Help! Our girls are walking in watery muck all day!


In the Brooder
Mar 15, 2015
Prescott Valley, AZ
My Coop
My Coop
We live in Arizona and right now we are in the monsoon season. We are getting anywhere from a half an inch to three quarters of an inch a day to every other day and our chicken runs are a mess. What is the best way to keep them dry? Is sand or pea gravel good for drainage and keeping things dry? We also need something to help keep the flies down, they are horrid right now. I have heard and read about a product to keep the smell down but I have not seen it in this area and right now it is bad.

I can't imagine that their feet being wet a lot of the time is good on their feet, please help us dry out their feet.
Not much you can do for the smell while it is so wet. For the feet even a couple pallets laid out will give them something to get off the ground onto. You can then pull the pallets out and save for another day or dispose of if to rotted.

Pea gravel will end up buried by the normal digging they do as will sand. I tried the sand and decided against the pea gravel.
In addition to the chicken house, which has deep litter, my birds are running around on a dedicated garden spot and on the walkways between raised bed garden rows, I put down about a foot or so of loose hay. Over time, it has packed down to a few inches, but are isolated from the mud. We have had at least 8 inches or so rain the past week alone and no mud. Wet litter, but no mud. I added another square bale of moldy hay yesterday and it is now dry. It is also rotting down to nice organic matter (combined with droppings) to boost the garden even more.

One of the ways to get these square bales started is to lay them down in rows. The birds hop around on them, they pick up moisture, and combined with their droppings, start to mold or compost on the spot.

This is on an uncovered garden area. Do you not have a roof over your run? That might be something to would shed rain during the monsoon and provide shade the rest of the year.
BTW, is your run area naturally well drained or does water drain into it? Makes a big difference.

Take a cereal bowl and pour water into it. Then turn it over and pour water over the bottom of it. That kind of drainage difference.
You can try reading this article. The lady that wrote it claimed to live in a swamp so she had some experience with wet.

Pat’s Big Ol' Mud Page (fixing muddy runs):

I did not know you had the monsoon season in that part of the country until we took the kids on a camping trip down there one summer. I expected it to be nice and dry. Boy was I wrong. I was drying camping equipment in motel parking lots on the way home. It wasn’t a lot of rain compared to other parts of the country but it was wet.

There are two basic ideas. First you try to keep water out. You can try putting a roof on it, that will help, but rain blows in from the side too. If you have a wet side you may need to cover that with plastic. Slope roofs or use gutters to get rainwater away from the run, not into it. A big part is locate the coop and run where rainwater runoff does not flow into it and stay. Maybe use berms or swales on the uphill side to divert water. Since yours is already built a lot of this may be hard to do. When it sets in wet there may just not be a lot you can do to keep it dry. I have that problem.

The second idea is that when it gets wet, dry it out. Good ventilation can help with this but if it keeps raining, well, not much. What you need is for it to drain. Part of that is to have it where the water has a place to drain to. That means the run has to be higher than at least some surrounding area. Even that doesn’t solve the problem. Some soils drain really well, like sand. Some don’t drain well at all, like clay. If you have a sandy soil up on a high spot it will probably drain pretty well. Even if you have a clay soil on a high spot, you still have problems. It holds the moisture. The chickens will dig holes in it for their dust baths. Those are just mud pits.

If your run isn’t too big you can build it up so it is higher than the area around it. That’s where gravel and sand come in. But a common mistake with this is that it is going over a clay area that doesn’t drain. You don’t want to dig a bathtub in the clay and fill that with gravel or sand. That may help keep the chickens’ feet dry but it will still stink because you have water underneath. The clay underneath needs to be sloped so the water will drain off. That’s the tricky part.

The gravel and sand will eventually disappear down in the mud. That’s physics, the sand and gravel is denser than the clay so they sink. The chickens scratching doesn‘t help. Not only does that make them sink faster they can scratch a lot of sand and gravel out of the run. If you wait until dry season to put the sand and gravel on the clay it will last a lot longer than just dumping them onto wet mud. Put a layer of gravel first, then top that with sand. That’s not going to help you much right now. You’d need a lot of gravel and/or sand to stop it from just disappearing in the mud.

You are correct, it is not good for their feet to stay wet. It won’t hurt them to walk through the mud and water some but they need to be able to get up out of the wet. So their feet can dry. You can put pallets, cinder blocks, planking, stuff like that and it will help a lot, though those might disappear down in the mud pretty soon. You can try organic material like hay, straw, wood shavings, or wood chips. That might work, some people basically turn their run into a compost pile that way. But if it stays too wet it’s also possible it will really start to stink and you’ll have to dig that stuff out and replace it. If you can get it to where the water drains out from underneath it it’s a great way to go. But if you have a bathtub under there to hold water, it’s not going to work really well.

I suggest you read Pat’s article. You might get some ideas from that. Think along the terms of some temporary fix to get their feet dry until your monsoon season is over, then go for a more permanent fix.

Good luck, these things are not always easy.

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