If you have ever dealt with a wet chicken run, then you know what a headache it can be. This post will help you deal with a wet chicken run and all the mud and mess that comes with it.
If you have chickens, then you already know what a fun and quirky animal they are. There is nothing I love more than watching my flock chatter and cluck as they make their way around the yard.
Chickens love to scratch and are pretty efficient at it. The problem is they can turn a lush plot of grass into a dirt pile in just days. And that dirt pile, in turn, can become a plot of mud with just one rainfall.
One of the worst places on our farm in spring is our chicken run.
There is just no way around it. When the snow melts it just sits there in the chicken run in stagnant puddles. We desperately need drainage, but that is buried somewhere at the bottom of Hubby’s to-do list so I don’t expect it will get done anytime soon.
So, as usual, I am looking for a plan B to hold me over (and the chickens) until the problem can be fixed.
SLCG PRO TIP: Please note that I live in Northwestern Pennsylvania so my tip may not work if you live in a much wetter climate. Also, this is only a temporary fix and if your area is prone to heavy rains, you will want to find a more solid solution such as the drainage I mentioned above.
How to Deal With a Wet Chicken Run
If you are not careful, chickens can get frostbite on their combs and wattles and that is why it is so important to be sure you have shelter for them year-round. Although uncommon, chickens can get frostbite on their feet and for that reason, it is important to have a dry and warm place for them to stand in any weather.
Lay Down Some Hay
My goats, well actually most goats are very picky eaters especially when it comes to their hay. They are notorious for picking out only the best grass and letting the rest fall to the ground where it sits and piles up. Rather than toss all that discarded hay into the compost pile I have found second use in the wet chicken run.
Once a week or so I remove this hay and toss it into the chicken coop in thick piles. The hay provides a temporary dry surface for the hens in the run and keeps them and the inside coop much cleaner. No, it’s true, this is not the very best fix but in a pinch, it will get you by until you can do more permanent solutions.
The hens love the hay as well and spend most of their days scratching it into the mud which in turn quickly composts it down for me. By the time, I am ready to plant my garden I have a great supply of rich dark wonderful compost.
Around April I just wait for a warm and sunny day. (Make sure it’s sunny so you can dry out the run quicker)
I head to my coop armed with a wheelbarrow, pitchfork, and hopefully a willing child of mine to help. It is pretty thick at this point (about 4-8 inches) and it’s not an easy task but the payoff is a good one so I don’t mind too much.
Once I take all I need for my garden I will keep the hens out of the run for about an hour or two. This will allow the warm sun to dry up the new ground pretty quickly taking us back down to the original soil to get us through the summer.
What if you do not have excess discarded hay to use in your run?
Other Wet Chicken Run Options
Straw, in my opinion, works better than hay since there are no seeds found in straw keeping your coop and surrounding yard free of weeds and other unwanted growth. Just as you would with the straw, you can lay down a few piles in the really wet areas. This will just help to keep the mud down a bit as you wait for the weather to make up it’s mind.
If it’s summer, grass clippings are perfect for a wet run and provide (almost) the same benefits as the straw does. It does not seem to work as well as the straw but if that is all you have it will do a good enough job to get you through.
My chickens LOVE grass clippings. There are usually many bugs found mixed in with the cut grass so the chickens will spend time looking for treats. Cut grass is a great boredom buster for hens any time of year.
If it’s fall, dry leaves will work just as well and are another favorite of chickens. There can be quite a few bugs in those leaves and chickens love their bugs. Again, your goal is to put your focus where the worst of the mud is, usually, this ends up being the main path in your coop. Drop-in piles of leaves to give a dryer spot for them to stand.
Spare Wood Scraps
If you find yourself without any lawn clippings or leaves to use in the run, wooden pallets or discarded wood can be a good temporary fix until things dry up. We burn wood in the winter for our heat so we have quite a bit of bark and wood chips to dump into our run if needed.
Another option is to place in a few logs. Chickens will use these as perches and stand on them throughout the day. Logs are a more long-term fix as they can stay in the run all year long.
Make a Move
In particularly wet seasons sometimes I have found that no amount of fixing will help other than letting the ground dry up on its own. That is when I will move my gals to a dry spot with a portable fence. I have several portable electric nettings that are great for this. I can move the hens anywhere I need them to be and they love the change of scenery and their run gets a well-deserved rest.
Full Hay Bales
You can also reuse a hay bale in a saturated chicken run as well. Chickens really love to climb and I will often find several of them on it throughout the day. Usually, within a few months, the hay or straw bale will be torn apart and worked into the ground.
Where we live, straw and hay are pretty affordable just $3-$5 a bale so, for us, it’s an inexpensive alternative.
SLCG PRO TIP: Remember to watch your chicken runs. If you find you are having a particularly wet season, the matter (AKA straw, hay, leaves, etc) you put on the muddy ground may rot before it is able to compost down. If you find this is happening to you, it is important to remove it at this point so your chickens do not get sick or develop a respiratory illness.
Get your chickens up off the ground
You can also put in a few random things that will help to get your chickens up and out of the mud.
A few examples are:
- Step ladder
- Cinder blocks
Your goal is to find what you have around your home that you can use to give a barrier between your chickens and the cold wet and muddy ground.
Build a buffer from the rain.
If things are really wet where you live, you may want to help dry a patch out with a heavy-duty tarp. This can be just enough to shelter a small area inside of your chicken run giving a patch of dry ground for your chickens to go to. Be sure to use a heavy-duty tarp so it will withstand the season before it begins to tear and shred.
When installing a tarp you will want to angle the top so any water or snow will run off more easily.
Step #1. Using a board you can nail in the top of the tarp to the roof of your chicken coop. The board will help to keep the tarp from tearing in any heavy winds that are common in stormy weather.
Step #2. Use zip ties to attach the tarp to any fencing that you have nearby to keep the wind from pulling it up.
Step #3. Finally, use stakes or bricks at the bottom to anchor it down at the ground as well.
Build a more permanent solution.
If you have the tools and supplies on hand you can also build a small roof off the side of the coop. This added shelter is a great way to keep a dry spot throughout the entire year. Not only in the spring but winter as well.
We constructed this roof using scrap metal roofing that was leftover from another project.
A small wooden board at one end stops the wind from coming in giving a nice dry area in an otherwise messy and muddy chicken run.
When homesteading it is important to think outside of the box. Look at the situation from all sides and see what you can come up with using supplies you already have on hand. Remember, it doesn’t have to be pretty, although that is nice, just effective and you may be surprised at how well an idea of yours will work out.
When dealing with a situation such as a wet chicken run, look at the tools and supplies you have all around you and think creatively about how to resolve a problem. I love the challenge of making something out of nothing and see this as an essential homesteading skill.
Discarded hay? Random cinder block? Extra cut logs? Instead, see it as a solution for your soggy and wet chicken run.