DIY Adjustable Chicken Run Tarp

February 4, 2016
The tarps are rolled back up after a recent snowfall.

Living in a place where we experience all four seasons including what can be a sometimes very snowy winter, I have had to come up with some pretty ingenious ways to care for chickens during weeks on end of nasty weather. One such way that I have done so this year is with this adjustable chicken run tarp.

Chickens unlike ducks do not like to be wet. Even though chickens can handle a bit of rain and snow, their feathers should never be soaked through to their skin. The chickens need a dry environment. This also goes for their coop and run. The coop should be filled with dry bedding and the run should be free from stagnant water, especially due to the risk of coccidiosis.

To combat this, one of the easiest things you can do is add a roof to your run. Not only does it keep out weather, a roof can also keep out predators and other wildlife.  However sometimes that is not enough.

For years, every fall I wrap the run with heavy duty (at least 4 mil thick) clear plastic sheeting. With a staple gun in hand, I methodically enclose the run.  This has worked great but I have felt guilty that the chickens were unable to interact with the outdoor world beyond the plastic wrapping. Last year, we had so much snow that it was not until April that I could remove the wrapping. I felt badly and by late spring we had a few bored chickens pick up the terrible habit of pecking. Despite filling the run with daily distractions to prevent boredom it was still not enough. The girls missed free-ranging and they missed seeing out. This year I had decided to do something different.


I wanted to create plastic tarps that could be rolled down during the nasty winter weather, but as soon as it passed, I wanted to be able to roll those up so the girls could see out. On the back side of the coop, I decided to use blue plastic tarps. On the front side of the coop I decided to use the clear plastic to allow natural light to penetrate through as not to disrupt egg laying.

Egg laying is stimulated by sunlight. Chickens need approximately 14 hours of light each day to be productive.

With metal s hooks and some garden ties, I secured the blue tarps to the run. I can roll them up all the way, half-way or have them all the way down.

TillysNest-adjustable chicken run tarp

On the front of the run’s clear plastic, I used these black tarp clips. I rolled out the plastic and strategically placed the clips across both the top and across the bottom of the tarp. I also did the same on the blue tarps as well. I used these green gardening ties to attach the plastic and the tarps to the run. This way, I can roll them up or down. Just prior to the snow, I unroll the tarps and button up the run. Then after the snowfall stops, I shovel around the coop to make a path for myself  simply roll the tarps and plastic back up into place.

The run is not airtight when the plastic and tarps are down and a dusting of snow sometimes blows in. However, this technique of the adjustable chicken run tarps is working great and I hope you will consider giving it a try one of these seasons.

After the storm the area around the run is shoveled and the tarps are raised for the chickens.

Online reources:

Black plastic clips

Green Garden wire ties

Plastic sheeting

metal S hooks

These above products above contain affiliate link for purchase.



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15 thoughts on “DIY Adjustable Chicken Run Tarp”

  1. Thanks, Melissa! You provided practical instruction for what I have wanted to do for the same reasons. We will try this for next winter! You are wonderful!!

  2. This is exactly how I want to do wind block tarps on our run here in north Texas. Our weather changes so quickly, especially in winter; it just makes practical sense to be able to roll them up & down quickly instead of an “all or nothing” approach that takes time to put up/down with every change in the weather!

    • Yes, we can get quite a bit of wind here too sometimes, hanging out into the ocean. Over 50 mph sometimes! I definitely think it will work for you. Glad you stopped by to check them out.

  3. I love the idea of the tarp around the run. My question is, Is it not a good idea for chickens to free range for a bit in a shulveled snow path? I live in the Pacific Northwest where we get quite a bit of snow. Getting a coop ready for our first ever chickens.

    • Chickens can definitely free-ranging in a shoveled pathway. They are snow-blind so you may need to put down some shavings or straw as an incentive to encourage their exploration on the paths you make. I would only remind you that predators are more prevalent around chicken coops in the winter (lack of food and their babies being born in early spring). Trees are barren from leaves, so that leaves your flock more vulnerable to attacks from birds of prey. If they are out, I would definitely supervise them. I think you will find that your flock enjoys the snow or they don’t. Mine prefer to be in their run when the ground is snowy. Every flock is different.

  4. What a lovely website! I am in Victoria, Australia. After 2 years (almost) chickenless! we finally have built a new pen at our new home, and your story on your roll down tarps is why I am writing to you. We lived up in Queenland for years where the problem of cyclonic rains had us fitting our pen with “flaps” that we roll down or up as needed. Nothing worse than wet chooks! We attach ours on a length of narrow wood at the top of the pen, and have a length of thick dowel wood attached along the bottom. Our tarp is shade cloth (184cm wide). We have a little hook just under the roofline with some elastic-rope, so when we roll the flaps up they can be hooked up until need again. I’d like to send you a picture of our new chook pen (coop for you American folk). Our 5 week old chicks have just moved in and loving in. It’s a simple design, weather & predator proof. We use deep litter on a raised wood floor. I free range my chickens as often as I can (supervised, as we have no fences yet on the property) . Every blessing, Rae

    • Hi Rae! Sure, I’d love to see what you have come up with. A friend of mine wants to do something with PVC piping too. Feel free to email me at: melissaattillysnestdotcom. So glad chooks are back in your life. P.S. My middle name is Rae 😉

  5. Hello 🙂
    I have asked this question before another place on this site, but then I coulden’t find it again, so know I will just ask one more time 🙂 Where did you bought your chicken home/house? Or have you made it yourself?
    It is really cool and I am thinking of building one myself 🙂
    Love Amalie, from Denmark 🙂

  6. Hello!
    I am wondering if a clear tarp on a 7 foot tall run would be too hot in Summer? If so can I add a shade cloth over ? My run is over 24 feet by 24 feet . Hardware cloth is over the top and sides. I worry if we remove the clear tarp it will get ripped on the wire. I wish we had put a roof on the run when we built it. Any advice would be helpful!

    Thank you so much,

    • I think it will get too hot and create a greenhouse effect. I think your instinct is correct. I would remove the plastic. A shade cloth is always a good idea for summer. Perhaps you can add a roof this summer and re-vamp your design?


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.