Best way to keep run from turning into a muddy quagmire?

tweetzone86

Songster
Jul 23, 2018
322
381
161
Kootenai County, ID
Hello all!

My setup is a 10x20 shed where back half is coop (other half had cabinets built in when we bought it and we do store some things along the walls and in cabinets), and that coop area opens up via a small door onto our run, which is located between our shed and fence (shed is in corner of property and run is 8 feet wide approx and 20 feet long).

Anyway, our main predators here are hawks and cats. We had a tarp over the run for the hawks but a cat got in between the top of the 6' fence and the tarp, so we removed the tarp and ran wire along the top as well so neither cat or hawk could get in.

So when it was dry, it was perfectly fine. I toss old bedding in there and the chickens do a lovely job of stirring up my compost pile that results :) But it rained 1/4" last night, and today the run was a muddy mess even with the 6+ inches of used straw in it. As a result, the hens' feet got muddy and so the eggs got muddy when they walked into the nest boxes with their muddy feet.

My question is- what run material do you all use that you find keeps the run area driest? We are considering putting the tarp back up but UNDER the wire this time (pinned to wire via quilt-size safety pins) so it doesn't also try to blow off. But we get snow here, so we're trying to work on a more permanent "half roof/half wire" option.

But I'm facing a hysterectomy at 32 soon, so I doubt we'll get that half roof built before spring :( And the tarp can't stay on there once snow falls or it will weigh down and collapse the wire roof.

So what type of material do you use in your run to keep things drier in the wet weather? Once it's frozen enough it will be hard, but in fall and early spring here it tends to be wetter than dry and I'm looking at nothing but rain for the next two weeks or so. The last thing I want is to have mud-covered chickens and muddy eggs :(

Thanks! :)
 

FarmerGirl101

Crowing
Jun 20, 2016
1,471
2,742
302
California
I would put the tarp on top of the wire for now and maybe double tarp it so it doesn't leak. Since you are so far north, I would build a roof but since you aren't able to that the snow will be a con. I have seen some people use straw to put on the ground when it snows so the chickens can walk on it. Could you maybe shovel out the snow every time it gets too high? Trap the sides too even in the winter as it helps keep the wind out and maybe the rain too and snow as some time the wind pushes the snow. Let me go find an old article that I read. I am sorry if it takes a long time
 

Relleoms

Songster
Jan 22, 2018
573
915
211
Iowa
I use various sizes of pine bark nugget mulch. The larger pieces do a decent job of keeping the mud down while the smaller sizes are easier to walk on & clean up. And if you’re able to divert any water before it reaches your run (gutters, drain, etc.), that’s a huge help.

Good luck with your surgery!
 

tweetzone86

Songster
Jul 23, 2018
322
381
161
Kootenai County, ID
I use pine shavings, rice hulls, and sand, along with twigs and small branches.

But more importantly, I am sorry you are faced with a hysterectomy. Hugs.

So do you layer all those things then? And where would one acquire rice hulls?

And yeah- endometriosis, adenomyosis and pelvic floor dysfunction. Woopee...but I am glad for the diagnosis because I was misdiagnosed with IBS 6 years ago and can finally get cured :) As long as insurance pays up anyway-they're balking at needing one at 32 and trying to get out of paying for it. It's in God's hands...and the office staff at the specialist's office who finally accurately diagnosed me.
 

tweetzone86

Songster
Jul 23, 2018
322
381
161
Kootenai County, ID
I would put the tarp on top of the wire for now and maybe double tarp it so it doesn't leak. Since you are so far north, I would build a roof but since you aren't able to that the snow will be a con. I have seen some people use straw to put on the ground when it snows so the chickens can walk on it. Could you maybe shovel out the snow every time it gets too high? Trap the sides too even in the winter as it helps keep the wind out and maybe the rain too and snow as some time the wind pushes the snow. Let me go find an old article that I read. I am sorry if it takes a long time

Yeah we get about a 40 pound snow load here :( I could shovel if need be (or more likely hubby will while I recover from surgery), but the tarp isn't going to hold 40 pounds per square foot of snow load.

