Lawnscaping our chicken run

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by, Mar 25, 2018.

  1. In the Brooder

    Mar 8, 2018
    Hello all! We are preparing for our chickens and having a hard time deciding how to lawnscape our chicken run. It is 21’x16’ and they will spend most of their time there since we don’t want them to roam in the backyard where our little one will be playing. I wanted to plant some grass for them, but I have been reading that chickens will tear up any kind of plant. We live in rainy oregon, so I would rather not let them slosh around in mud all the time, and I don’t want it to turn into a stinky mud and poo pit for our neighbors. What are your ideas? Do you put down cedar shavings around the run? Plant bushes/trees? Any ideas are helpful! Thanks!

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  2. ShellyBear

    ShellyBear Songster

    Jun 10, 2010
    Grass is a good idea either way, I say lay down some fine gravel and have the other part dirt or grass for them to dig in and be chickens. Good luck!
  3. HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood Songster

    Mar 21, 2016
    Maine, USA
    My Coop
    Howdy! Don't know how many chickens you have but we have five in a run that is 21'x10' plus an attached chicken garden that is 21'x14'. That's about 500 sq ft and they decimated it in a matter of weeks. We've managed muckiness in the fall rains with collections of dry fallen leaves (you need a HUGE amount of them). We had one huge thaw in January and two big thaws in February which necessitated two bails of straw. I think we will need to use one more bail of straw before we're "in the clear." We get about 42" of precip a year, but this time of year is the worst as the 1-3 feet of snow on the ground melts rapidly yet the ground is still frozen 1-2 inches below the surface so water can't penetrate into the ground. So everything becomes a major soupy mess until the ground fully thaws.

    Long term, I plant to have a gravel path for where humans frequently walk, few shrubs and bushes, a few plots where we'll try to grow perennial grasses and clovers, occasional plots of annual crops (like buckwheat, oats, and cereal rye), and a deep layer of wood chips (up to 6") everywhere else.

    Fighting mud will be a constant battle, so good idea trying to get ahead of the game! One of our poor girls ripped off her claw nail just a little while ago and what a hassle trying to keep things dry for her to prevent infection!

    A caution about wood chips: there have been reports of fresh, green wood chips in warm, humid environments being breeding grounds for aspergillus with fatal results. This isn't common, but it can happen. So I'm going to start a wood chip collection/aging program to manage that. Which means I won't even have this as an option until 2019. So we'll be planning on more leaves and more straw to get us through next winter.

    For our rotating annual crops in the run/garden we just use a roll of cheap welded wire fence and use cheap carabiners to cordon the areas off from the chickens until the crops are ready to be decimated. The fence is easily moved and relocated and the chickens do not habitually try to get over the movable fence (it's only 3 feet high).

    For the perennial ground cover I have heard some people have had success with just laying a lattice trellis just a couple three inches off the ground. The chickens can still forage but theoretically won't want to scratch as much. I may try to experiment with that this year. But I am definitely planning on building some frames that hold a hardware cloth screen over the base of perennial plantings so the girls can forage, but not scratch up roots. Here's a great thread on the topic:

    On the last page you can see some pictures of frames people have build.

    Fun stuff! Good luck!
  4. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Crowing

    Jul 3, 2016
    Pac NW
    My Coop
    No point in planting anything in there, without some form of protection like grazing frames the landscaping will get torn up.

    Look into deep litter - combination of aged wood chips, dried leaves, chopped grass, weeds, and/or garden trimmings in different sizes - assuming your yard has no drainage issues this will help keep the run well drained, protect the soil, and keep it from turning into a sticky, muddy mess. If done right there should be little to no smell and it should provide the chickens a fairly dry surface to walk on, even with constant rain.
    blackdog043 and HoopyFrood like this.
  5. HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood Songster

    Mar 21, 2016
    Maine, USA
    My Coop
    :goodpost: Deep litter method (DLM) doesn't work for me because of a couple logistical difficulties and it doesn't fit into my current gardening/composting plan - but that's just me! If you haven't researched it yet, definitely do. It's worked wonderfully for a lot of BYC gardeners!
  6. blackdog043

    blackdog043 Crowing

    Feb 19, 2017
    Charlotte, NC

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