Muddy Run Prevention (sand/gravel), Advice?


7 Years
Sep 1, 2012
Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania
My Coop
My Coop
Hey all!

I live on a flood plain right off of a large creek. Normally, the creek isn't an issue, but a few weeks ago we had a lot (A LOT) of rain and the creek rose quite a bit. It was a few feet from hitting our back patio (up about 7 or so feet, I think?). Our coop is as sturdy as a rock, and didn't budge an inch despite being under about three feet of water. This happened overnight and the chickens were up on their perches, so they were completely safe. We had a broody hen with 5 chicks at the time, but they were safely evacuated to the bathtub. It took about two weeks for the mud to dry out in the run. It was a freak occurrence, but it still put some bugs into the brains of my fiance and I.

We're going to be expanding the run to add on an extra 16' x 14' section (effectively doubling the footprint of the coop and current run) and when we do that we want to upgrade the substrate in the run itself. We are thinking about using sand in the run, but we're concerned about it getting scummy if it gets wet.

Our plan was to dig down a little over a foot, fill in 6 inches with gravel, cover it with landscaping fabric, and then place 6 inches of sand on top of that. Then, around the coop, we would do an additional foot or so wide trench filled with gravel. Our hope would be that the gravel would help to wick away moisture more quickly, sort of like what's used to dispose of gray water in housing. Would this work? The landscaping fabric would be there to prevent the sand from seeping down into the gravel (so the soft little chicken feets won't get hurt by the sharp gravel!), but still breathe enough to let water move through it. Is there a better way to solve this issue? Looking for insight from folks who are more versed in this than I!

I have sand in my run. We have had some thunderstorms that have absolutely flooded the run to the point it was nothing but standing water. It always drained quickly after the rain stopped, and as soon as the sun hit the area for a day, it looked like it did the day I put it down in the run.
Hmmm...not much will help with 3 feet of water, wow scary!

How long have you lived there?
How wet is the area usually?
What is the slope of the land like around the coop and run?

The gravel/fabric/sand might work really well for drainage......but chickens can dig a pretty deep hole and not sure what they would do once they hit that fabric.

I'd take a good look birds eye view at the site and plan for some water redirecting if possible.
We've lived here for about a year and a half (with just about 2 years worth of experience with the property). The issue with drainage is because the gentleman (and I use this term with the greatest of sarcasm) that used to live here two decades ago had a contractor business. The property abuts a cow pasture that used to have a nice drainage stream running in between the it and our yard, but the guy decided to use it as a dump for the leftover construction waste from his projects (despite the dairy folks getting very pissy about it). He filled the entire thing in, despite their attempts to stop him (I guess our codes people don't really give a crap??). Our coop rests right on the edge of where that drainage stream used to be. Since we've moved in, the dairy folks have offered the use of their back-hoe to correct the problem and nudge fences around a bit, so that might help, but I can't imagine it being done anytime soon.

The coop is on an ever-so-slight gradient, but not anything steep enough to help, I'm afraid. The three feet of water was an absolute freak occurrence, though. Hurricane Sandy didn't even flood up as far as that solid twelve hours of thunderstorms did.

As for the landscaping fabric goes...I do know how destructive little chicken feet can be, as well, haha. I have a pop-up camper parked near the coop and they've claimed the ground under it as Fort Chicken. Within about a week they completely uprooted all of the plants underneath it and turned it into a giant dust bath that's down about 6 inches from what it used to be. That aside, I honestly can't think of anything else that might be used in this situation? Would putting a protective layer of vinyl window screen over the fabric possibly help? Is there another type of fabric that is more durable but still breathes available? No clue!
Oh that stinks that the idiot filled in the drainage ditch!!

Maybe a layer of some kind of mesh over the cloth! Would stop them from digging/scratching. Wonder if there's something in the landscape world that would work?
We have a lot of water issues but a lot of it has to do with how much water continues to travel through the sloping ground after rain. We have some ag lines in our backyard that drain into the street and its not unusual for them to still be picking up water running through the ground a month after heavy rain.

This is why our coop gets muddy in rain. I love the idea of a sand run to get rid of the mud but I know for us we would also have to run ag lines around the top side of the coop to also get that constant run of ground water. Surface run off goes pretty quick its the underground that keeps us boggy.
I have 4-6" of sand over clay soil and it drains beautifully. I'm not sure why you want to use landscape cloth, mesh or screening of any kind. I would just use straight sand on top of your dirt. If you don't dig down (but use an edge around your pen, you'll effectively be raising it up even higher, and create even better drainage.

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