The "Outside Pen" is an integral part of keeping happy chickens. Our outside pen adjoins seamlessly to the chicken coop, providing our chickens with room to be active. There is an outside door that closes for night time, or if there is stormy weather and you want to keep your chickens in their coop.
The outside pen is fairly basic. It is an outside area which allows hens to be active, enjoy outdoors, and relax in a totally protective area. A rule of thumb for outside pens is 8'-10' square feet/hen in your design. Hens will gladly use a ramp or ladder to transition from outside pen to chicken coop. Hanging feeders and waters keep feed and water clean.
Our outside pen is made up of 4" by 4" boards anchoring the corners and middle of the pen, and 2" by 4" boards in between, and on top for strength. Posts were buried and set in cement. A "human-size" door was made at the back side corner of pen. The entire sides, back, and top are covered and secured with durable half-inch wire mesh. All wire meshing should be left smooth, and without any sharp points to keep your hens safe. You want to protect your hens from hawks and owls above, and the possibility of raccoons, coyotes, and other predators at ground level.
Durable wire mesh should also be buried at least 12" deep, and toed outward 6" along the perimeter of your entire outside pen. This is done by making a trench first, and then securing wiring. This will help protect your hens and their feed bucket from squirrels, gophers, rats, mice, and snakes, possibly below the ground. For another solution, see my post on "Narcissus Bulbs Naturally Deter Gophers", under Green Tips.
Our outside pen has a wonderful sandy soil floor. Daily manure droppings generally permeate the sandy soil, and daily cleaning is not necessary. If you have a very large flock of chickens, routine clean-up may be necessary. Once a quarter, I re-level the outside pen floor and replenish with fresh sandy topsoil. Sandy soil is agreeable to hens, easy on their feet and to play in. A simple secured shade cloth covering half of the outside top pen, gives our hens an optional shady area.
You will find that your hens spend most of their day in their outside pen. For happy hens, make sure your outside pen is safe for them, and a pleasant environment for them to be in.