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Care and Keeping of your Chicken Run

  1. BantyChooks
    Hello, and welcome to my article on managing your chicken run for a minimum of stress and cleaning. Using this method, my chicken run stays clean enough to sit down in with no poop removal on my behalf!

    Constructing a Run

    First off, make sure your run is large enough for your chickens. Minimum square feet per chicken is ten, but I prefer 20+ as I think ten is too crowded, at least if you don't want the soil to become overloaded. If you can't do a large run, then just make do with what you have.

    An important consideration that is too often overlooked is soil type. I chose an area that had lush grass and dark brown dirt. This all means there are lots of earthworms in the soil, which reduces stink by exponential numbers!

    Caring for an Existing Run
    So now you have your run placed in an appropriate place. What now? In order to preserve as many sprouts, bugs, and roots as possible, I dump lots of leaves into the run. As well as adding to the soil after they get broken down, it gives the chickens have something to do, other than ruin any soil by digging and eating all the seeds out. I also dump my dirty coop bedding (pine shavings) right beside the run. After a year or so, I rake it into the run. It has broken into many small pieces by then, and is a very airy, spongy soil. This, when mixed in with the rest of the dirt, help eliminate the packed-down, bare look that chicken runs are notorious for.

    This is what my coop bedding looks like before I compost it. It is already fairly broken up.
    This is what it looks like after sitting behind the run for almost a year. See how spongy this is? This "dirt" does not compact easily, making for MUCH easier upkeep.

    Adding lots of small sticks also impedes scratching, thereby preserving the soil.

    This is what you want your run to look like. See the leaf litter?

    This is what you do NOT want your run to look like. See how the dirt is compacted and there is mushed poop on top? If you see this, dig it up, mix it around, and add leaf litter.

    You want most of your run to be slightly damp, not so much wet as more, well.... Cool. You still want it to crumble in your hands, but not completely dry and sandy. This makes it easier for sprouts to get a hold, and we want to encourage that as much as we can! Too wet, and it STINKS, as well as encouraging worms. Too dry, and it doesn't have anything to hold itself up with. Balance is the key here!

    Having trees, shrubs, and tough grasses with strong root systems also really helps to hold the soil together. If you are going to try and get grass to grow in your run (and stay there) you will need to rotate between two runs, therefore giving the soil a break from the constant abuse of chickens.

    The End

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  1. Robert M
    LOL, wow, you're sure having a time.
    They say mountain cats are tasty, too. Coyotes down South bring bounties, like in Florida and Louisiana. Fox brings a nice price for furs.
    Hope I don't step on anyone's sensibilities, but that's life, isn't it? =)
  2. yawningreyhound
    Robert M....funny you should mention that! chicken killer Bear from three years ago met exactly that fate. The neighbor had a bear tag and after the July 4th (3 years ago) first instance of a bear ripping apart his TUFF (but apparently not bearproof) SHED, board by board, that bear was no more. This new bear we think is a sow...not as big. But still managed to tear back the well-stapled pasture fencing on one side of his coop one night; then not 2 weeks later took the coop door off the hinges, jamming it in the frame so hard a man had to dislodge it. Over the years, they've had a bear reach in through the jalousey (Sp?) coop window and drag a bird out, making a horrible mess....then 4x4 rebar was installed over the window and the bear took birds off the roost again through the rebar squares....now there's concrete reinforcing smaller opening rebar over the window which has worked. We've got the mtn lions, the coyotes, the bobcats, the fox, and the bear. The bear climbed my fence one evening before the birds were put in last year about this time...ate one of my hens, the others left squawking in the corner, I'm sure he was planning to return for them as he ate the hen right there in the 1/4-acre enclosure but we came home from the dog walk and saved them. Then I started putting bear boards (Alaskan idea) out every night. The bear and I were face to face on our house deck about 2 weeks ago, but i did my best angry gorilla scream and growl and the bear vacated the deck right over the edge, hanging on the floor of the deck until i threw a stuffie dog toy at the claws and then the bear dropped to the ground, probably a 5-foot drop or so. It's been an interesting 5 years of predators up here for sure (northern mtns of colorado, about 7000 feet). Never paid them any attn until the chickens showed up.
  3. Robert M
    My, my, don't you and your neighbor like bear meat? They make nice fireplace rugs, too.
  4. yawningreyhound
    Nice article! Thank you for alerting me to read it..... I've just resorted to picking up chicken poop like I pick up dog poop. Twice a day. Otherwise, the bear seems to smell the chickens and visits too often. Since I've starting picking up the poop, he's stayed away. And i clean out the sleeping coop poop every day, too; I think the chickens prefer a clean-smelling sleeping coop. My neighbor's coop is nasty and he's broken into hers so many times, she's lost 21 birds in 2 years to him. They're electrified now. But still stinky.
  5. katescritters
    I think I built my chicken pen substantially different from the author, and as such maintain it very differently.

    My chicken pen is an 8x12 heavy duty chain-link dog kennel, the kind with a galvanized pipe frame. The grass died/was eaten long ago. To keep things from becoming one huge smear of chicken poo I put down 2-3 inches of dry pine needles after raking out the old. I only have 4 hens and they get turned out in the yard to eat bugs and grass/plants. Very minimal time and effort. Including raking up fresh needles it only takes 20 minutes from start to finish.
  6. Robert M
    Make sure your run has chicken wire on the bottom, too, put wheels on the "house end", then you can pick up the other end and move it around and let them get the bugs and grass they love. It would help if you have "handle-bars" on the run end, also, like a wheelbarrow.
  7. spiritbrook
    Is there an article like this for ducks? I have the pavement type of run (compacted) and when I added shavings I discovered it has just a small amount of slope - which is good for drainage but now my shavings are on the outside. I was afraid to dig it up and end up with mud.
  8. lala4578
    If your 'grass' has already been depleted and burned out by the run, try adding Lime! We did this where we had a mobile coop for over a year and the grass was toasted. Nothing would grow there for months, not even weeds, but after adding lime to neutralize the soil the grass came back. Of course keep the chooks off of it until the grass returns :
  9. echix
    We did our entire coop/run in mason sand - white beach type sand - poop just disappears and it doesn't smell! If it gets wet, it just goes through - it's about 2' of sand and the run is about 60x40 feet. On dry days - I rake in DE all over the run and they dust all in it plus it keeps sand dry and clean. Been doing this for over 20 years... oldest chicken right now is 14.
  10. Whittni
    Great work!

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