Hay vs. Straw in the run


In the Brooder
9 Years
Apr 7, 2010
I know I have seen this somewhere before, but I can't seem to find the answer. In upstate NY, we received 2 inches of rain overnight and my normally well draining yard is pretty full of puddles or just cold and spongy, so the coop and run have some wet/damp spots and I noticed the girls don't like to step in the cold wet dirt anymore than I like havng wet socks on. So I wanted to throw in some hay/straw to give them a little dryer ground to work with until things dry up.

Now I'm pretty sure Hay is what I want because it is edible and creates a good microcosm of bugs as it breaks down, is this correct? If I remember right, straw just gets moldy as it breaks down and can generate toxins, is that correct? Can someone shed a little light for me, because I may have the whole issue backwards. Thanks.
Gosh...you're right about straw! If you put it down as a temorary fix, get it out of there ASAP, because it does get NASTY pretty quickly. I will throw some down when it snows (usually after shoveling quite a bit...lol) to entice them to come outside. But then I rake it up as soon as the snow melts.
However, I know nothing about hay...sorry.
Here's my answer. Hay is basically grass and usually has some seeds in it. Chickens will sometimes eat it. It breaks down quicker and can become moldy and nasty. Straw is made from the remnants of a crop, like the stalks left after a wheat harvest. It can contain some seeds, and it doesn't break down or rot like hay. I use straw in my dog kennels during the winter to help insulate and help them stay dry. For your application, I believe you want straw.
Either one will become a nasty mess pretty soon, and ought to be removed once the emergency need is over (or anyhow before they compost down too much).

Hay may theoretically have some edible bits; OTOH some people have had chickens get impacted crop problems from hay (especially if they are un-used to having that sort of thing around) and hay will mat/rot/compost and get nasty quicker than long-staple straw will. Straw is also more useful than hay (IMO) once removed from the run, since it does not generally contain seeds and is an excellent garden amendment or mulch, whereas hay can introduce lots of weeds into a garden.

Personally, though, if it were an emergency temporary fix, I'd just use whichever was most readily available

See my "fix a muddy run" page (link in .sig below) for more on dealing with mud.

Good luck, have fun,

Put sand in and that way it will help build up your ground and not cause problems like straw and hay do. Find a place that deliver a nice dump truck load and use that as needed. Within a few months you will be grateful with this option. It is no more work than hay or straw and it is permanent!
I wouldn't use either of them! If it's always an issue then you need to look for long term solution, if it's just like our area where it rains and then drys up within a day or two, then I wouldn't worry about it. If they want out, they'll go, if not they will stay in. My chickens used to be more afraid of getting wet but now it doesn't bother them in the least! Throw some treats out to encourage them!
My approach:
Use the hay (it's cheaper than straw in most part of the country), and clean it out and replace when it gets nasty. The soiled hay you take out goes in the compost bin to make some fantastic compost.
THANK YOU for differentiating between hay & straw. I have always wondered this and this is a great explanation, thank you....
I have a riding mower with a bagger. All my clippings go into the chicken run and/or garden as mulch. The chickens know when I'm mowing, they're going to get a pile of greens filled with seeds and chopped up bugs to rake through. I have large enough property that when I mow, there is always weeds or something with seed heads on it----the chickens love it and the run builds up a mulch that I can later use for the garden after the chickens have removed any weed seeds and added their own nitrogen fertilizer.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom