My chicken run smells like a sewer!!

montana girl

12 Years
Aug 23, 2007
Kalispell, Montana
We are having a rapid thaw-out here in montana. The first inch or two is thawed out, and the ground underneath is still frozen solid, which means NO DRAINAGE. Last summer we put a pickup bed full of sand in our run, giving us a 6" layer of sand over the whole run. Right now however, there is standing water, which means standing poo, which means poo warmed by the sun, in the water. Oh MY word, it smells awful and I live in town!!

I really don't have money to go get more sand. What can I do?

I have kept chickens for several years and have never had this much of a problem.

Has anyone else had this problem?



10 Years
Jun 18, 2009
East Tennessee

You need to determine which way it slopes. Even if it appears to be flat, it likely has a slope. Then when it is dry enough, dig a trench to carry water away from the run. If a trench is not possible to leave open, fill it with ballast rock and then put pea gravel over that. Have to have a destination away from pen that flows away. In meantime, I am not sure what to do. You would get temporary relief by dumping leaves in it to cover it. That is only a short term thing tho. Also need to dig upstream to divert water that is currently draining towards your run. I know it sucks, but it has to be done when it is dry/warm enough to dig. This must be your first year at the current site, or you would not have had this happen?

montana girl

12 Years
Aug 23, 2007
Kalispell, Montana
Thanks so much for your reply!

No, this is the third spring in this location. We have not however had such a rapid thaw before. We had lots and lots of snow and its just melted in a matter of days with no where to drain so i think thats what is causing the problem. There is still ice underneath .. frozen ground that can't drain.

Some good ideas though.

I wonder if putting wood chips in would help, or just make it worse?



Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
Ontario, Canada
Yup, that can happen in thaw time. If it is any consolation (and, having been through this a lot of times myself, I expect it won't be
) it won't last very long. But it sure is NASTY, isn't it

My suggestion would be as follows:

If there is anything rake- or shovel-out-able, do so. (this would be the case if you had straw down, or if there is so much poo that it forms a mucky layer on top of the ice or frozen ground.

Then throw down some straw or even used shavings out of the coop, to lift the chickens up out of the wet and to absorb some of the wet and to smother/absorb some of the odors. The straw or shavings you throw down will get nasty fairly soon; when that happens and it is no longer an improvement on its previous condition, rake all THAT out TOO and pile somewhere to compost. Warning, sodden straw or shavings are HEAVY, but think of it as cheaper than going the gym

At that point you can decide based on conditions whether you want to throw more straw or used shavings out there for a second round, or not.

Some people will suggest digging a trench to let meltwater flow off. In some cases this is worthwhile, especially if you have a large lake forming. HOWEVER be aware that the runoff will be extremely high in bacteria and nutrients, and you do not want it getting anywhere near a well, stream, or some other kinds of areas... so think about where all that nasty will GO before trenching.

Eventually it does dry up, and also the ground thaws enough to start accepting meltwater. Honest. Eventually. It can seem like a very long few weeks til then, but, it does

Good luck, have fun,


Baymen Moe

12 Years
Jan 17, 2009
Pembroke, Ma.
Along with Pat's suggestions, if you can stir the material with an iron rake on dry days the smell will tend to dissipate, although at first it will knock you over.


Positively Ducky
11 Years
Oct 2, 2008
My duck pen was a mess. Where I am the ground usually doesn't stay frozen solid all winter but this year it did. Now it is melting in to a soupy goo. I sprinkled some fireplace ash on the mess and then covered it in a thick layer of straw. It is great now and will work just fine until everything finally thaws out.


11 Years
Aug 26, 2008
mtns of ,NC.
Use dolomitic limestone powder then your straw or chips. That will help with the odor too. Keep it from packing down until it dries out. Later trench things. I even used clorox spray on one area of mine the hens could not get to for awhile. The clorine dissapates after awhile and it really helped with the odor. It was horrible for a short while last summer with the rain and heat. Good Luck Gloria Jean
PS stall dry is a good product to use with the lime also.
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henni penni

In the Brooder
9 Years
Mar 2, 2010
Lime will do the trick....It takes care of the smell and all so takes care of chicken mites...and lime doesn't bother the chicks like other harmful cleaners....I learned this trick from my uncle who has raised chickens for 40 some can also use it in your coop to keep out the mites....hope this helps...


12 Years
Jul 18, 2007
Sevier county, Tn.
I use Sweet PDZ its great. or stall dry
which ever I can it into the wood shavings.
and its a done deal I,clean out my coops twice a year.
adding more shavings in between with Pdz or stall dry.

I also spray Sevin liquid when its yearly cleaning time.
in all the nooks and crannys of the coop.
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