Ugh! had to take a half a day to deal with a very stinky chicken run.


In the Brooder
10 Years
May 21, 2009
When we were tilling the garden a few months ago we expanded it and I thought it would be a good idea to take all the grass and dirt bits and dump them in the coop. For awhile the chickens were in heaven eating the grass and bugs and digging through the dirt clods. Well we have had some rain the last couple weeks and the run got down right swampy. The grass that was in the mix held water and the smell. You could smell it from 30 or more yards away.

Well living in a neighborhood that just isn't going to fly so when I got home at lunch today I decided since I didn't have much on my schedule I was going to take the afternoon off and deal with it. So I backed the truck up, put a tarp in the back and started shoveling out all of the stinky dirt.

I made about 5 trips with about 2-3 wheel barrows full of of stuff each time and took the stuff down to a friends farm for possible use next year in the garden. Even with the fairly small loads it was so wet and heavy it was all I could manage to pull the tarp out of back of the truck.

So now the question is what to do. I know I need to beef up the roof over my run the tarps just haven't been working for a long soaking rain. The run area is now slightly below grade so it need some material added. It is mostly clay which is part of the problem. I am debating what to put in to solve this problem in the long term. I can't have a stinky run. When it is dry it hasn't been a problem but water is the enemy. I may also put some better drainage around the coop and run so water doesn't stay there after a long rain.

Anyway I am tired and rambling any thoughts on what to use in the run?
maybe a french drain to move the standing water away and sand in the run itself to allow for better drainage ....without seeing the lay of land etc that your talking about the simple answer is the one I gave sorry
I think I might have your answer to the "stink"!

My DH left a bucket of green grass clippings and clods in the garage for over a week.

When I dumped the bucket out, the stench of "swampy death" almost knocked me over. And that was just a little 2 gallon bucket.

In my Square Foot Gardening book it mentions that "all-green matter composting will smell terrible". To compost, matter needs a proper mix of browns and greens with the right ratio of carbon, or it will smell terrible.

So I have to wonder if your terrible odor wasn't just a fluke? Accidentally caused by the composting green grass? I hope so, for your sake. That would be easier than redoing your whole set-up.
I am sure the grass was a big part of it. I am thinking the french drain would help I was pondering that today when I was doing this. The coop is in a slightly low spot but really the only spot it could go and maintain decent distance from the neighbors. Water is only a problem when we have several days of solid rain.
I would say half way level out the ground, put down an inch of gravel and then 2" of sand. or see if any places around you have the stuff "crush and run" its small crushed gravel with sand already together. I've heard many people on here besides myself who love the stuff.

I swear by sand runs, and with gravel in there (if you get alot of rain use an old threadbare tarp or weeding strips (the stuff you put down under flower beds to prevent weeds from coming up through the beds) then add the gravel and or sand. The threadbare tarp (even a sheet now that I think about it) will help keeping the gravel from sinking down into the dirt and quickly allowing mud to reform. Sand is easy to till or scoop the poop out and doesn't hold smell like the earth does.

I know how you feel with the mainly clay dirt, most of my dirt is clay. I have about 3" of good dirt then nothing but hard clay. half of my yard turns into a bog after 2"-3" of rain for a couple days between the clay below and the moss that grows in that one area.
We just had 4 tons of sand delivered for the run. the chickens haven't made it out there yet as we are still fencing but we have terrible clay soil too. Sand here is 7$ a ton or 13$ delivered.
amarie, yes here too its pretty cheap, the crushed gravel stuff I got was 15$ a ton (only got 2 tons mixed with 6 tons of sand - 14$ a ton delivered) so i paid about 60$ out of the collective 120$ (me and my neighbor split it) but it was worth it to cover up mine and my neighbor's combined 3 part coops/runs that all together is about 80X30...they are so much cleaner and the smell is so much better! Neighbor went and got another ton of gravel in his truck to put under his rabbit cages
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