the fall of 2017, I decided I was going to renovate the chicken house and run and make it bigger. I wanted to attach a seven foot high sliding board and adult swing for me (because I am just a big kid). I had a contractor that I trusted who had redone our 41-year-old bathroom full of mold. He renovated my garage in November of 2017 but ran out of time before his next job to do the chicken pen. I had ordered expensive vinyl-coated hardware cloth for the bottom few feet of the new pen and viny-coated chicken wire for the high part of the sides and the top. I also got my sliding board in the fall of 2017.

The re-scheduled renovation was to be done in March 2018 so I ordered a dozen eggs to incubate that were set to come at the end of March. Then, the contractor cut a few of his fingers off and left his partnership. Meanwhile, I had chicks that needed their future home renovated. He came in April between jobs for three days, dug out the floor of the house to prepare for cement, pressure washed the house, replaced the fencing on the existing run, and painted the old house. Then, he left.

He did not come back until he had a break between jobs. He and a partner worked on the new run from 9/4/18 to 9/14/18. He was able to also come 9/17/18 and said it was going to be his last day. The first week was hot. The second week rained most of the time. On the last day, it was raining. I came home to find that the fencing on the top of the run was still loose. I was livid. I could not safely let the chickens out. We had already spent twice the time and money on the project as I had expected it to cost. Because I trusted him, I did not have a contract. I e-mailed him (no yelling or cursing), and he blamed me saying I wanted to risk his life because it was slippery and dangerous. I never told him that he had to work in the rain but did say that the run had to be fenced before they were done (because the chickens needed it; they were locked in their house for three weeks, and they were not happy! Remember, the renovations were supposed to be done before they were even born.). All he had to do was call or e-mail me and tell me that he could not finish and that I would have to make other arrangements. It turns out his partner was able to come back that week, and he worked by himself from 9/19/18 to 9/21/18. The pen was secure but the work was not finished. Here is a list of the things that never got done: The tops of the railings on the walkway up top, the sliding board, cement in the old house, new shingles on the old house, a drain system in front of the house, a few chicken tiles mounted, new window frames for the main house's windows, new roosts, a quarantine house (it has two plywood sides), and a quarantine run.

The next week, we got a downpour, and the chicken house flooded. I had never flooded in almost 30 years! Why did it flood? 1. They had dug the floor out in April and never cemented it so the house's floor was below the level of the surrounding ground. 2. I had requested a drain system in front of the house's door which they never installed. 3. They put plywood from the new quarantine house over to the old house instead of putting more fencing there. This trapped all the water on the high end of the house. It had no where to go but in to the chicken house. I e-mailed the contractor that he needed to fix this. I sent him this Youtube video of the problem. He never responded, and I finally blew him off and told him I was not going to have him complete the renovation. My brother came through in a big way, and he came over on 9/29/18 to try to fix it. He dug a dry stream bed next to the door of the house and moved that dirt to the high end of the house to divert some of the water around the house. He put a pipe from inside the house to the dry stream bed. He put a few stepping stones in the ground by the door of the house. When it finally rained hard, water was just gushing out the dry stream bed which seems to be doing its job. As for the rest of the work, I have to learn to do it myself because the only contractor that I trusted lost that trust in a big way so I am done with him. My brother said he can do some of the work although most of it will be new to him. Time will tell! I managed to do the following myself - add a latch to the new wheelbarrow door, put a handle on that door (the worker said it could not be done, huh?), and put three more roosts/perches in the new run. I also transplanted back plants I had dug up in April for the renovation (Solomon's seal mostly), planted some daffodils, and sprinkled old grass seeds around.

The chicken pen was renovated from 9/4/18 to 9/21/18, and they still did not finish! It was supposed to be a simple project but became super expensive. The chickens were locked in the house from 9/4/18 until 9/19/18 (with time out on 9/15 and 9/16 without a secured top). They survived.

I finally measured the new pen on 10/10/18. Below are the stats on Chickentopia based on the outer measurements which means that, inside, there is slightly less room for the chickies.

Height of the pen varies because the ground is not flat but most of the pen is 8 feet high.
Area inside the main house = 38.7 square feet (previously thought to be 36 square feet but may be since I measured the outside)
Area of the old run (gone, part of new run) = 112 square feet
Area of the new run including the quarantine house and run area which were not completed (not separated from the main run) = 317 square feet.
Entire area that the chickens have = 355.7 square feet.
Area of the quarantine house if it is ever finished = 27.2 square feet
Area of the quarantine run if it is ever finished = 56.2 square feet
Area of the main run if/when the quarantine house and run are not joined with it = 251.3 square feet

Size of the new run (with quarantine house and run area) versus the old run = 2.8 times
Total size of everything the chickens have versus what they used to have = 2.4 times

I took a bunch of photos that I have yet to develop. If I ever get time, I can also scan the blueprints, all of which I created. The contractor did none of that!

