Chicken Pen Expansion

You prepare. You read. You might even be able to come to one of my chicken keeping workshops. You think you’ve done everything right, you bring home the chicks, you fall in love with the girls, and you expect them to all get along. But chicken keeping doesn’t always go as planned.

A peaceful flock is a relaxing and lovely thing to have in your backyard. But, all too often there’s feather picking. There’s aggression. There’s blood. It’s hard to watch. I have been giving advice to one flock keeper who built what looked to be an ideal coop and safe fenced pen. Elizabeth lets the hens out to free-range when she gets home from work. The chickens are well-fed and well-cared for. But, it wasn’t enough. The mix of breeds that she has are problematic. (Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks are not usually tolerant of more docile breeds.) Although the space that she’d given the flock looked adequate on paper, it wasn’t enough for the hens that she has. One hen was attacked and bloody. Other hens had feathers pulled out. Her husband build a larger pen, which alleviated most of the issues, but it wasn’t quite enough to create the sort of relaxed flock dynamic that she wanted. Elizabeth and her husband have been to my workshops. They’ve heard me go on and on about how to keep hens from being bored. Her husband came up with a clever idea.

expanded pen


He created a second level in the pen using a pallet. This is like adding another 16 square feet to the run.

The girls are now all fully feathered. There’s no animosity amongst them. The hens are content. Their humans are happy. Brilliant!


  1. wow that’s really cool. Luckily mine all get along except during rainy weather when my polish’s topknot gets wet, the others start pecking her, I have to put blu-kote on to stop it, so now I have a polish with a blue top-knot, better than bloody, she’s such a dorky bird anyway. Do they ever lay eggs?

  2. That is a awesome idea!! Even if the hens are not fighting, give them extra space to explore. Yes good thinking!!

  3. This is just what I need to do!! Mixed breed flock; a New Hampshire, Delaware, Barred Rock, Wyandotte, Blk Australop and 2 Americauna’s. The barred rock is a mess! She’s forever being feather pecked. I beefed up their diet late summer and all the birds feathered out beautifully. As cold weather has settled in the BR is once again a fright! I have 48 sq feet inside the coop and 70 sq feet in the run so I felt I had adequate room for the 7 birds yet there’s too much feather pecking. I’m forever blue koting someone. The Black Australop was looking awesome and now she’s missing her tail feathers.
    My handy husband will help with adding a second floor in the run! Thanks much.

  4. There is nothing like having another floor in a people house too, to separate squabbling kids, or for adults to have a place to hide. This is such a thoughtful and brilliant use of a pallet !

  5. Great idea. I have 9 girls, 3 wyandottes, 1 NHR rest all mixed(2 belgian) for the most all get along. NHR and 2 Glw are top of rung. Then I added 5 more so the first 4 are 6 months older. Last year in the winter the 2 glw started feather picking eating. So far no sign of it yet. I love ths multi tier idea!

  6. I don’t have problems right now, but I still want to do this! What an awesome idea!

  7. That’s a great idea. Thankful my mix flock of 5 gets along well and has no issues. Curious Question….when did a Hen House start being called a Coop? Growing up, the Hen House was the inside part and outside part was the Coop. I read the inside is a Coop and the outside is a Run…guess I’m getting old… LOL! :)

    • I’ve never heard of that distinction before. My vintage materials don’t have that distinction either. Anyone else? Perhaps this is a regional idiom?

      • Growing up the house was always called the chicken house. A Henhouse in these parts was a restaurant. ;-) The outside enclosure was called the chicken yard.

  8. Terry! This is attractive and brilliant, and comes not a moment too soon for a neighbor’s flock that has a pecking issue! I’ve forwarded the link, and can now rest happily, knowing that you and Elizabeth have provided this perfect creative solution!

  9. Any ideas how that pallet is attached/braced? I have some smaller “pallets” (actually, old drying trays) that I could use. I’m the “handy man (lady)” so I need help figuring these things out.