As you may have read before, Farmer B and I are on the quest for the perfect attached run for the chickens. They currently have a run-less coop and a separate hoop-run that we move around the yard every couple of days. We know there has to be a better method, so we've (meaning "I've") been researching the heck out of chicken run alternatives.
One alternative that I found fascinating is the Chicken Moat. When I mentioned this to Farmer B it led to an interesting discussion about whether chickens can swim. (This has been much debated, but yes they can swim, although usually NOT by choice. Who knew?) Instead of a water-filled moat, this is a ground-level fenced-in "moat" around a vegetable garden.
picture from Mother Earth News
The chicken moat is a fenced area that runs along the perimeter of a garden that keeps the vegetable garden pest-free as the chickens scamper around the moat snapping up weeds and bugs. I read about it on Mother Earth News and think it is a great solution for someone with a vegetable garden and serious carpentry skills. I envision little drawbridges, turrets and dragon stencils around the edges, but that's just me. You can click here to see some great photos.
Another really cool idea for people with a raised bed vegetable garden is to build a chicken run that is the exact size of your raised beds.
picture from Garden Girl TV
Each season you place the chicken run on top of one of your raised beds that is out of commission for the season. That bed becomes the flooring for the chickens who will scratch around and prepare that bed with all their nitrogen-rich chicken poo for the next planting season. Each season you rotate the chickens to a new raised bed where the process continues again. You let them do the work for you.
Yes, you there - you chicken - you lay fresh eggs AND prepare my garden bed for next season's planting!
Garden Girl TV has some great photos of a chicken run on a raised bed and even a tutorial for making a raised bed run.
As cool as both of these ideas are, sadly neither one will work for us. I think we'll end up renovating a chain-link dog run into a chicken run if we can acquire one on FreeCycle or CraigsList. We don't have the time, energy and mad carpentry skills to make a nice, fancy wood and wire chicken run, so I think adapting a pre-made dog run to meet our needs is the way we'll go.