Best substrate for rainy outdoor chicken run?

May 17, 2020
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I live in Portland, Oregon where it rains a lot in the winter months. My gals have a pretty nice set up with a roost and coop that stays dry, but their run gets so muddy. Short of keeping them in their coop for 6 months of the year (not an option, they would be so grumpy!) what have people found to be the best substrate for muddy outdoor areas? Last year I used straw, but it gets soggy pretty fast, and cakes into the mud creating a big mess to clean up in the spring. I’m interested in trying Pine needles, and they seem like maybe they wouldn’t absorb water the way straw does? Bark chips are an option, but the ladies just dug holes under them to get to the worms, and they honestly seemed to disappear into the mud by end of season, again creating a big problem come spring cleaning time. Any suggestions are appreciated! (Pic of coop/run…before the rains set in)
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DobieLover

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I would first make sure that the entire area of the run is the highest ground. If you can build it up that will help. If you have runoff flowing into the run find a way to divert it either with a drainage system or with swales.
Then I would add about 4 in of wood chips to the run. They drain well and are an excellent substrate for the birds to dig around in.
I get wood chips for free at the Town Highway departments in my area. If any of the municipalities around you collect curbside branches the chances are fairly good that they chip them up and offer them back to the taxpayers free of charge. I'd look into that. Another option is Chipdrop.com.
For the ultimate upgrade you would want to put a solid roof over the run.
 

humblehillsfarm

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Mar 27, 2020
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I would first make sure that the entire area of the run is the highest ground. If you can build it up that will help. If you have runoff flowing into the run find a way to divert it either with a drainage system or with swales.
Then I would add about 4 in of wood chips to the run. They drain well and are an excellent substrate for the birds to dig around in.
I get wood chips for free at the Town Highway departments in my area. If any of the municipalities around you collect curbside branches the chances are fairly good that they chip them up and offer them back to the taxpayers free of charge. I'd look into that. Another option is Chipdrop.com.
For the ultimate upgrade you would want to put a solid roof over the run.
I think a roof and maybe a drainage system like a french drain would be the easiest and long term most cost effective. Otherwise constantly buying or collecting various substrates with mixed success will get incredibly old. Roof wouldn't have to be anything fancier than some sheet metal. With a roof, depending on the location of the run, that make fix the issue without a drainage system.
 
May 17, 2020
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I have considered a roof, but I admit I am awful at building things (don’t want it to crash down on the poor ladies from shoddy workmanship ;) Possibly a larger shade sail than what I currently have might help?

The run does actually slope away from the center out to the fence, but since it’s all dirt (which holes made by the ladies) it is just a soggy mess all winter. I guess my concern with bark chips is building up the substrate even higher/deeper than it is. This coop has been here many years before I bought the home and is already about 6 inches higher than the rest of the yard due to deep litter. How often do you have to replace or add more bark chips?
Thank you all! :)
 

Aunt Angus

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When my flock was in the "transition coop," I hung a tarp up and slanted it downhill, away from the coop and main part of the run. Worked like a charm.

For substrate, I prefer the shavings for when it rains, but I'm wondering if pelletized horse bedding will work. It breaks down into sawdust when wetted. I have it around my duck pond. It's eliminated the mud. I also use it in my goat barn. I don't know how well it'd do in constant rain, though.

When I use it, I get the bag of bedding ($6 at tsc), put the bag flat on the ground, and use a box cutter to slice the bag down the middle. Then I pour a out 2 - 2.5 gallons if water into it. It expands like popcorn and turns into chunky sawdust. I rake it arou d the duck pond. It has rained her for a few days, and so far, so good. I wonder if you skipped the water part how it'd work....
 

aart

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(Pic of coop/run…before the rains set in)
Got a current pic?

It's awfully big to roof.
Gutter on the run side of coop might help.

I use coarse wood chips from a tree trimmer....works a treat.

How often do you have to replace or add more bark chips?
I haven't had to remove anything from run in 8 years.


it is just a soggy mess all winter.
Where in this world are you located?
Climate, and time of year, is almost always a factor.
Please add your general geographical location to your profile.
It's easy to do, and then it's always there!
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3KillerBs

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I bought the home and is already about 6 inches higher than the rest of the yard due to deep litter. How often do you have to replace or add more bark chips?

Raising the level improves drainage.

What you've got right now is PRIME compost for your landscape and garden. If you were to dig it out and replace it with coarse wood chips you might see an improvement in the mud level since the old bedding is so very much broken down that it's more soil than bedding.

You don't have to, you can just add more coarse wood chips on top.

If you don't need compost yourself and have garden-loving friends/family members they might do the digging for you in exchange for this rich compost.
 

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