How To Deal With A Wet Chicken Run

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If you have ever dealt with mud in the run, you know what a headache it can be. Puddles of water, deep, thick mud, and no drainage can make it all a huge nasty mess. This post will help you with how to deal with a wet chicken run and give you a few tips on how to help your backyard chickens stay dry and warm.

Raising chickens is a great way to get started with livestock on your homestead, but it can also come with a few headaches. ; keep a dry run so you have a healthy laying flock.

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how to deal with a wet chicken run

If you have been raising chickens, you already know what a fun and quirky animal they are. I love nothing more than watching my flock chatter and cluck as they make their way around the yard.

Chickens also have a few habits that can cause negative effects on a coop and run. One of them being scratching.

chickens in a wet chicken run scratching

What do chickens eat when they scratch the ground?

When a chicken scratches at the ground, what they are doing is raking at the soil with their clawed feet. This helps to uncover any worms, bugs, and slugs that they enjoy eating. The good news is that chickens can reduce the number of pests in your lawn and garden.

The bad news is scratching can transform a grassy area into a pile of dirt in no time. And that dirt pile, in turn, can become a plot of mud with just one rainfall. Our chicken run is one of the worst places on our homestead, especially in the springtime.

There is just no way around it. When the snow melts, all that water sits in the chicken run area, in stagnant puddles. We desperately need drainage, but it is buried at the bottom of our to-do list, so I don’t expect it to get done anytime soon.


This usually means I am looking for a plan B to hold me over (and the chickens) until the problem can be fixed.

Please note that I live in Northwestern, PA, so my tips may not work for you if you live in a much wetter climate. Also, these tips are meant to be a temporary fix, and if your area is prone to heavy rains, you will want to find a more permanent solution, such as the drainage I mentioned above.

How to Deal With a Wet Chicken Run

Yes, a wet run is a concern in the warmer months, but it is even more so in the colder months. If you are not careful, chickens can get frostbite on their combs and wattles, so it is important to ensure you have a shelter for them year-round. You can purchase a coop or transform an old shed into a chicken coop like we did.

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. 

black chickens outside in the snow

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 gardening compost pile, I have found a second use, and that is in the wet chicken run. 

before and after of a wet chicken run

Option #1. Lay down a barrier

If the chicken run gets muddy, I will lay down hay over the worst parts. The hay provides a temporary dry surface for the hens in the run, keeping them and the inside coop much cleaner. It’s true that this is not the best fix, but in a pinch, it will get you by until you can do more permanent solutions. 

Chickens love to scratch in any mulch, such as hay, and will work it into the soil, all while pooping at the same time. This will give you a layer of compost in your chicken run that you can remove and add to your garden in the spring.

This can be done sometime in April. All you need is a warm and sunny day and a few helpers with forks and shovels. (Make sure it’s sunny so you can dry out the run more quickly.)

You will need a wheelbarrow, pitchfork, and, hopefully, a willing child to help. It is pretty thick at this point (about 4-8 inches), and it’s not an easy task, so having help is beneficial.

a man rototilling a chicken run

After you remove the top layer let your chickens in to break up the ground. As they are scratching in the warm sunshine the wet soil will dry out more quickly.

chickens in a wet chicken run.

what else can you lay down in a wet run?

If you do not have discarded hay to put into your wet and muddy run you can use a few other options.


Straw works better than hay, in my opinion, since straw does not contain seeds. This will help keep your coop and surrounding yard free of weeds and other unwanted growth.

Just as you would with the hay, you can lay down a few piles of straw in the wet areas. This will help to keep the mud down a bit as you wait for the weather to warm up and dry out. 

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Grass Clippings

In a pinch, you can use grass clippings in your chicken run but know it will not be as effective as straw in providing a barrier for your chickens to stay dry. Although it is not the best solution, 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. 

chicken eating grass in a wet chicken run

Dry Leaves

If it’s fall, dry leaves will work 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. 

a very wet and muddy chicken run

Spare Wood Scraps

If you find yourself without 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 in wet areas if needed.

Another option is to place a few logs for your flock to stand on. Chickens will use these as perches and stand on them throughout the day. Logs are more of a long-term fix as they can stay in the run all year round. 

chickens standing on cinder blocks in a chicken run

Option #2. 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 entire flock to a dry spot using a portable fence to keep them contained.

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, as their run gets a well-deserved rest.

chickens scratching in a portable chicken run

Option #3. Use Bales

If you have an extra bale or two of straw or hay, you can put a few of them into your wet chicken run as is. Your chickens will climb on top of them often as they love to be up high, even in the run outside.

Usually, within a few weeks, the wear and tear from the flock will tear the bale apart, and they will get busy working it 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.

bale of straw in a coop. tips on how to keep chickens dry in a wet coop

SLCG Pro Tip: Remember to watch your chicken run. If you have an overly wet season, what you added in may rot before it can compost down. If you find this is happening to you, it is important to remove it at this point before it has a chance to mold, risking the health of your chickens.