On 4/8/19, I had a handyman help me put up wood and wire to separate the quarantine area from the main run. The next morning, I closed in Perky with her nest box (a plastic dog house) of eggs in the smaller run. The chicks would be safer in a smaller area without the other three adults possibly harming them, stepping on them, and/or fighting over their food.

Between 9/13/19 and 10/29/19, I had the handyman come out half a dozen times. He continued work on the little chicken house. By the time he finally finished, it had four sides with a window on three sides. There is a door finally to the outside (which keeps sticking) and a door between the little house and the little run. He put silicon in the decking boards above part of the little house and built a roof over the other part. Water does get in the house but not too badly. We both installed a bunch of roosts in the run and house. Three roosters went in the quarantine run and house on 9/18/19. On 10/29/19, the handyman installed a light and an outlet in the small house. So, the only things left that were not done include putting in cement floors in the two houses which I probably will not do and putting new shingles on the big house.

Photos of My Turkey/Chicken House and Run

I realized I did not have a lot of good photos of my chicken house and run so I took a bunch on 12/24/06. The photos will show you how the chicken house and run is built and situated in our woods. Some of the photos show chickens and the nest box (originally built for Bonnie the turkey). I walked all around and in the chicken house and run to get a variety of photos.:

The chicken house and run facing northeast. Sugar can be seen in the house through the open door that goes between the house and the run.
The chicken house and run facing north. Sugar can be seen in the house through the window.
The chicken house and run facing west. The cinder block is where the foxes dug in; I just left it there.
The chicken house and run facing west. The ladder is from the old playhouse when the top of the house used to have a look out.
The chicken house and run facing southwest.
The chicken house facing south. You can see Sugar through the plexiglass in the house.
The inside of the chicken house facing north. The photo is a little blurry but shows Sugar in the chicken house after we put in fencing to divide the inside of the house into two so Sugar could be protected from his son, Speckles. You can see the low roost (an old sassafras branch) that Sugar uses, the heated water bowl, the food bowl, the commercial chicken nest box (that never a single chicken has gotten into), one of the plexiglass windows, and the vinyl-coated wire separating Sugar from the other three chickens.
The chicken house inside, top. This is a look up into the top of the chicken house where the girls (Poulet and Pondet) and Speckles spend 95% of their time, up on the beam that used to be the support for the upstairs floor of the old playhouse. My father when he put the roof and cathedral ceiling in wanted to cut out the support beam but it is lucky that he left it. The chickens roost on it, 6 feet up! If not for that high roost, the foxes would have gotten all five chickens that I had at that time instead of the two that were roosting on the low roost. The beam also serves as a support for the fencing we put in to keep Sugar separate from his son and the girls. You can see the cable ties holding the wire to the beam. In this photo, Speckles is on the main beam, and you can see his mother, Pondet's head as she is standing on a smaller beam against the far wall.
The nest box. Originally built for Bonnie, my Eastern wild turkey hen, the nest box was later used by the chickens to lay eggs. Pondet hatched Speckles and Sprouty in that box. [A snake ate Sprouty when she was a month old.]
The chicken house and run facing north. This photo I took from inside the chicken run, facing the chicken house. You can see Sugar through the plexiglass. The cinder blocks were placed there a long time ago, I think in response for my desperation to keep foxes from getting into the house if they had dug into the run.
The chicken house and run looking up. This is a view looking up on the side of the chicken house where it meets the run. You can see the support structure and all the sticks that accumulate on top of the wire.
The chicken house and run facing east. This is a complete view that I also put at the top of this page.

I took this photo on 6/29/07 to show Pondet roosting on the outside roost with 6-week old Chickie to show how high they really were. It also shows a lot of the chicken's setup.
Chickie and Pondet roosting on the outside roost that is in the run.

The chicken pen was renovated from 9/4/18 to 9/21/18, and they still did not finish! It was supposed to be a simple project but became super expensive. The chickens were locked in the house from 9/4/18 until 9/19/18 (with time out on 9/15 and 9/16 without a secured top). They survived. I do not have time to tell you about the new run but it is about 2.5 times bigger.

Between 9/13/19 and 10/29/19, I had a handyman come out half a dozen times. He continued work on the little chicken house.

Photos of Other People's Bird Shelters and Runs

Joyce sent these four photos of her wild turkeys and their run on 5/21/06. The pen is 75' x 12' in size and contains two adult male wild turkeys, two adult female wild turkeys, an adult peacock, and the offspring of the wild turkeys (five eggs hatched via natural incubation on 5/21/06). There seem to be some white birds in there too? The photos are a little blurry.
Cage with turkeys and peacock
Cage with turkeys and peacock
Cage with turkeys and peacock
Cage with turkeys and peacock

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