My Mud Eradication Project
When I originally set up my chicken coop and run, I just bungied a tarp across the flat wire roof I put on the dog kennel. This worked (kind of) until it filled with rain, causing the wire roof to sag and tear. It also never did a great job of keeping out the rain. For a few years I just didn't worry about the tarp--there is a tree over the kennel and I hoped that would be enough. But the pen has become increasingly muddy and nasty (there really is NOTHING quite as gross as the combo of mud and chicken poop, and it's almost impossible to separate one from the other!). So this year I embarked on a Mud Eradication Project, taking as my bible the great page by BYCer patandchickens, How to Fix a Muddy Run. Thanks, Pat!
Step 1 of Pat's instructions involves intercepting the water before it can enter the run. To do this, I purchased a dog kennel cover (commercially available at Tractor Supply Company ). It is basically a tarp stretched on a tubular steel pitched roof [Note: there is a wire cover under the pitched roof to keep out predators]. This is working out great: it greatly reduces the amount of rain coming into the run, giving the hens more days when they can stay outdoors and keeping the mud down a great deal. The picture below shows the run after the pen top was added but before the footing was improved.
Step 2 of Pat's instructions involves temporary first aid (in the form of adding organic material such as pine bark chips, etc. to reduce mud). I skipped this step, as I have done this in the past and found that I mostly just ended up, within a few months, with even more mud as the material broke down.
Step 3 is to add a permanant replacement for the muddy footing in the form of gravel, sand or both. I used both.
Here is the run footing before I started. This is in June--wish I had a photo of it during March or April, but you'll just have to imagine how UTTERLY disgusting it was!
To make ABSOLUTELY sure I would really be eradicating mud, I first laid in some heavy duty landscaping fabric. It extends 4" up all the way around the sides. I then put in pressure-treated 1x6s to hold the fabric in place and to keep my new footing from leaving the run.
Below on the right is the fabric before the boards went in. The photo on the left shows the stainless steel cable ties I used to secure the retaining boards to the corners of the pen.
Once the landscaping fabric and retaining boards were in, I added gravel. This is crusher run (or crush and run), which is partly gravel and partly crushed stone. I have a big pile on my farm, so I just used what I already had. Because of the landscaping fabric, I only put in about 2" of gravel (that was hard enough work!).
Next I added sand. It's more expensive to use bagged sand, but since I was working alone I decided it would be easier on me to use bags. This is leveling sand, which is a little cheaper than play sand. I got it for $3.16 a bag at Lowe's. This shows 20 bags of sand, which is what I used.
Here is the sand added and raked, and the chickens' accoutrements added back in. The white stuff is Sweet PDZ, which I will add periodically to keep the run smelling fresh. I have a small stall cleaning fork, like this, which I covered with hardware cloth. It enables me to sift through the sand and remove chicken poops before they can smell up the run.
Here is the final product--a nice, dry run that will be a joy come the rainy season!
In the pic above you can see that the area outside the coop's main door was still a mess. I have now mud-proofed it as well. I spread sand and then put in pavers. The chainlink gate has to open into that area and cannot be raised to clear the pavers (doing so would create a gap potentially large enough for predators), but it opens wide enough for me and my supplies to fit in.
And here are my girls enjoying their new run! The Barred Rock is Clarice, my dominant hen. Svetlana is the red sex-link. Olivia, the pretty Buff Orp X, recently left us. :-( More on all the girls here.