Option #4. Get your chickens up off the ground

You can also put in a few platforms or perches to help get your chickens up and out of the mud.  Remember your goal is to keep your chickens dry and clean by adding dry options you will help them to stay healthy.

A few ideas are:

  • Tires
  • Step ladder
  • Cinder blocks
  • Wood planks
  • Pallets
  • Logs

Option #5. Build a buffer from the rain

If things are continuously wet where you live, you can build a temporary roof to help dry a patch out. The quickest and easiest way to do this is with a heavy-duty tarp. Over the years, I have used tarps to keep the rain and snow away from an area in our run, which has worked quite well.

Be sure to use a heavy-duty tarp so it will withstand the entire season before it begins to tear and shred. When installing a tarp, you will want to set it at an angle, allowing any water or snow to run off more easily.

How to keep things dry in a wet chicken run.

How to Make a Tarp Shelter in a Chicken Run

Step #1. Place a spare piece of wood over the top of the tarp and nail it to the shelter. The wood will help keep the tarp from tearing in heavy winds.

Step #2. Use zip ties to attach the other end of the tarp to any fencing nearby to keep the wind from pulling it up off the ground.

Step #3. Finally, use stakes or bricks at the bottom of the tarp to anchor it more securely keeping it from blowing up. 

Option #6. Build an overhang

If you have the tools and supplies, 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 in winter as well.

chickens under a roof in a coop

We constructed this roof using scrap metal roofing and extra wood 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.

a roof over a chicken run in the winter

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 so you can continue to raise chickens that are healthy and happy.

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  1. Kristine Putt says:

    A muddy yard was my biggest chicken raising nightmare until I discovered pine pellets, available from any local feed store. They are super cheap! I think I pay only $8 per 40# bag. Pine pellets are not the same as pine shavings. They are shredded pine that is compressed into pellet form. I do mix them with shavings by pouring a couple of bags of each onto the most drenched, muddy areas of the yard. Within 24 hours most of the puddles get soaked up by the pellets. As the pellets soak up the moisture, they first expand (like a sponge) and then gently fall apart so what you wind up with is a soft, fluffy floor of pine sawdust. The chickens won’t eat it, it’s perfectly safe. They are a lifesaver for a muddy run/yard!

    1. Hi Kristine,
      That is a great idea, I have not sued pine pellets before. I am usually not one to purchase anything unless we absolutely have to, but maybe if they are super cheap 🙂 I will give them a try. Thanks for sharing!

      1. I was on a poultry conference the other day where they specifically warned us against using sawdust (not pellets) because it’s know to cause respiratory issues in chickens.

  2. You have some interesting ideas. The reason I don’t do this for my chickens, however, is because this can result in mold and mildew which in turn can cause respiratory issues for my chickens. Instead, I pre-planned runs (they have 4) around the coop that I rotate them on every 3 months. When this design was built in built the coop and runs on higher ground so there would be no standing water. It gets really wet in Louisiana so I’m always looking for new ideas. After 10 years with chickens I’ve decided the design I currently works the best for my situation.

    1. Hello Kit,

      I absolutely agree, my methods are probably only useful in damp conditions rather than overly wet like your state is. During very rainy periods I do have to go out and remove any hay that may be rotting rather than decomposing.
      I just love the setup you have for your flock, what a great idea!

      Have a great day,
      Tracy Lynn

      1. I have a corral and i use it now for ducks and chickens it was mucky, muddy. I had those people that cut the tree limbs along the road and around power lines, dump a load of their shredded chips in the corral. I had a few goats in there at the time and left it mostly in s mound but scatter some around with a silage fork. They liked to climb on the mound but then a year or so I put the ducks and chickens in there. They love that mulch, they have dug in it and scattered it all over the corral, its really breaking down to awesome potting soil, mulch, etc. I scatter hay or straw on it periodically for them to scratch arpund and eat what goodies they find in it, but they still dig deep into the dark mulch and find grubs and such and also they make a hollow to sit in.

  3. Loretta Watt says:

    Thank you for your helpful info. We have been fighting a wet chicken run all winter. Today we put down hay that we had for our horse. Seems a to be working so far. BTW my 11 Hens and one roosters were scared of the hay when we first added it. They hid in the coop for a while, we got them to come out by putting some scratch on the ramp that goes into the coop. It was enough to lure them back to the run. We also added a tarp to the top of the run to keep it dryer. No more walking in an inch of mud and poop for my girls and guy. I’m sure we will have to add more in a few days but it is so much better at this point!!

    1. So, glad you found it helpful Loretta!
      Just be warned, you will need to remove that straw and hay come spring and it’s not easy. So only add what you absolutely need to.

      Stay dry!
      Tracy Lynn

  4. I always use egg yolk thinned with a bit of water carefully fed with eyedropper. Carefully clean beak after each feeding. Keep it warm and preferably put one other chick in with it that is eating on its own. This gives it company, warmth and it will start to eat on its own faster watching the healthy chick eat.

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