How to Fix a Muddy Run
by Manda H
Published January 30, 2024
When it comes to raising chickens, there are a lot of things that I love, and then some things that are not quite as pleasurable. Whether it is the middle of the rainy season or because of melting snow, the chicken run can end up being quite a muddy place.
As much as it can be a common thing to see in your barnyard, it is important to work on fixing your muddy run. Often a stinky slurry, but it also creates a slippery surface which increases the risk for leg injuries. Chickens will also drink from the muddy water. When it includes runoff from feces, that increases the risk of sickness and disease, including Bumblefoot, which is a staph infection that occurs to the foot pad when bacteria enter through broken skin. It also will create dirty eggs in the nesting box as the dirty feet will move around the eggs, which can pose health risks. As you can see, it is important to provide chickens with clean dry areas.
Consider the Landscape
The first thing you need to do is take a look at your run. Is the rain running down any slopes? If so, you can start by creating a trench around the prevailing edge to direct any run-off to avoid your chicken run. When constructing your chicken coop, make sure you do not build it in a low area. If it is a low area, no worries, you can help fix the problem by adding a few inches of sand to help elevate your run.
Sand is better than heavy soil or clay, but it can still hold moisture during certain times of the year. One option is to put a tarp over the run if your setup allows it, to reduce moisture coming from the sky. You will also want to add Lime! First Saturday Lime is a great option to spread along the run as it will help to deodorize chicken coops and barns. Lime responds to moisture by binding with compounds in the soil which will firm up the soil as well as increase the water resistance.
In addition to lime, you will also want to have a nice walkable surface. So what exactly is the best material for a run? Some people will choose to use pebbles or other small rocks, but I find that while they are better than sand alone, there is one thing that does a much better job and it’s wood chips.
If you choose to purchase store-bought mulch you will want to avoid the mulch that contains artificial dyes. You can use wood shavings, such as the bagged shavings that you find at the feed store, but personally, I like using natural wood chips best. I get ones bagged at my local home improvement store. The chips allow for a degree of composting/breakdown. They absorb some moisture and eventually improve the ground beneath them. I can just add more to the top as needed, but wood chips do not require being removed as often as I would otherwise need to remove wood shavings. When used in combination with the lime, they will provide a great-smelling dry area that is safe for your flock.
How do you keep your run mud-free? Share your favorite tips with us in the comments below!
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