If you’re reading this, you’re likely almost finished with your chicken coop and run endeavor.
Deciding on a chicken run roof was one of the final decisions I made in my building journey, and I had several questions about it.
So, I’ve compiled these thoughts and little lessons into a quick guide, which I hope you’ll find helpful.
Does My Chicken Run Need a Roof?
While chicken runs need coverings, they do not necessarily need a roof.
Naturally, dry runs, with ample shade from a nearby tree, building, or vining plant, don’t have to have a roof.
A roof is optional and may or may not be worth the hassle of building.
If you don’t want a typical roof for your run, try shade cloth, chicken wire, hardware cloth, or some fishing line to protect your backyard flock.
I’ll cover this in more depth in a moment.
Why a Chicken Run Roof is Important
Almost every chicken run should be covered in one way or another, though a full roof is not always necessary.
However, if you do decide to add one, here are the benefits I observed with having a chicken run roof.
Keep Most or All Predators Out
No matter where you live, you are sure to have at least one species of predator that would harm your chickens if the run does not have some secure covering.
Raccoons are the most common little criminal.
Weasels, minks, bobcats, cougars, owls, hawks, falcons, eagles, and osprey can be problematic too.
Without a secure covering of some kind, your flock will always be at risk, which negates the purpose of having a run in the first place.
Keep The Chickens In
Chickens can fly for short distances, and they can also hold onto wires pretty well.
I had a crafty lightweight hen who would fly partially up my ten-foot garden fence.
She would grab onto the wires, rest briefly, and then fly up and over the fence to get to my tomatoes and raspberries.
I knew the coop run should be covered, and it was.
But I hadn’t imagined that the tall garden fence would be insufficient while the flock free-ranged.
Putting a top of some kind over the run will make sure that your flightier birds with less body fat and a whole lot of courage stay where you put them.
Keep The Coop and Run Clean
Runs with a roof of some kind will get less wet, muddy, or messy than a coop that is uncovered and fully exposed to the elements.
Less mud and muck means the flock won’t be tracking nearly as much filth inside their coop.
This leads to healthier and happier birds and you, with fewer cleaning duties.
If the run is covered, it can also give you more space for the coop.
Now, you can move feeders and waterers outside, giving your chickens more space inside.
But only do this if your coop and run are fully secure against predators.
You should also ensure that there is no way that water could get into the food supply.
You do not want a soggy, mildewy, or moldy chicken feed.
- Chicken run roof made of plastic sheeting from thegardencoop.com
Give Your Chickens More Space and Enrichment
If your chicken is covered by a roof, shade cloth, or secure wire, you’ve opened up many opportunities for your chickens inside the run.
If the chicken run is three to four feet tall or taller, consider adding random hanging bars, shelves, chicken hammocks, and ramps throughout the run.
This gives your chickens more vertical space to play on and explore.
Chickens feel a strong natural desire to climb into trees for shelter and safety and to find insects.
Having vertical play spaces nurtures this instinct, gives your chickens even more space per square foot, and makes them feel happier overall.
And I can’t even begin to describe the silly burst of joy you’ll feel in your chest when you see a hen happily swinging from the rafters in her homemade swing.
Keep Birds Healthy and Out of the Elements
Cold and Snow
A roof will enable your flock to enjoy being outdoors all year round.
I learned early on as a homesteader in Montana that feathered feet chickens, which are generally recommended for extra-cold areas, don’t do well in the snow.
Their warm little feet inside a cozy coop will melt the snow and ice stuck to their legs, so the feathered feet will soon be covered in water.
Once they feel warm and ready to go back outside, their feathers and feet will freeze again.
Eventually, they form ice balls on their legs that are heavy and uncomfortable, and these ice balls will grow in size and weight all day long.
The chickens may start picking at the ice and plucking their feathers out, which cannot feel good.
You’ll have to warm them up, completely dry them out carefully, and then put them back outside.
Having a chicken run that is covered and fully dry, even amid wet and snowy winters, will prevent this mess from ever happening in the first place.
Heat and UV Rays
In hotter areas, heat can become really uncomfortable for your feathered friends.
A shaded coop, even if only part of the coop is protected, will allow them to sit outside in a cooling breeze without being “attacked” by the sun.
Chickens going through a molt will find this especially helpful because they can sunburn too.
Another perk of having a covered chicken run is that you can keep their watering containers much cooler.
The coop may be several degrees warmer than the run, so keeping the waterer in the shade makes good sense for you.
Chicken Run Roof Materials
A shade cloth is a breathable tarp alternative that cools birds off for very little money, and it takes only a small effort to install over the top of the run.
Get a shade cloth if you live in a hot area and don’t have climbing plants or overhanging tree limbs to provide shade for your chickens.
It could also be a great way to prevent heat stroke for chickens.
Sheets of metal make for a great roof that easily sheds snow and rain.
If you have heavy snow that can accumulate atop the roof, use plywood or scrap wood as your base for extra durability and strength.
Plastic sheeting is not as strong or durable as metal tin, but it can be “beefed up” with the help of a base beneath it.
You can always use plastic sheeting on its own but know that it won’t hold up to adversity perfectly.
Shingles are the most time-consuming and expensive chicken-run roof material; with that said, it is the longest lasting.
Plus, it’s easy to find in various shades and colors, and it’s easy to replace in small segments as needed.
It will also minimize sounds during heavy rain and hailstorms.
Shingles are incredibly secure and durable, so it’s unlikely that any predator will be able to thwart your chicken-run roof.
Chicken Wire or Hardware Cloth
A sturdy wire can be extra helpful for the top of your coop.
It is cheap to purchase, easy to find, and only takes a few minutes to install on the top of the chicken run.
Hardware cloth is of better quality with more durability, but the chicken wire is enough to keep chickens inside.
It may not always be effective at keeping climbing predators away.
If you’re not concerned about your chickens escaping or a mammal climbing into your run through the top, then some fishing line is probably all you need.
Run fishing line over the top of the run in a cross-hatch or diamond pattern.
Make the diamonds small. These lines will strongly deter flying birds of prey from swooping down on your chickens.
They like to have a clear “runway” for landing and takeoff to ensure they can get away without being attacked on the ground.
If you take away their abilities to swoop down, they’ll likely give up and move on to a different coop somewhere else.
Can You Use a Tarp as a Chicken Run Roof?
Never use a tarp as a roof.
Tarps will keep the sun off the chickens, sure, but it makes a greenhouse effect where it heats up the space beneath it.
The shade beneath a tarp is usually warmer than the direct sunshine that is not covered.
Tarps also tend to pool rain and snow, which will tear the tarp or result in massive downpours into the coop.
It could be potentially deadly for a hen to be struck by such large quantities of water.
Can You Use Chicken Wire as a Chicken Run Cover?
Chicken wire is a decent chicken run cover.
It will keep chickens inside and some predators outside.
Chicken wire is easy to find and relatively inexpensive.
They’re also straightforward to install, and easy to pull up if you need to access the chicken run.
Chicken Run Roof: Before You Go…
Now you know everything you need to know about covering and protecting the run area of your chicken coop.
It should be easier for you to pick a roof covering and materials and know why you’re building this roof in the first place.
And if you’re also only building your chicken coop or possibly renovating it, check out our Chicken Coop Roof Ideas.
That article goes into even more detail regarding roofs, including roof styles, more building materials, and even insulation options.
Also, check out these pieces that may be helpful if you’re still researching.