Rainy seasons are necessary but what do we do with the resulting muddy chicken run? Are you tired of muddy eggs, messy coop floors and slippery chicken run?
I’m not going to sugar coat it. If you have an extremely muddy chicken run, it will take some labor to return the run to a better state. You will have to correct the grading and the drainage. The good news is, once you do it correctly, it’s much easier to avoid a muddy chicken run.
What causes the Mud
When rain sits on top of dirt. And then more rain. It’s been raining a lot lately. Add in chicken manure, coop bedding and spilled feed and you have a disgusting muddy chicken run mess.
Drainage issues– When the ground in the chicken area builds up with bedding, dirt, spilled feed, straw, etc. It should be regraded and returned to a somewhat gentle slope towards the downward side of the yard. Natural drainage should be worked with when ever possible. Some folks use a tiller to stir up the dirt and make it drain better. If they start making a whole lot of racket with that thing I can guarantee we won’t produce any eggs that day!
Run off – directing the run off away from other pens, and areas where it can cause more damage is important.
Often grading issues are to blame for muddy coops. In our coop, the yard has a lot of built up bedding both from mulch and straw and from the coop itself being cleaned out. The flock loves to sift though the leftover bedding but if it’s left on the ground for long, it builds up. Re-grading is a big job but after a few years of the coop staying in one spot, it may need to be done to avoid a muddy chicken run.
Possible Fixes for a Muddy Chicken Run
Trenches to divert the water
Stone for filtering
Regrade the area
Fill material – adding well draining material to low areas to keep water from accumulating will help avoid standing water issues. Well draining material can include wood chips, or small pebbles or stones. If you use stone or pebbles the area can be covered with wood chips for a softer ground and a well draining area.
Adding a layer of clean straw to the chicken run, cleans off the chicken’s feet before they walk back into the coop. Adding a nice nest of soft straw to the laying boxes will also help keep the eggs cleaner.
Add a Board Walk or Porch
We have used pallets with the boards close together, and also wide plank boards as a platform for the chickens to walk on before entering the coop.
Call a Tree Service
Occasionally we find a tree service that has some fresh pine tree grindings. I love his. The ground up trees smell great, and the chickens get a snack too. Pine needles are a healthy treat that helps with respiratory tract health.
Not the fine sawdust. The squarish chunks of wood sometimes used on playgrounds. Continue reading for more about why wood chips are a great choice for chicken runs
Bales of Pine Needles
We recently found a local supply for bales of pine needles. These are more common in certain parts of the country than others. This is a great cover for muddy chicken runs.
What Not to Use in a Muddy Chicken Run
I have seen pine shavings and sawdust used on top of the run but this rarely works out well. The shavings just don’t stick around and the problem is often worse after these things are added to a muddy chicken run.
Why I Recommend Wood Chips for a Muddy Chicken Run
Honestly, I don’t just recommend using wood chips for a muddy chicken run. I recommend using wood chips all year long. Wood chips are much better for chickens kept in a run, and not just because they help with drainage.
Wood chips break down slowly over time. The chickens will sift through the wood fiber, finding insects that are helping break down the organic wood material. The wood chips contain quite an ecosystem and the chickens can naturally fit into the plan.
And more benefits…
In addition to providing a healthier ground cover than plain dirt, the wood chips provide exercise as the chickens scratch. Keeping them occupied helps control any pecking order issues too.
And finally, the wood chips help clean the chickens feet, so they track in less mud and chicken poop when they enter the coop. This helps keep odor to a minimum and keep the eggs cleaner in the nest.
After the Rains End
When we had a particularly bad year of rain and the run was awash in mud, we pushed the mud off to the sides of the run. The chickens had made a trench along the fence while digging for insects. The mud was sent back into the trenches. It was a tough job and not one I wanted to repeat. So we made plans to improve the run and bring in better draining ground material. The muddy chicken run had to go.
Cover Part of the Run and Add a Roost
Adding outdoor roost bars gives the chickens somewhere to perch when the mud is a problem. If possible attach a tarp over the perch so that the area can be used during rainy times, and stay drier.
Leaving the mud to accumulate makes everyone cranky. The flies seem to enjoy the mud a lot which is kind of annoying because chickens don’t like them very much. It really is best for everyone if the mud is either controlled or taken care of somehow.
This post was originally written from a chicken’s point of view. Hope you enjoy the following excerpt from the chicken diary.
Our dear Mother Nature has it a little messed up this year. The saying goes, “April showers bring May Flowers”. This year she has sent us May showers. It is actually more than showers and I am tired of my beautiful black and white feathers getting wet.
We try to explain…
The humans are quite perturbed. I almost feel sorry for them. Usually, I don’t because we are here doing all the work. Laying eggs, digging up bugs and worms, and various other gardening chores and all they do is stop by to watch us work. We toil and they take the eggs and run. But that’s not the point.
They are trying to give us a dry chicken run around our coop but the rains just keep falling. Rain on top of dirt makes mud, eventually. Add in a little chicken poo that isn’t cleaned up and wham, you have some potent mud. Some of us don’t mind the mud. Other’s run through it quickly to get out for free range time and then run back into the coop full speed. And yet we still track in big globs of mud on our feet.
Let me write down some suggestions in hope that the humans will see this notebook while snooping, I mean cleaning the coop. The ideas in this article does help the ground we walk on stay in better condition. When they bring in more straw or pine needles for the walking area. Of course we have to scratch them out of the way. But they try. It’s all we can ask I guess.
It helps to not add the soft shavings from inside the coop into the chicken run. Also, we are glad to have some outside roost bars that we can perch on under a tarp so we don’t have to stand around in the mud.