Run area bare...?

cherylgladys

In the Brooder
May 17, 2020
39
51
46
Sacramento, CA
Hello all....my chickens are just starting to lay, so I have had them for a few months now.....and when I put the coop in and run, there were lots of weeds and the chickens had fun foraging all around the run area. Now, it's completely bare and even with winter coming, I don't think the weeds will be back because the chickens gobble up the weeds right away. So in the mornings, I will usually go out in my garden and gather up lots of weeds and grass, cutting them to about 3 inches or less, and throw them in for the chickens, which they love. Then during the day, I will give them treats of watermelon, yogurt, grapes, broccoli and mealworms once in awhile. I try to keep them occupied with such things, and I put a toy in there and a mirror and I hope to make a swing, but it looks pretty boring in there. I have read numerous articles on bored chickens and I certainly don't want that to happen to them....my question is....do all runs get run bare after awhile? Is that just the way it goes? I do have a large yard they could free run in, but I don't want to ruin my garden and I am afraid if I let them run in there, I wouldn't be able to get them back in their run area. So, that's my dilema....any hints? PS - Have 3 chickens......
 

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rosemarythyme

Crossing the Road
Jul 3, 2016
12,050
22,305
792
WA, Pac NW
My Coop
Yes runs go bare after a while - bigger runs with smaller population will keep vegetation longer, but once everything is scratched up it won't grow back.

I do let my flock out for some supervised time in the yard and have no issues getting the birds back in the run. If yours are trained to come to you for treats, you can use that to call them back to you/the run.

I'm not keen on food for entertainment. Here's a good read on how to clutter up your run for chicken entertainment: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/a-cluttered-run.1323792/
 

cherylgladys

In the Brooder
May 17, 2020
39
51
46
Sacramento, CA
Yes runs go bare after a while - bigger runs with smaller population will keep vegetation longer, but once everything is scratched up it won't grow back.

I do let my flock out for some supervised time in the yard and have no issues getting the birds back in the run. If yours are trained to come to you for treats, you can use that to call them back to you/the run.

I'm not keen on food for entertainment. Here's a good read on how to clutter up your run for chicken entertainment: https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/a-cluttered-run.1323792/
I am not keen on food entertainment either....I will check out that thread and see what I can come up with. I don't want anything they can fly up on and then "fly the coop"! I have seen swings, but wonder if they would really use those? Thanks so much....
 

rosemarythyme

Crossing the Road
Jul 3, 2016
12,050
22,305
792
WA, Pac NW
My Coop
I am not keen on food entertainment either....I will check out that thread and see what I can come up with. I don't want anything they can fly up on and then "fly the coop"! I have seen swings, but wonder if they would really use those? Thanks so much....
Some birds use swings but many don't - you won't know if they'll use them until they have access.
 

CluckerFamily

Crowing
Feb 14, 2016
1,434
2,890
261
Wisconsin
My run is bare but the flock free ranges during the day. They love scratching under my perennial bases to get the pests, the only perennial they absolutely love to eat are the hostas but only one kind of hosta but then again, the deer love these too! My vegetable garden is out in the open and the chickens won't go that far, they will stay within the 1/2 acre of perennials and then under the trees that their coop is within.
Some things my flock seems to love are flock blocks but I tend to make my own instead of buying it. I drill holes in water bottles and then fill with either scratch, mealworms, or feed for the winter, they love rolling it around and have some things pop out. I have added cedar logs in the run after the tornado knocked down most of my trees. I will also put out cabbage on a rope, or fruit and vegetables from my garden that are in the cellar (pumpkins, squash, apples).
All these seem to help as nice little treats that distract them.
Oh! And snow! They don't free range in the winter and I winterize the run where not a lot of snow can get through so I end up shoveling snow into the run for them to eat.
 

Jekisca

Chirping
Jun 27, 2014
6
10
71
Bare dirt in runs is totally normal. I have mulch from a free chip drop that I put in my run, the chickens are constantly turning, digging, foraging through it for bugs that may have wandered in.. They don't seem to ever tire of digging in it so it works well for my flock... They aren't getting much as far as food from it but they seem happy. I've heard of others doing similar things with having a compost are they can access, letting the chickens turn it and dig through it..
 

cherylgladys

In the Brooder
May 17, 2020
39
51
46
Sacramento, CA
My run is bare but the flock free ranges during the day. They love scratching under my perennial bases to get the pests, the only perennial they absolutely love to eat are the hostas but only one kind of hosta but then again, the deer love these too! My vegetable garden is out in the open and the chickens won't go that far, they will stay within the 1/2 acre of perennials and then under the trees that their coop is within.
Some things my flock seems to love are flock blocks but I tend to make my own instead of buying it. I drill holes in water bottles and then fill with either scratch, mealworms, or feed for the winter, they love rolling it around and have some things pop out. I have added cedar logs in the run after the tornado knocked down most of my trees. I will also put out cabbage on a rope, or fruit and vegetables from my garden that are in the cellar (pumpkins, squash, apples).
All these seem to help as nice little treats that distract them.
Oh! And snow! They don't free range in the winter and I winterize the run where not a lot of snow can get through so I end up shoveling snow into the run for them to eat.
That's funny! I just made a plastic bottle with holes in and put in some mealworms, and tried to show them how to get the worms out, but it kind of freaked them out....until they saw the worms...but they still can't figure out to kick it and get them out. I guess in time they will get the idea....thanks for your tips!
 

CluckerFamily

Crowing
Feb 14, 2016
1,434
2,890
261
Wisconsin
That's funny! I just made a plastic bottle with holes in and put in some mealworms, and tried to show them how to get the worms out, but it kind of freaked them out....until they saw the worms...but they still can't figure out to kick it and get them out. I guess in time they will get the idea....thanks for your tips!
You can always leave the cap off to help them get the hang of it. Then once they get the hang of it put the cap on so it is a little more challenging. They come up with some great moves to get the food out!
 

cherylgladys

In the Brooder
May 17, 2020
39
51
46
Sacramento, CA
Bare dirt in runs is totally normal. I have mulch from a free chip drop that I put in my run, the chickens are constantly turning, digging, foraging through it for bugs that may have wandered in.. They don't seem to ever tire of digging in it so it works well for my flock... They aren't getting much as far as food from it but they seem happy. I've heard of others doing similar things with having a compost are they can access, letting the chickens turn it and dig through it..
good idea....I am going to start a compost pile separate from the one I put their poops in...and a neighbor just had a chip drop in their front yard and said I could use some, so that will be my next thing to do. I might get some straw to mix in there as well. Soon, with the rains coming in Sacramento, I am going to lay down course sand instead of decomposed granite and try to keep the area from getting muddy....
 

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