I missed the boat this summer by not putting in sand/gravel into the run and now I'm sinking in mud in the run. I've read so much on this subject and am still a little confused about what to use to keep the mud controlled and as tolerable as possible. I am not going to put up a tarp at this time. Here is a picture of what we have right now. Stepping stones to the door from the aviary door (now covered in mud!) The girls have dry space below the coop to dust bathe and hang out, you can just see part of the slanted perches under the coop. Water does not pool anywhere, it does run off, but rain in general leaves the surface mucky. Whoever said that chickens don't like to get their feet wet don't know mine! I swear, they like to PLAY in puddles, splashing about like ducks. Some of my chickens are so friendly, they fly up on my back, shoulder, head and lap and goop me up with their feet! Les Girls have never been around hay or straw. I don't want to use hay because I don't want the weed seeds in the garden after it composts. I've heard bad things about straw. I have a friend who used straw in her run to control the mud and says it's great, others say it makes a big mess. I plan on raking it out periodically. We have big fat maple leaves that have fallen everywhere. Would that make nice run litter? How about ends of pine boughs? I have used carefully selected cut grass and that seemed to keep the mud at bay for a few days, but I can't always put that in. When I have put fresh sod in the run, they ate all the green grass and left the dry long stringy pieces alone, so I'm wondering if I use straw, maybe they won't eat it. I don't want to worry about crop issues. I read that pine shavings don't help much. Is it obvious I'm a first year chicken freak? I am not really worried about the mud for their sake, they haven't lodged any complaints as of yet, but it's more of an issue on my end. Thank you all in advance for your input.