The sides are clear because we've got a 6' wood privacy fence so it won't let snow in. The open side perpendicular to the fence has a framed wall I built with half solid wall/half wire (wire on top, solid bottom) and a human-size door that we will have to shovel that opening path for it. Some snow might blow in the wire "window" but for the most part drifting into the run won't be an issue IF the top is covered.

I will see if I can get extra straw. It's tough because most straw is sprayed with herbicides, some staying in soil for 30 years, and I hope to compost the old bedding and use it in my vegetable garden in the spring, but I'll see what I can do. I get EZ straw brand chopped straw seeding mulch because the manufacturer said it was herbicide-free, but as most people use it to seed lawns I will probably have to special order it from TSC over the winter.

But I might do so and order some extra bales/bags of it so there's plenty in the run. Thanks for the suggestion :)
 

tweetzone86

Songster
Jul 23, 2018
322
381
161
Kootenai County, ID
I use various sizes of pine bark nugget mulch. The larger pieces do a decent job of keeping the mud down while the smaller sizes are easier to walk on & clean up. And if you’re able to divert any water before it reaches your run (gutters, drain, etc.), that’s a huge help.

Good luck with your surgery!

Unfortunately the whole top is open to the elements. The shed overhang is only one foot, which leaves 7 feet by 20 feet of exposed wire roof that's not going to stop rain from soaking the run. A gutter might help what runs off the shed roof itself, but the rain will also fall into the run directly.
 

FarmerGirl101

Crowing
Jun 20, 2016
1,471
2,742
302
California
Yeah we get about a 40 pound snow load here :( I could shovel if need be (or more likely hubby will while I recover from surgery), but the tarp isn't going to hold 40 pounds per square foot of snow load.

The sides are clear because we've got a 6' wood privacy fence so it won't let snow in. The open side perpendicular to the fence has a framed wall I built with half solid wall/half wire (wire on top, solid bottom) and a human-size door that we will have to shovel that opening path for it. Some snow might blow in the wire "window" but for the most part drifting into the run won't be an issue IF the top is covered.

I will see if I can get extra straw. It's tough because most straw is sprayed with herbicides, some staying in soil for 30 years, and I hope to compost the old bedding and use it in my vegetable garden in the spring, but I'll see what I can do. I get EZ straw brand chopped straw seeding mulch because the manufacturer said it was herbicide-free, but as most people use it to seed lawns I will probably have to special order it from TSC over the winter.

But I might do so and order some extra bales/bags of it so there's plenty in the run. Thanks for the suggestion :)
Get some from your local TSC or Tractor Supply Co as they have some in the section for Horses
 

micstrachan

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Apr 10, 2016
10,723
53,155
1,147
Santa Cruz Mountains, California
So do you layer all those things then? And where would one acquire rice hulls?

And yeah- endometriosis, adenomyosis and pelvic floor dysfunction. Woopee...but I am glad for the diagnosis because I was misdiagnosed with IBS 6 years ago and can finally get cured :) As long as insurance pays up anyway-they're balking at needing one at 32 and trying to get out of paying for it. It's in God's hands...and the office staff at the specialist's office who finally accurately diagnosed me.

I mix them. I also *just today* installed a tarp. My old tarp held puddles of water, so I pitched this one with taut line. Is that an option for you?

Do you have access to free wooden pallets that aren’t treated with chemicals? Maybe you could place some throughout the run for your flock to walk on.
I have a big branch in my run that is held up on one end by a big rock and at the other end by a side branch. The girls love it.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery from surgery!
 

tweetzone86

Songster
Jul 23, 2018
322
381
161
Kootenai County, ID
Get some from your local TSC or Tractor Supply Co as they have some in the section for Horses

Herbicide-free? A lot of hay/straw is sprayed with either aminopyralid or clopyralid, which are two very potent herbicides (to make their bales "weed-free") that can stick around in the soil for up to 30 years and make vegetable gardens impossible to grow. I am leery of compost in the stores for the same reason, so I am trying to compost our used chicken bedding and our composting pile is the run itself so the chickens can stir it up for me while looking for bugs :)

Plus, if I'm composting anything for the garden, it has to be herbicide-free. I can ask TSC and see if they have any herbicide-free bales but they are surprisingly hard to find...
 

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