If there’s one thing we can say for certain about the British weather, it’s that rain features prominently in our forecast. This is certainly true as autumn ticks over into winter and wet, windy weather becomes a regular feature in our days. For hen owners, that means that a muddy chicken run is also on the cards. When you keep hens in your back garden and they are lucky enough to roam on grass, you might just begin to see their lovely green run slowly (or quickly, depending on the downpours!) turning into mud and sludge.
You can deal with a muddy run by covering it in porous material, diverting the water away, covering the run or moving your hens around every few days. This is only a short-term solution, however, as whatever you put down will soak up water quickly and your hens will end up walking around in what looks like muddy welly boots again.
A muddy chicken run is also unhygienic and can become a breeding ground for bacteria, plus it’s really not fun for your hens! It can end up smelling pretty unpleasant, creates a super slippery and therefore dangerous surface for whoever enters the run, and it also increases the possibility of your hens developing bumblefoot.
How to avoid a muddy chicken run
So, what can be done to improve conditions for your hens until the sun starts to shine and we have drier ground again?
- Good drainage is key. It may seem obvious but if your hen house and run are at the bottom of a slope the ground will become waterlogged. If you are not able to move your run to fresh ground on a regular rotation, you will need to think of ways to improve the experience for your hens.
- Cover your hens run with a tarpaulin. This is strongly advised when a mandatory housing order is in place as it provides the best protection against wild birds, but also doubles up as a rain-proof shelter for your hens.
- There are additional ways of housing your hens such as using polytunnels or existing buildings such as garages or sheds when the weather is exceptionally bad. Please see our guidance on creating a winter garden for your hens.
- Provide a paved area to stand your hens’ feeder on. If possible, place the feeder under a cover which not only keeps it dry but acts as an extra deterrent to wild birds.
- Make a crude field shelter – an old kitchen table with a tarpaulin over one side is easy to rig up and helps protect your hens from the rain and wind.
- Put a layer of sand/rubber chippings or gravel down in the run area to help with drainage. Bark chippings can go mouldy so be careful if using these and change regularly.
- Provide a dry sandbox under cover to allow the hens to dust bath.
- Treat your ground near the pop hole or door with a disinfectant; this will stop the ground from becoming poached and smelly.
- Use plenty of absorbent bedding inside the coop to minimise the amount of mud and wet tracked into your coop.
Important: Remember that loose wet ground can cause run supports to move and leave gaps for predators – check your perimeter on a regular basis.
If you normally rely on an electric fence, ensure it is still functioning correctly in wet conditions.
Hopefully you’ve picked up some good tips on how to avoid a muddy chicken run but if you’re still struggling please contact our Hen Helpline and we can advise further.