This exercise pen is simple and practical. It’s inexpensive and easy to build, even without power tools. Although I call it an exercise pen, it could have all sorts of uses with minor modifications. I built this pen to keep ducklings on the lawn during the day, but put the ducks in a building at night.
I used all 2-by-4 untreated pine. The premise is simple: make the pen 8-feet-by-4-feet so a minimal number of cuts will be necessary. It’s 2-feet high so cutting the chicken wire is also easy (assuming you buy or have a 2-foot roll of wire).
- 10 8-foot 2-by-4s
- 40’ of 24-inch chicken wire
- 2 hinges (not absolutely necessary)
- Staples for attaching the chicken wire
- 2.5” or 2.75” #8 or #10 screws
Some variation in materials is acceptable. Remember, this is a practical and quick project, so use what you have or use what you like. 2-by-3 lumber would work. Bigger screws are a little stronger, but this pen isn’t necessarily predator proof.
Putting It Together
Start by cutting six 2-by-4s in half. If you want to account for the width of the saw blade, it’s a good idea, but not critical. Take two of the 4-foot sections and cut them in half again. You should now have four 8-foot pieces, 10 four-foot pieces and four 2-foot pieces.
Make a rectangle out of two 4-foot pieces and two 8-foot pieces, but be sure to put the 4-foot pieces between the 8-foot pieces; that is, you’ll drill holes all the way through the 8-foot pieces where you’re going to attach them and the screws will anchor in the ends of the 4-foot pieces. After you’ve secured the corners with at least two screws each, make another rectangle the same way.
Next, attach the 2-foot corner “posts.” It’s a good idea to put screws through both the 8-foot pieces and 4-foot pieces that you’re attaching to the posts. It will make the entire structure stronger. You should now have the basic frame for the pen. If you don’t want to mess with putting a top on the pen, simply staple chicken wire all the way around it and you’re done. But if you want to keep cats or wild birds from getting in the top, read on.
Topping it Off
Attach three of the 4-foot pieces of lumber to the top rectangle. Place them 2-feet apart on center so that the chicken wire will reach across the span without much overlap.
I added a “door” to the top of the pen. Of the four sections created in the top by the separating 2-by-4s, I put mine in the second section. Putting the door in an end section would probably be better because the birds always run to one end when you’re trying to catch them. But if you put the door in an end section, you have to account for the corner posts, which complicates the project.
To build the door, make another rectangle, this time using the 4-foot sections for the long sides. You should have a 4’ piece of lumber left over at this point. Cut two 20.25-inch pieces from that to make the door. You’ll want it to fit somewhat loosely so that you can open and close it. Attach it with hinges. I made rough handles with the left over ends of the 2-by-4s.
Cover the door and the top with chicken wire and you’re done. The pen isn’t terribly heavy, so it’s easy to tip it up to get the birds out.
If you want better predator protection, heavier wire attached more securely should improve your chances of success. You might also want to add something to the top to provide some shade for your birds.
TROY GRIEPENTROG Ducklings enjoy spending time on the lawn on a sunny spring day.